Syrian Revolution Digest: Monday, 28 January 2013

Virile Yet Doomed!

Bashar Al-Assad is still capable of producing unwanted heirs to a crumbling throne, but neither his continued virility nor his wife’s continued fertility will save this most unlikely of dynasties. This Czar, his family and his ministers have long sealed their fate. Deep down they must know it, which is why they are trying to seal ours as well.


Today’s Death Toll: 129 martyrs (including 6 women and 16 children)

33 in Damascus and Suburbs, 28 in Aleppo, 24 in Idlib (most in Ariha), 19 in Hama (most in Hawejah), 11 in Homs, 8 in Daraa, and 6 in Deir Ezzor  (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 286 points

including 12 by war planes, 1 by cluster bombs, 2 by vacuum bombs and 1 by explosive barrels mortar shelling hit 129 locations, Artillery Shelling hit 102 and rocket shelling hit 40 locations allover Syria  (LCCs).

Clashes: 119

including rebel operations that targeted Manag Airport in Aleppo and the Damascus International Airport. FSA rebels also targeted Shabeeha headquarters in the Sumariyeh suburb of Damascus, and the town of Al-Yaakoubia in Idlib. In Hama, rebels targeted a military convoy heading to storm the town of Karnaz killing more than 50 Shabeeha. In Hassakeh, rebels blew up the civil defense center used as headquarters for loyalist militias in town (LCCs).



Syria’s Bashar al-Assad says his wife is pregnant Bashar al-Assad let the news slip in a recent talk with mysteriously anonymous “visitors,” who relayed his comments to the Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper, an aggressive outlet often described as aligned with such anti-Western movements as Hezbollah.

France Warns Extremists Could Prevail In Syria The warning from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reflects growing concern over the rising power of Islamic militant groups that have joined the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime… “Chaos is not tomorrow, it is today, and we need to end it. We need to end it in a peaceful way and that means increased and concrete support to the Syrian National Coalition,” an umbrella group for the opposition.

Armenia: Syrian Refugees Resettling in Occupied Azerbaijani Territory Since early 2012, Armenia has been accepting diaspora members seeking to escape Syria’s civil strife. In recent months, 29 refugee families, roughly 90 people overall, have found new homes in what Armenians call the Kashatagh district. The territory is known as Lachin internationally and in Azerbaijan, and it serves as a land bridge between the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. The area was overrun by Armenian forces during the hot phase of the Karabakh conflict in the early 1990s, and remains in Armenian possession today.


Special Reports

Syria crisis: Solidarity amid suffering in Homs
The city of Homs has seen some of the worst fighting in Syria. More than a third of the estimated 60,000 deaths in the 23-month conflict have happened in the strategically important city of Homs. As the fighting continues, thousands have been forced to abandon their homes and are struggling to survive.

Newlyweds fight together on Syria frontline
A couple fighting against government forces discover love and tie the knot amid death and destruction.

Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis: A Moral and Strategic Issue
Syria has already fractured into parts with various types of political and military control — a situation that will probably persist for years to come. Aid provision will therefore remain a major problem going forward, in both logistical and legal terms. Failure to address this moral imperative will not only lead to more human suffering, but also allow the regime to use aid as a soft-power weapon against the opposition. Only by finding creative legal solutions — that is, opening credible and accountable avenues outside regime-dominated aid channels — will the United States achieve its objectives of easing human suffering, getting Assad to “step aside,” and creating a more peaceful and democratic post-Assad Syria.

Inside the war for Syria’s mountains
Rebels are occupying Alawite houses in a region known for its tradition of sectarian coexistence in an offensive that looks likely to determine the fate of the country’s cosmopolitan heart. Locals forced to chop nearby forests for wood:

Syrians turn to forests as fuel shortages bite.



Video Highlights

Loyalists pound the town of Karnaz, Hama , , But rebels remain entrenched , ,

Scenes from the clashes in Al-Qadam Neighborhood, Damascus City , , , , Regime tanks go through the Midan neighborhood on their way to Al-Qadam Rebels end up controlling the oldest train station in Syria which is based in Al-Qadam , , Soon afterwards, the station and surrounding buildings gets pounded with heavy artillery Then MiGs take their part

More clashes take place in the suburbs of Eastern Ghoutah , Aerial bombardment continues: Saqba Kafar Batna

To the West, in the suburb of Daraya, regime tanks try to pound their way in

Clashes in and pounding of Deir Ezzor City intensify: Huwaiqah , , ,

In Aleppo City, children gather wood for fire

MiGs target rebel strongholds in Homs City

U.S. to Establish Drone Base in Niger

By Hannah Stewart
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NIAMEY, Niger — The United States signed an agreement with the central Africa nation of Niger that will allow for the deployment of surveillance drones to monitor Islamic militants in the region.  Currently, reports state that United States seeks only to deploy surveillance drones to Niger; however, the agreement could lay the legal groundwork for armed drones in the future.

U.S. Predator drone that can be used for surveillance or air strikes. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

The use of drones, even if solely for surveillance purposes, remains controversial given the deadly drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.  The use of drones by the United States has caused outrage among civil liberties groups over the secrecy that surrounds their operation and the high incidence of civilian casualties.

The drones could be stationed in Niger’s northern desert region of Agadez, which borders Mali, Algeria and Libya.  The goal is to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara.  The United States has drones and surveillance aircraft stationed at several points around Africa.

Niger government sources reported that U.S. Ambassador Bisa Williams asked Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, for permission to use surveillance drones and had been granted it.  The United States has reportedly been negotiating with Niger for some time, but France’s intervention in Mali increased the urgency of the deal.

Earlier this month French forces intervened to stop Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) move toward Mali’s capital.  AQIM originated in Algeria and remains active in northern Mali.  AQIM has been connected to the recent assault on the natural gas facility in Algiers.  Moreover, the group has been linked to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

On Monday, French and Malian troops retook control of the ancient trading town of Timbuktu, as they pushed deeper the desert region seized by Islamist fighters last year. Currently, the U.S. is aiding France by sharing intelligence, flying French troops to neighboring countries, and refueling French jets.

Proponents of the agreement argue that in the short run, a drone base in Niger would allow the U.S. to aid France by supplying intelligence on the militant troops in Mali.  In the long run, the drone base would bolster American intelligence gathering and help strengthen Niger’s own security forces.

For more information please see:

CNN – U.S. to Base Surveillance Drones in Niger, Ambassador Says – 29 January 2013

Fox News – US Planning to Establish a Drone Base in Africa for Better Surveillance of Region’s Militants – 29 January 2013

The Guardian – US Signs Deal with Niger to Operate Military Drones in West African State – January 29 2013

Huffington Post – U.S. Drone Base in Africa Approved by Niger – 29 January 2013

Syria Deeply: 28 January 2013

All information and videos contained in this post are original content posted with permission from Syria Deeply, an independent digital media project.  For further information, please visit their website.


<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

The Forum

Social Media Buzz: Women’s Brigade Behind Assad, Patrols Syrian Streets – Mohammed Sergie

Recent Headlines

UN in Funding Call as Conflict Rages – Aljazeera

Dozens of People are Reported Bound and Shot in Syria – NY Times

A Tale of Iran, Syria, and a Busy Oil Tanker – Forbes


Community Op-Eds

Social Media Buzz: Women’s Brigade Behind Assad, Patrol Syrian Streets – Mohammed Sergie

Former Guatemalan Dictator Faces Trial for Genocide

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — A former dictator who ruled during one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war will stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

On Monday, a Guatemalan court ordered former dictator Efrain Rios Montt to face trial for genocide, accused of ordering the deaths of 1,700 indigenous people during a blood period of the country’s civil war. (Photo Courtesy of Latin American Herald Tribune)

A Guatemalan court ruled on Monday that the trial of Efrain Rios Montt would convene this week.  Montt, 86, is accused of ordering the murder, torture, and displacement of more than 1,700 indigenous people between March 1982 and August 1983.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez also threw out 13 appeals presented by Montt’s defense, finding sufficient evidence to prosecute Montt and retired Gen. Jose Mauricio Rodriguez for the killings.  Rodriguez is accused of ordering the mass killings, known as the “scorched earth” campaign.

Neither defendant reacted to the judge’s ruling, but families of victims, along with human rights workers, cheered and applauded before setting off fireworks outside, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

Human rights advocates called the Montt’s prosecution a symbolic victory for victims of one of the most devastating and horrific conflicts in Central America.

“Until recently, the idea of a Guatemalan general being tried for these heinous crimes seemed utterly impossible,” said Jose Miguel Vivianco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.  “The fact that a judge has ordered the trial of a former head of state is a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past atrocities has long been the norm.”

Montt, who became de facto president during a coup in 1982 before being ousted in another coup in 1983, is the first former president to be charged with genocide by a Latin American court.

“It’s the beginning of a new phase of this struggle,” said Paul Seils in an interview with the Associated Press.  Seils is vice president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, which has worked on war-crimes cases in Guatemala.  He said the decision to prosecute was “a good step forward,” but he expected the trial would face stiff resistance from loyalists to government-allied forces during the civil war.

A United Nations commission estimated 200,000 people were killed during the war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996.  The commission attributed 93 percent of the human rights abuses it documented to government forces, concluding the military committed “acts of genocide.”

Montt will stay under house arrest until his trial, according to the Judge Galvez’s order.  He is currently in custody at a military hospital, where he was admitted last year for health problems.

The trial is scheduled to convene on Thursday.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch — Guatemala: Rios Montt Trial a Milestone for Justice — 28 January 2013

Latin American Herald Tribune — Guatemalan Ex-Dictator to Stand Trial for Genocide — 28 January 2013

National Public Radio — Guatemala Ex-Dictator to Stand Trial on Genocide — 28 January 2013

Reuters — Guatemala Court Orders Trial of Former Dictator, Rejects Appeals — 28 January 20

Vicious Murder Emphasizes Need For Domestic Violence Law In Russia

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – On January 3, Alexei Kabanova murdered his journalist wife, Irina, after a fight. Kabanov, a well-known opposition figure, confessed that during a state of anger, he murdered his wife, dismembered her body in the heat of passion, and could not remember anything of what he had done.

Irina Kabanova’s murder raised awareness for domestic violence victims all over Russia. (Photo Courtesy of RFE/RL)

Irina is just one of thousands of women in Russia who are killed in domestic violence incidents every year. An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 women die each year from spousal abuse.

Currently, Russia has no law concerning the issue of domestic violence. Specifically, police cannot intervene in a dispute until a crime has been committed. However, publicity of Irina’s murder generated awareness to an issue that is widely belittled and ignored.

Olga Kostina, head of the Moscow-based group Resistance, which advocates for domestic-violence victims, said, “The key is for us to battle for a law to defend the victims of these crimes and to provide them with social guarantees that in any case are supposed to be ensured by the Russian Constitution.”

A proposed legislation, which has been in creation since September, recognizes domestic violence as a crime, empowers police and courts to issue restraining orders, and requires offenders to undergo counseling.

Mari Davtian, an attorney with the ANNA Center, which assists victims of domestic violence, said, “A woman herself has to file a case to the court and prove that she was subjected to a crime. As you understand, that is practically impossible in conditions of domestic violence. If a woman lives with the person she is taking to court, then she is in danger.”

Although there have been few attempts to introduce domestic violence legislation in Russia over the past few decades, each time failed.

United Russia lawmaker Saliya Murzabayeva, believes each failure stemmed from a lack of understanding of domestic violence issues. She states, “There probably is not enough awareness of this problem. And there are those who believe that the government should not interfere in family matters.”

Kabanov is charged with murder and faces a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. If convicted, Kabanov will also be deprived of his parental right.

For further information, please see:

RFE/RL – Brutal Killing In Russia Highlights Lack of Domestic Violence Law – 28 January 2013

The Moscow Times – Another Day, Another Dismembered Body – 21 January 2013

Pravda – Journalist Brutally Strangled and Dismembered by Her Husband – 15 January 2013

The Moscow Times – Project O.G.I. Co-Founder Charged with Wife’s Murder – 13 January 2013