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Hear Our Voice!
Earlier today, President Obama voiced his concerns over use of chemical weapons in Syria to Mr. Putin, but does he have time to hear some Syrians voice their own concerns over the issue? For we are indeed concerned, Mr. President, concerned that you are becoming desensitized in this connection, desensitized to the point of continued inaction, of accepting a status quo of continued suffering and impunity, of hiding behind the convenient cover of popular apathy. But while an American President’s primary responsibility is to the American people, he is also answerable to countless of millions beyond America’s borders – people whose fate to a great degree is determined by his policies and decisions. Many of those people wish that you could hear their concerns and respond to them through meaningful actions.
Death Toll: 119 martyrs, including 10 women, 8 children and 1 martyr under torture: 36 in Damascus and Suburbs, 34 in Aleppo, 8 in Daraa, 7 in Homs, 7 in Idlib, 6 in Hama, 6 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Lattakia, 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Qunaitra (LCC).
Syrian prime minister survives Damascus bombing, six die Six people were killed in the blast, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Previous rebel attacks on government targets included a December bombing which wounded Assad’s interior minister. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing, which he described as a “terrorist attack.” As prime minister, Wael al-Halki wields little power but the attack highlighted the rebels’ growing ability to target symbols of Assad’s authority in a civil war that, according to the U.N., has cost more than 70,000 lives.
Russia: Plane’s safety ‘threatened’ over Syria, but it lands safe with no injuries, damage The state news agency RIA-Novosti quoted the press service of Rosturism, the Russian state tourism authority, as saying the plane came under rocket fire Monday. But a statement on the ministry’s website did not give details, saying the plane’s crew saw “signs of war activity which, in the crew’s opinion, threatened the safety of the plane.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told the ITAR-Tass news agency that the plane was carrying 159 people.
Bodies of 30 Hezbollah fighters arrive to Lebanon from Syria The sources added that Al-Quds Brigade commander, whose known by his nickname, Abu Ajeeb, was also killed in Syria in battles against rebels. Reports have emerged that members of the Lebanese Shiite group were fighting with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebels. Former Hezbollah chief Subhi al-Tufaili told Al Arabiya in an interview earlier this week that at least 138 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the Syria fighting. Tufaili added that Hezbollah, who is backed by Iran and the Syrian regime, was told to fight with the Assad forces in direct orders from Tehran. However, the Shiite group has repeatedly stated that it was not taking part in the fighting in Syria.
American doctor gives ‘proof of chemical weapon use’ to U.S. On Monday, Syrian-American doctor Zaher Sahloul was near the Syrian border in Turkey, where he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that reports from physicians indicate there had just been another attack. Sahloul believes this is the sixth recent chemical weapons attack Syria. “We have medical proof,” Dr. Sahloul told Amanpour. “Patients had respiratory and neurological symptoms.” Physicians working inside Syria are collecting samples and giving them to Dr. Sahloul ‘s organization, The Syrian American Medical Society.
Obama voices Syria chemical weapons concern to Putin In a statement, the White House said on Monday that Mr Obama and Mr Putin talked on the phone on Monday, with the US leader “underscoring his concern over Syrian chemical weapons”. Washington has repeatedly criticised Russia – along with China – for blocking tougher action against Syria in the UN Security Council, including new sanctions. Mr Putin and Mr Obama are scheduled to hold face-to-face talks in June. Mr Obama last week promised a “vigorous investigation” into the issue. He warned that it would be a “game changer” for US policy if the reports about chemical weapons were to be proved true.
Israel Says It Is Not Seeking U.S. Intervention in Syria The official, Yuval Steinitz, the minister of strategic and intelligence affairs and international relations, also said that his government saw no comparison between American policy toward Syria and the Obama administration’s announced intention to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capability. “We never asked, nor did we encourage, the United States to take military action in Syria,” Mr. Steinitz said at a conference in New York sponsored by The Jerusalem Post. “And we are not making any comparison or linkage with Iran, which is a completely different matter.”
Hagel: “Wait to get the facts” before acting on Syria “We are continuing to assess what happened, when, where…working with our allies and our own intelligence agencies,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a press conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Itsunori Onodera. “I think we should wait to get the facts before we make any judgments on what action, if any should be taken, and what kind of action… Asked in a follow-up whether he could rule out any unilateral U.S. military action, or whether any such action might require the cooperation of the international community, Hagel replied, “My role is to present to the president…options for any contingency. I won’t speculate on those options, nor publicly discuss those options.”
Video: Amateur singer’s heartbreaking song for Syria sweeps the Arab world The song seems to have tapped into the agony of two years of war, which is felt not just in Syria but across a sympathetic Arab world, as evident in the crowd’s reaction. It is especially powerful for those most affected by the conflict. The Financial Times’ Abigail Fielding-Smith reports, “Syrians abroad, especially those from Aleppo, describe breaking down in tears over it.” Though the power of Hamdan’s song appears to stem in part from his decision to avoid taking sides or placing blame, his sudden popularity has put him under political scrutiny and some pressure. “Inevitably there has been speculation over which ‘side’ Hamdan is on,” according to the Financial Times story. “According to an interview with the singer in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, people have even made threats against him on Facebook.”
Veteran Italian war correspondent missing in Syria Domenico Quirico, 62, an experienced war reporter, entered Syria from Lebanon on 6 April saying he would be out of touch for a week. La Stampa says there was sporadic phone contact until 9 April since when nothing has been heard.
Syrian teenager self-immolates in Beirut The National News Agency reported that a Syrian youngster set himself on fire on Sunday in Beirut’s Corniche al-Mazraa and is currently in critical condition. The nineteen-year-old, identified as Ahmad Mahmoud Youssef, reportedly attempted to self-immolate in the area’s Barbour Square due to financial hardship and debts he was incapable of paying. Youssef was rushed to the Geitaoui Hospital where he is being treated for third degree burns.
Links Between Alleged Chemical Attacks In Saraqeb, Idlib, and Sheikh Maghsoud, Aleppo Today there’s been fresh reports of an alleged chemical attack on the town of Saraqeb, Idlib, with photographs and videos from the scene posted online.
The Syrian Electronic Army: Bashar al-Assad’s shadow warriors Phishing attack is latest by pro-Assad hackers operating out of Dubai, who target sites with views opposed to their own But unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – whose former regimes were caught badly off guard – Assad’s government has been fighting back. It has created an increasingly rambunctious group of counter-revolutionary hackers. These hackers have a twin function: to punish western news organisations seen as critical of Syria’s regime, and to spread Damascus’s alternative narrative. This says that the war in Syria isn’t a popular uprising against a brutal, despotic family-military dynasty but rather an attempt by Islamist terrorists to turn Syria into a crazy al-Qaida fiefdom.
Euro Mayors Try to Keep Youths From Going to Syria Through much of western Europe, scores of Islamic youths have heeded the call to take up arms for a cause that is only a few hours away by plane. The phenomenon has alarmed authorities amid signs that the insurgency is becoming increasingly radicalized, with strong infiltration by al-Qaida. European authorities see a double danger, one that’s summed up by Somers who describes the youths as “cannon fodder” in Syria — and potential “full-blown terrorists” if they make it back home alive. But it all raises a conundrum: In a free society, how can you prevent these young people from packing up and leaving?
Syria’s Refugee Entrepreneurs Find a Home in Jordan To tap into the pool of talented entrepreneurs set adrift by the war, Oasis500 has been actively recruiting Syrian entrepreneurs—through personal networks, placed articles in publications owned by Abdulsalam Haykal, a Syrian media entrepreneur, and ads running on Facebook (FB), Twitter, LinkedIn (LNKD), and Jordanian radio stations. To help pave the road from Aleppo to Amman, the accelerator is also paying travel and some housing expenses for Syrian entrepreneurs. The efforts are paying off. In the accelerator’s first boot-camp class after beginning the outreach, which is funded in part by the governments of the U.S. and Jordan, 13 of 60 participants were Syrians. Oasis500 invested in two of those entrepreneurs: Ali Kaj and Judy Samakie, who’s building an e-commerce site to help Jordanians find and order healthy food—a problem in a region where it can be hard to find health-conscious or even vegetarian meals. The current boot-camp session has attracted nine Syrians.
Rebellion unveiled: Kurdish women join war on Assad Ruken reads Nietzsche and Aristotle, smokes Gauloises Blondes and last month she shot her first man dead with a Russian-made assault rifle. Amid an increasingly Islamicised struggle in which bearded men, religious conservatism and Islamic slogans have become the face of Syria’s revolution, the 27-year-old commander of 40 Syrian-Kurd fighters in Aleppo, all of them women, is unusual in every way.
Fleeing war, Syrians find ‘Little Damascus’ in Cairo’s outskirts The sprawling new development in the desert west of Cairo has become a hub for the Syrian refugees, but its long parallel avenues lined with residential blocks are a far cry from the narrow streets and bustling markets of old Damascus… In Cairo, the new arrivals have carved out a “Little Syria” for themselves, where flags of the Free Syrian Army flutter in the cement landscape, and shops brimming with shawarma spits and pastries are frequented by patrons with Syrian accents.
Analyses & Op-Eds
The Economist: Chemical weapons in Syria – Acid test: America needs to take action against Bashar Assad. Chemical weapons are not much use on the battlefield, but they can demoralise the rebels and spread terror among the population. They may have an indirect purpose, too, for Mr Assad. If he uses them and the outside world fails to take action, his supporters are likelier to conclude that he will stay in power and his opponents will lose faith… Mr Obama’s wariness is worsening a dreadful situation. As the fighting drags on, the rebels are being increasingly radicalised. They will eventually be a source of global jihad. The millions of refugees inside and outside Syria are suffering grievously. Violence and misery are spreading—to Iraq, where Sunni and Shia are killing each other again; to Lebanon, which has lost a prime minister to sectarian rivalries; to Jordan, overrun by refugees. Israel fears that Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shias’ party-cum-militia, will end up hardened by war and armed with sophisticated weapons. Arguing about soil samples hardly seems like an adequate response… Mr Obama is instead leading Mr Assad to believe that his threat is empty. For a man trying to persuade the world that Iran will cross a red line if it builds a nuclear bomb, that is the wrong message.
Tony Badran: Assad Reading the Signs When viewed from Assad’s vantage point, it would appear that the US administration has been receptive to every talking point his regime has chalked up. There could be only one explanation, as far as Assad is concerned: the US is pragmatic. It’s willing to play ball. If this were confined to Assad, perhaps it wouldn’t be much to be concerned about. However, when this perception of a convergence between the US position and Assad’s talking points extends to Washington’s regional allies, it becomes a matter that affects the US position and credibility in the region. These allies have been waiting for a sign from the White House that it will, in fact, go all the way in Syria. Unfortunately, Assad’s reading is proving to be correct: the Obama administration will do no such thing.
A Friend in Need: As Syria implodes, the United States and its allies need to help Jordan help itself. There’s one place, though, in which the United States should be getting involved that has only upside. Among many troubling trends of the Syrian civil war has been the creation of enormous amounts of refugees in countries that are ill equipped to handle them. Lebanon and Turkey have absorbed more than 750,000 refugees, but no place has felt the brunt of Syria’s huge population displacement as much as Jordan.
Syria: the life cycle of civil war Providing shadow governance structures, especially where local councils involve the encouragement of voluntary participation (rather than through recruitment or ‘conscription’) indicates a future capacity to out-administer the incumbent central government. A review of resilient Syrian opposition groups or shadow administrations suggests that the nature of governance as well as the nature of warfare and violence is shaping the strategic logic of civil war transitions as a means of significant social change in the Middle East and North Africa.
My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.”
Ribal al-Assad published an op-ed under Project Syndicate arguing against sending military aid to Syria rebels to avoid turning “a catastrophe into an apocalypse,” as he put it. But the problem here is not in the argument but in failing to fully disclose the identity of the man making it. Ribal is the paternal cousin of Bashar Al-Assad, a man whose interest in opposing Bashar goes only as far as trading places with him. Failure to note this family connection is frankly dishonest.
As for the argument itself, diplomacy is definitely needed to seal the deal, but diplomacy has no chance in hell achieving anything unless military conditions on the ground have changed drastically in favor of the rebels. Diplomatic and military realities often play off each other, a fact that is obvious and known to all seasoned politicians, diplomats and military planners. But Ribal Al-Assad cannot and will not see this because the only change he is interested in is one that brings him to power, keeping Syria, in effect, as a private holding of the Assad family.
A video showing the car bomb explosion that targeted the vehicle of PM Halki in the plush neighborhood of Western Mazzeh in Damascushttp://youtu.be/fZa_QP18Blo As Syrian TV covered ithttp://youtu.be/AcKngzvDc4Q
By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
PARIS, France – Last week, the National Assembly of France approved the same-sex marriage bill by a vote of 331-225. This bill, which also allows couples adoption rights, made France the 14th nation in the world and ninth in Europe to pass such a law.
The French Parliament passed the “Marriage for All” bill, which affords homosexual couples identical rights to marriage and adoption that were previously limited to heterosexual unions.
Christiane Taubira, Socialist Justice Minister and author of the bill, stated, “It’s a generous law, and a law of equality. We believe the first weddings will be beautiful and that they’ll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families.”
However, opponents to same-sex marriage blamed the legislation for distorting “time-honored definitions of marriage and endangering children by permitting gay and lesbian couples to adopt”.
Many high-profile groups promised to continue legal challenges to block the law’s application.
Frigide Barjot, a comedian who uses her stage name, told her supporters, “We are going to show them that this is not over. I solemnly ask the president to hold a referendum on the subject.”
Claire Baron, a mother of two, stated she “will oppose the bill until the end.” She continued, “I’ll keep going to the protests, I don’t give in. The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad.”
Just hours before votes were casted, thousands of police gathered outside the National Assembly building to prepare for the protestors on the streets who started forming days leading up to the vote. In addition, thousands of police who were armed with water cannon were organized near parliament to deal with any repeat of the violence seen in previous demonstrations.
Inside the National Assembly chamber, two opponents tried to hold up a protesting banner, however, they were shortly ejected.
Socialist President, Francois Hollande, made this same-sex bill his top social reform goal. He is expected to sign the bill once it clears constitutional challenges. Although opponents of the measure will try to argue that marriage is a constitutional matter, the council is unlikely to block the new law.
For further information, please see:
BBC News – Same-Sex Marriage: French Parliament Approves New Law – 23 April 2013
The Huffington Post – France Legalizes Gay Marriage After Harsh Debate, Violent Protests – 23 April 2013
International Business Times – France Legalizes Gay Marriage, Becomes 14th Nation to Do So – 23 April 2013
Time World – France Legalizes Gay Marriage Despite Vocal and Angry Opposition – 23 April 2013
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Syrian Network for Human Rights documented 88 victims, Sunday, 28 April 2013, all across Syria, including 12 children, 8 women, 5 tortured to death, and 35 armed rebels
By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MOSCOW, Russia – An election watchdog has been fined under a new Russian law that requires Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to register as “foreign agents.”
Golos (Voice) is the first NGO to be fined under the law that went into effect last November. A Moscow court ruled that the Watchdog had filed to register as a “foreign agent” after receiving funds from abroad in December, and therefore fined Golos 300,000 roubles (£6,200; $9,500; €6,300). Additionally, its director, Lilia Shibanova, was fined 100,000 rubles (£2,100; $3,200; £2,100).
Under the law, NGOs which receive foreign funding and supposedly engage in “political activities” must register as “foreign agents,” a term which has its roots in the Stalin Era, when it was used to discredit enemies of the state.
Golos defended itself explaining that the finds in question were a sum of €7,728.4 ($10,000) awarded by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee as part of its Andrei Sakharov Freedom prize. The funds were transferred into Golos’ account in December before Golos was able to immediately return the prize money unused.
Although Golos received funding in the past from USAID, Golos asserts that since November, “The Golos association receives no foreign funding and is funded solely by Russian resources.” Furthermore, Golos insists that the law should not even be applied to the organization as Golas is not involved in “political activity.” It says it will appeal against the verdict.
The 13-year-old Watchdog group played a key role in exposing fraud during the 2011 parliamentary election, charting abuses across Russia, most notably with an online “map of violations.” It also reported on widespread violations during the 2012 presidential vote, which resulted in Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term. Its exposure of violations and falsifications during these elections helped spark mass protests against Putin’s rule, which is why Golos believes it is now being targeted by authorities.
Golos is also mindful of the precedent its fate will set for other NGOs. “We are convinced of our innocence,” Golos said before the verdict. “This is the first court hearing bringing to responsibility an organi[z]ation that is purportedly a foreign agent. The fate of many other NGOs will depend on the decision.”
While the fining of Golos is the first enforcement of the foreign agents law, more than 200 NGOs in 50 regions of Russia have been raided by inspectors in the past months. Tax auditors have poured over the financials of many NGOs, while health & safety and fire inspectors have arrived unannounced at NGO offices to scrutinize code compliance. The continuing raids on Russian NGOs have sparked international outrage, and the U.S. State Department has called them “a witch hunt.”
“The government claims the inspections are routine, but they clearly are not,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The campaign is unprecedented in its scope and scale, and seems clearly aimed at intimidating and marginalizing civil society groups. This inspection campaign can potentially be used to force some groups to end advocacy work, or to close them down.”
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused NGOs in Russia of receiving $1 billion in foreign funding since the beginning of the year. In response, 56 organizations signed an open letter demanding an explanation for what they describe as a grossly inflated figure. Many NGOs have also said they will not comply with registering as “foreign agents.”
The goal of the raids and foreign agents law appears to be to intimidate NGOs, including advocacy groups whose criticism has long bothered the Kremlin, to close their doors, a move which would cripple civil society in Russia. The organizations searched include not only those critical of the government, but also NGOS concerned with medical assistance, battling pollution, distributing clothes and food to the needy, and, generally, improving the quality of life for ordinary Russians. Their closure would affect thousands of families who rely on NGOs for the services that the Russians authorities have been unable, or unwilling, to provide.
According to veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the Kremlin’s strategy is to bring even civil society under its domain. “After bringing the business world, the judicial and the legislative power under its control, after mastering the technologies to arrange election results, the authorities are determined to tackle Russia’s last bastion of independence — civil society,” she said. “Civil society is increasingly active, and this frightens them.”
For further information, please see:
Moscow Times – U.S. Voices Concern Over Fine of Golos – 26 April 2013
BBC News – Russia NGO Law: Election Watchdog Golos Fined – 25 April 2013
RFE/RL – Golos Election Monitoring NGO Fined Under New Law – 25 April 2013
HRW – Russia: Worst Human Rights Climate in Post-Soviet Era – 24 April 2013
RFE/RL – Raids On NGOs Could Threaten Ordinary Russians – 21 April 2013
Syrian network for human rights documented 133 victims , Saturday 27/4/2013 all across Syria, including 12 children, 7 ladies, 4 tortured to death, and 30 armed rebels.
Damascus and countryside : 51 victims
Daraa : 23 victims
Aleppo : 19 victims
Dier Alzoor : 10 victim
Homs : 11 victims
Idlib : 5 victims
Hama : 11 victims
Hasaka: 3 victims
Damascus and countryside : 51 victims ; 3 children – 1 lady – 3 tortured to death
1- Girl child Ghina Alos – 4 years old – shelling on Harasta http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHMQn5C_cEc&feature=youtu.be
2-Ahmad Alhomsi – sniper bullet in Jobar http://bit.ly/ZUVW0q
3- Omar Alatki – sniper bullet in Moazameat Alsham
4- Ahamad Abo Hamad – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces after he was kidnapped at a checkpoint , his body found with signs of torture on http://youtu.be/aeFGkjGNVeA
5- Unknown girl child – 11 years – sniper bullet in Madaya
6- Nidal Abo Hasan – affected his wounds in Jdidt Artoz by sniper bullet http://bit.ly/14YdEcj
7- Mohamad Abo Abdo – armed rebel – clashes http://bit.ly/ZCPOQ7
8- Mohamad Ghazi –surface to surface missile on Doma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvxlAGFa-TI
9- Child Mohamad Swidan –surface to surface missile on Doma http://bit.ly/14pO0MV
10- Kasem Alwawi –surface to surface missile on Doma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlkHrqN_ASM
11- Akram Alshikh Bazina –surface to surface missile on Doma http://bit.ly/Y3Qk7z
12- Mohamad Almhshi –surface to surface missile on Doma http://bit.ly/Zrd9mD
13- Ahmad Alhalabi –surface to surface missile on Doma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAM-VJ53EyI
14- Omar Alkadri –surface to surface missile on Doma
15- Unknown victim –surface to surface missile on Doma http://bit.ly/14YoUFq
16- another unknown victim –surface to surface missile on Doma http://bit.ly/123uMpF
17- another unknown victim –surface to surface missile on Doma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvALovcOsBc
18- Amir Alsaidi – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Jdidt Artoz
19- Essam Massod – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Jdidt Artoz
20- 23 Four Unknown victims –shelling on Sabina
Video of the massacre – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjGBuPJq3yI
24- Misbah Alarbinia – affected his wounds cause of sniper bullet in Arbin http://bit.ly/10jrcGn
25- Atef Alasbah – in 22/4/2013 , cause of explosion of Alnorr gas station in Mliha
26- Dr. Wasim Ahmad – tortured to death in prison
27- Hasan Aljarof – armed rebel – tortured to death in prison
28- Ismael Sukar – 61 years old – shelling on Jobar in 24/3/2013
29- Nabil Madali -executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Jdidt Artoz
30- Mahmod Hamada – in 26-4-2013 , shelling on Doma http://bit.ly/ZVnfYx
31- Mohamad Akel – shelling on Jarajir
32- Ms Salma wife of Mohamad Akel – shelling on Jarajir
33- Ahmad Akil Ghazali – shelling on Jarajir
34- Naser Bakdash – shelling on Ain Tarma
35- Maher Joha – shelling on Ain Tarma
36- Amer Joha , brother of Maher Joha – shelling on Ain Tarma
37- Unknown victim – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Qadam http://bit.ly/1840wkw
38- another Unknown victim – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Qadam http://bit.ly/12zENgQ
39- another Unknown victim – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Qadam http://bit.ly/15Pwu4G
40– Hasan Abo Yamen ( unknown surname ) – shelling on Daria
41- Anas Abo Hamid ( unknown surname ) – shelling on Daria
42- Ahmad Abo Shfik ( unknown surname ) – shelling on Daria
43- Osama Abo Obada ( unknown surname ) – shelling on Daria
44- Abdulmajed Habra – shelling on Domair
45- Abo Saleh – Palestinian – shelling on Yarmouk refugee camp
46- Samer Balalah – surface to surface shelling on Doma
47 – Ms Qamar Masarwa – surface to surface shelling on Doma
48- Issa Aldroubi – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Jdidt Artoz
49- Unknown victim daughter of Issa Aldroubi – executed by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces in Jdidt Artoz
50- Khudur Gharli – shelling on Jarajir
51- Mohamad Saleh – shelling on Jarajir
Dier Alzoor: 10 victims; 2 children – 2 ladies
1-Child Yousef Aljasem – 5 years old – shelling on Kharita http://youtu.be/N1ML5ufvch4
2- 6 Five unknown victims – shelling on Kharita
7- Alaa Alnazal from Dier Alzoor , shelling on Barza
8- Ms. Nadia Almotreb – shelling on Mohasan by rocket launcher
9- Infant Khola Almhimd – 8 months – shelling on Mohasan by rocket launcher https://www.facebook.com/DeirAlZorPN?fref=ts#!/photo.php?fbid=499609676754956&set=a.283412061708053.59778.281419281907331&type=1&theater
10- Ms Jamila Khalf Alsamhi – shelling on Mohasan by rocket launcher
Aleppo: 19 victims, 1 girl, 1 tortured to death
1-Khadija Kosa – 5 years old – shelling on Miskan
2- Khalil ( unknown surname ) armed rebel – clashes with popular committee and YPG, PYD
3- Dalshad ( unknown surname ) armed rebel – clashes with popular committee and YPG, PYD
4- Mohamad ( unknown surname ) armed rebel – clashes with popular committee and YPG, PYD
5- Unknown victim – sniper bullet in Shikh Maksod
6- Hasan Ajam – shelling in Salah Aldin
7- Mahmod Fares – shelling in Salah Aldin
8- Unknown victim- his body found near international park in Aleppo
9- Zahr ALdin Rashid – armed rebel – clashes
10- Ismael Mawas – armed rebel – clashes
11- Ghasan Karja – armed rebel – clashes
12- Othman Othman – armed rebel – clashes
13- Saleh Alali – armed rebel – clashes
14- Saed Abdo 80 years old – sniper bullet
15- Mahmod Othman – armed rebel – clashes
16- Jumaa Amin tortured to death after detention for 6 months
Daraa: 23 victims, 6 children
1-Samer Almasri – armed rebel – sniper bullet
2- Abdulrahman Khudur – – armed rebel – clashes
3- Suliman Rashid Alhariri – sniper bullet in Shikh Miskin
4- Ali Mokbel – armed rebel – clashes
5-Girl child Rawan Alhasan – shelling on Othman
6- Osama Alnahas – shelling on Othman
7- Ahmad Almasri – shelling on Othman
8- Mohamad Alshibli – shelling on Othman
9- Mohamad Abo Horan – armed rebel – clashes
10- Unknown child son of Ahlam Alhamadi – shelling on Msifra in 26-4-2013
11- Rida Jamos – armed rebel – clashes
12- Child Mahmod Alnator with three brothers in a fire in Alzaatari refugee camp in Jordan
13- Child Salem Alnator with three brothers in a fire in Alzaatari refugee camp in Jordan
14- Child Yasin Alnator with three brothers in a fire in Alzaatari refugee camp in Jordan
15- Child Mohamad Alnator with three brothers in a fire in Alzaatari refugee camp in Jordan
16- Ibrahim Alkor – shelling on Mahata
17- Moaz Aljabal – armed rebel – clashes
18- Ahmad Mosa Almasri – armed rebel – clashes
19-Hani Zaline – armed rebel – clashes
20-Mahmod Rabdawi – armed rebel – clashes
21- Rida Aljamos – armed rebel – clashes
22- Abo Ali Alhorani – defect soldier – clashes in 26-4-2013
23- Naser Alsbihi – shelling on Othman
Homs: 11 victims, 2 ladies
1-Mohamad Barok – shelling on Kusair
2- Hasan Hmid – shelling on Kusair
3- Ms Safia Terkawi – 20 years old – sniper bullet in Alwar
4- Ms. Saada Juma – sniper bullet in Kusair
5- Diaa Kabalan – armed rebel – clashes
6- Sultan Alazam – shelling on Sukhni
7- Saleh Karazon – armed rebel – clashes
8- Mohamad Amer – armed rebel – clashes
9- Hamdi Swaid – sniper bullet
10- Wael Ibrahim – armed rebel – clashes
11- Subhi Arafat – armed rebel – clashes
Hama: 11 victims
1-Raed Hindawi – armed rebel – executed with three of his friends in 15 March street
2- Abdulah Zalokh – armed rebel – executed with three of his friends in 15 March street
3- Bilal Oaf – armed rebel – executed with three of his friends in 15 March street
4- unknown victim – armed rebel – clashes
5- Mohamad Alomar 21 years old – 2nd year communication engineer , sniper bullet
6- Mohamad Husria – armed rebel – executed with three of his friends in 15 March street
7- Khled Maliki – sniper bullet
8- Talal Mirtazai – shot on head while he was driving
9- Alaa Diab – 18 years old – shelling
10- Haitham Alsiadi – Security forces’ bullet, then took his body
11- Monzir Alsiadi – Security forces’ bullets, then took his body
Idlib: 5 victims:
1-Husain Aljaber – Syrian Government troops bullets in Om Trik village
2- Mohamad Samea –with his brother – shell on his car
3- Mohamad Samea –with his brother – shell on his car
4- Khled Kadi – old man, father of two martyrs – shell on his house
5- Abas Kalawi – shell on Khaled Kadi house
Hasaka: 3 victims:
1-Fahd Samari – warplane shelling
2- Bonian Aljarba – warplane shelling
3- Ahmad Tamr – worked as a guard in a feed centre, his body was found but the cause of his death is unknown
Hold the [Red] Line!
To President Obama, paraphrasing Toto: It’s not in the way that you told us, It’s not in the way you say you care, It’s not in the way you’ve been treating your friends, It’s not in the way that you’ll stay till the end, It’s not in the way you calculate or the things that you say that you do: Hold the line; Crises are not always on time. Nor are they convenient or easy to handle. But the fact is: ignoring them will not make them go away.
Rebels attack air base in northern Syria In Saturday’s fighting at the Abu Zuhour air base in northwestern Idlib province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were casualties on both sides. The base has been under rebel siege for months. The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees said the Syrian air force conducted several air raids during the fighting to ease pressure on government troops inside the air base.
Cameron fears Iraq effect holding West back in Syria UK PM David Cameron has expressed concern that international action in Syria may be being held back because of fears of a repeat of the Iraq war. It follows evidence from the US and the UK that Syrian government troops may have used chemical weapons. Mr Cameron said world leaders must look at Syria and “ask ourselves what more we can do.”
Syria: Al-Qaeda’s battle for control of Assad’s chemical weapons plant The fight for al-Safira is no ordinary turf war, however, and the prize can be found behind the perimeter walls of the heavily-guarded military base on the edge of town. Inside what looks like a drab industrial estate is one of Syria’s main facilities for producing chemical weapons – and among its products is sarin, the lethal nerve gas that the regime is now feared to be deploying in its bid to cling to power.
Lebanon dragged in as Hezbollah joins Syria war The Shi’ite Muslim group, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the most effective military body in Lebanon and its growing involvement in Syria’s quagmire has angered Lebanese Sunni rebel sympathizers. The Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek, famed for its colossal Roman ruins, now feels like a garrison town. Hezbollah men in military fatigues and police outfits are everywhere. As are Jeeps and Chevrolets with blacked-out windows – the group’s vehicles of choice.
Analyses & Op-Eds
Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of. This is the landscape President Obama confronts as he considers how to respond to growing evidence that Syrian officials have used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” he had set. More than two years of violence have radicalized the armed opposition fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving few groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward.
Analysis: No good military options for U.S. in Syria Possible military choices range from limited one-off missile strikes from ships – one of the less complicated scenarios – to bolder operations like carving out no-fly safe zones. One of the most politically unpalatable possibilities envisions sending tens of thousands of U.S. forces to help secure Syrian chemical weapons. Obama has so far opposed limited steps, like arming anti-government rebels, but pressure to deepen U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war has grown since Thursday’s White House announcement that President Bashar al-Assad likely used chemical weapons.
Obama’s ‘red line’ on Syria: An Iraq-like ‘slam dunk’ moment? (+video) President Obama said a ‘red line’ would be crossed if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against rebels. Might that propel the US into war, as those elusive ‘weapons of mass destruction’ did in Iraq?
My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.”
Destroyed tanks and BMPs in Jobar Neighborhood, Damascus City, following clashes between rebels and loyalists http://youtu.be/_o_UM9LmKRA The pounding of the neighborhood with heavy artillery position on top of Mount Qasayoun continues http://youtu.be/iOi1__YbAFo , http://youtu.be/zM5-TrAqSqM The pounding from Mount Qasayoun http://youtu.be/QW-uZqlRIPA
Aerial bombardment on nearby Eastern Ghoutah continues: Saqbahttp://youtu.be/iOi1__YbAFo , http://youtu.be/26REwk2wHLI Fires rage inKafar Batna after an aerial raid http://youtu.be/NsgdtnMeWV4 ,http://youtu.be/ZRAUhjIeWVI
Rebels in Al-Qusair, Homs, claim that this body belongs to a Hezbollah operative they recently killed in battles. Hezbollah acknowledge the death of this operative known as Abu Ali Rida or Hussain Salah Habeeb, we see his obituary at end of the clip http://youtu.be/KbZZ5EQLOlQ
Aerial bombardment on rebel strongholds in the mountains of North Lattakia intensifies: Salma http://youtu.be/Ez7UxVG_IKU ,http://youtu.be/b4PChIF9Vqs Rebels try to bring down a jethttp://youtu.be/2A1yGIN-xlg
Rebels in Na’eemah, Daraa, destroy a radar stationhttp://youtu.be/MDxVs3FsMGU and try to bring down an overflying jethttp://youtu.be/YnwmtXFZ7e4 But MiGs soon destroy the positionhttp://youtu.be/iOi1__YbAFo
Heavy clashes between loyalists and rebels take place on the outskirts of Hama City http://youtu.be/KE1iWtacUx0
The pounding of rebel strongholds in Deir Ezzor City continueshttp://youtu.be/bXl2pMnqSMI
Syrian Network for Human Rights | Violation Report | Friday, 26 April, 2013
Casualties and wounded:
Deir El-Zour | Al-Eshara
Military warplane bombardment was responsible for a massacre which took place in Al-Eshara neighbourhood in Deir el-Zour as it took the lives of a number of civilians including children:
Very graphical photos of two of the corpses:
Daraa | Al-Museifra
A horrific massacre took place Al-Museifra as indiscriminate bombardment carried out by the Syrian military took place in Daraa (Extremely graphic):
Suffering and Human Rights Violations:
Homs | Al-Rastan
The people in the city of Al-Rastan are still suffering as the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate where it is hard to acquire any sort of bread for the families to feed on. In addition to this, the constant and daily bombardment overshadows the mental health of children as well as some families who decided to flee the area after their homes have been destroyed:
Bombardment and Destruction:
Damascus | Ain Tarma
Vacuum bombs used by Syrian army warplanes resulted in massive amounts of destruction in civilian buildings:
Daraa | Daraa Al-Balad (Centre)
Syrian army warplanes continue to use barrels filled with TNT which caused significant amounts of destruction in Al-Karak neighbourhood in Daraa Al-Balad:
Hama | Um-Hartein
Bombardment carried out by the Syrian army has left the suburbs of Hama devastated:
Homs | Al-Rastan
Children in the city of Al-Rastan are unable to live the lives of a normal child, their only request is for the bombardment to stop:
A number of orphan children living in one home:
The Adventures of Professor Calculus in the White House!
Syrians have been demanding a no-fly zone long before the death toll reached 1,000. With the official death toll now around 100,000, we can safely say thatPresident Obama is not in the habit of rushing into things, jumping to conclusions or shooting from the hip. In fact, President Obama has just demonstrated the veracity of a very interesting hypothesis, namely that refraining from action for long enough period can have the same devastating effect as rushing into it. Now, and on the basis of these findings, would the President be willing to undertake some course correction? Would he finallychange his “calculus?”
Death Toll: 139 martyrs, including 16 women, 14 children and 5 under torture: 29 in Damascus and Suburbs; 27 in Homs; 19 in Idlib; 16 in Hama; 15 in Daraa; 11 in Hasakeh; 11 in Deir Ezzor; 11 in Aleppo (LCC).
Obama says Syria chemical weapons reports a ‘game changer’ U.S. President Barack Obama issued a cautious warning Friday that Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons could be a “game changer” that could provoke international intervention in the country’s ongoing civil war. Although U.S. intelligence reports Syria may have crossed that line, Obama did not commit to any specific action… “We have to act prudently,” he said. “We have to make these assessments deliberately. But I think all of us … recognize how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations.”
Turkey says chemical arms use would escalate Syria crisis Turkey said on Friday any use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would “take the crisis to another level”, but remained cautious about any foreign military intervention in the conflict on its border… “We have been hearing allegations of the use of chemical weapons for quite some time now and these new findings take things to another level. They are very alarming,” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu said.
‘Action on Syria red line sends message to Iran’ Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin warned Friday that a failure by the international community to act against Syria for using chemical weapons would show Iran that the US does not act when its “red lines” are crossed. Elkin was speaking in an Army Radio interview a day after US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the US intelligence community believes that some chemical weapons, likely sarin gas, have been used in the Syrian civil war. Hagel’s announcement came after Israel’s top military intelligence analyst said Tuesday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad had already used chemical weapons in its fight against the country’s opposition.
U.S. Not Rushing to Act on Signs Syria Used Chemical ArmsPresident Obama repeated his past assertions that the use of chemical weapons would cross a line and produce an American response, but he indicated that he was not yet satisfied with what he had been told, calling it “preliminary.” He gave no hint about what would convince him or what action he might take. “We have to act prudently,” he told reporters before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. “We have to make these assessments deliberately. But I think all of us, not just in the United States but around the world, recognize how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations.”
White House: Obama’s “red line” on Syria chemical weapons not crossed The White House said the evidence of Syrian chemical weapons attacks is still too thin and President Obama’s red line has not been crossed, and that means military intervention by the United States in the Syrian civil war is not imminent and not guaranteed but more study and investigation is needed.
U.S. Seeks Support for Syria Intervention US President Barack Obama met Tuesday with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Washington. Obama was due Friday to confer with King Abdullah of Jordan for their second summit in less than a month. Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the United Arab Emirates, on the final stage of his first tour to the Middle East since becoming Pentagon chief Pentagon nearly two months ago. “It is clear that a decision has been made in Washington and elsewhere that the situation in Syria has reached the point of no return and requires international intervention,” Oraib Rentawi of the Amman-based al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, told dpa. “These meetings are designed to determine how and what type of intervention will take place.”
“Evidence” of Syria chemical weapons use not up to U.N. standardWeapons inspectors will only determine whether banned chemical agents were used in the two-year-old conflict if they are able to access sites and take soil, blood, urine or tissue samples and examine them in certified laboratories, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which works with the United Nations on inspections. That type of evidence, needed to show definitively if banned chemicals were found, has not been presented by governments and intelligence agencies accusing Syria of using chemical weapons against insurgents.
Syrians Report Broad Fighting and Suspicious Airstrike Activist groups in eastern Syria asserted that the military airstrike, which hit the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, was carried out by a warplane that had flown across the border with Iraq. Some accused Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, whose Shiite-dominated government is engrossed in a worsening conflict with Sunni militants, of ordering the strike. Others said the plane was a Syrian Air Force MiG that had crossed into Iraqi airspace before turning back into Syria for its bombing sortie.
Syrian air strikes, shelling batter rebels in Damascus suburbsAssad’s forces, which have been trying to dislodge rebels from several outlying districts south and east of the capital, focused their assault on Jobar, just inside central Damascus. The army seized the town of Otaiba on Wednesday, cutting a weapons supply route from the Jordanian border into the eastern fringes of Damascus that rebels had used for eight months.
Muslim clerics in Syria urge release of kidnapped bishops Imams and preachers at mosques throughout the Syrian capital said in Friday sermons that the kidnappers were “violating the sanctity of Christian and Islamic clergymen,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted Monday when gunmen stopped their vehicle near the battleground northern city of Aleppo, where both are based. The deacon who was driving their car was shot and killed in the attack. The two were on their way back to Aleppo from a “humanitarian mission” to neighboring Turkey, church officials said.
Covert help for Syria’s rebels in Jordan More evidence has come to light of Syrian rebels receiving training from Western sources in neighbouring Jordan – but the Jordanian Islamists are also taking an interest in the conflict, as the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse reports.
Damascus, the city where everything’s for sale but no one’s buying: Syrian capital has escaped fighting that has ravaged Homs and Aleppo, but it has been reduced to an economic dead zone In a city that lives in fear of car bombings and to a soundtrack of artillery salvoes and air strikes against rebel positions, nightlife is a thing of the past. Damascus was once famous for its clubs, restaurants and tourist attractions. Now they are struggling to survive a crisis that is crippling the economy as well as killing and displacing Syrians.
Syria Plays on Fears to Blunt American Support of RebelsConfident they can sell their message, government officials have eased their reluctance to allow foreign reporters into Syria, paraded prisoners they described as extremist fighters and relied unofficially on a Syrian-American businessman to help tap into American fears of groups like Al Qaeda. “We are partners in fighting terrorism,” Syria’s prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, said. Omran al-Zoubi, the information minister, said: “It’s a war for civilization, identity and culture. Syria, if you want, is the last real secular state in the Arab world.”
Photo Essay – Aleppo: Scenes from a City of Ruins Italian photographer Alessio Romenzi has been chronicling the Syrian civil war for months. The following pictures of his are from a few days in mid-April spent in the battle-scarred city of Aleppo. They include a glimpse of a rebel fighter encamped in the famed Great Mosque of Aleppo, built nearly a thousand years ago by the once mighty Umayyad dynasty.
‘Liberal’ court in Aleppo struggles for influence The Shariah courts have the backing of an array of hard-line rebel groups whose fighters help enforce their decisions in rebel-controlled districts of Syria’s main northern city. The judges of the rival Unified Judicial Council mostly lack the firepower to enforce their writ, but Chief Justice Marwan Kaed, who was a civil judge in Bashar Assad’s regime, is proud of presiding over a more liberal legal system.
Analyses & Op-Eds
Syria chemical weapons: Pentagon weighs evidence, plans response Pentagon officials say they are still trying to confirm reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against civilians, but that they are preparing a military option for any outcome.
Aaron David Miller – Obama’s Syria Dilemma: Damned if he does; damned if he doesn’t. Whatever Obama does on Syria, he should make sure that he doesn’t say anything that he’s not prepared to act on. “As president of the United States, I don’t bluff,” he famously said with regard to U.S. policy toward Tehran. It’s just as good advice when it comes to America’s approach to Damascus. U.S. street cred is already at all time low in the Middle East. We don’t need what remains of U.S. credibility to be lost in the gap between the president’s words and his deeds.
Israel Sees U.S. Response to Syria as Gauge on Iran But to the Israelis, how Mr. Obama navigates the next few weeks will be viewed as a gauge for what he might do later regarding the potentially bigger confrontation in the region. “There is a question here: when a red line is set, can we stick by it?” Zeev Elkin, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, said Friday in a radio interview. “If the Iranians will see that the red lines laid by the international community are flexible, then will they continue to progress?” Mr. Obama, during his visit to Israel and Jordan last month, repeated that Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon on his watch. Yet judging when it would be too late to stop Iran is an even greater intelligence challenge than determining whether chemical weapons were used in Syria near Aleppo and Damascus.
Joseph Holliday – Assad’s Chemical Romance: How the Syrian dictator’s cynical and clever chemical weapons strategy outfoxed Obama. The Syrian regime’s subtle approach deliberately offers the Obama administration the option to remain quiet about chemical attacks and thereby avoid the obligation to make good on its threats. But even more worrying, Assad’s limited use of chemical weapons is intended to desensitize the United States and the international community in order to facilitate a more comprehensive deployment in the future — without triggering intervention.
My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.”
White House: “red line not crossed” + military intervention “not imminent” = Slaughter Can Continue.
President Obama: use of chemical weapons could be “a game changer.” Indeed, instead of hide-and-seek Assad might now be expected to play possum, at least until the current storm of vague reports and speculations blows over.
The pounding of rebel strongholds in Eastern Damascus, including Eastern Ghoutah, intensifies: Jobar http://youtu.be/Yx0TuURx1B4 Tanks take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/AhfquH3Z0Xw Rebels damage one of the attacking tanks http://youtu.be/XkKskWXcTqg A building catches firehttp://youtu.be/GFuYty1NPSM Zamalka http://youtu.be/JEZSxkywxP4 The Southern Highway http://youtu.be/MeC6vFAfiP0 Misraba targeted by warplanes http://youtu.be/ajaA3m3d6cs Douma and Arbeen as wellhttp://youtu.be/76dYuhwL844, http://youtu.be/WfsnGj9oI0w Ain Termahttp://youtu.be/oPgYcOWGBww
A bomb leaves a family in pieces near the village of Ghariyeh, Daraa Provcincehttp://youtu.be/8BnsUbWAI8w
Scenes from the clashes between loyalists and rebels in the mountains of North Latakia http://youtu.be/b701AnV3ETQ , http://youtu.be/Tx-GzHWKXPoThe resort town of Salma, a rebel stronghold, is now being pounded by fighter jets http://youtu.be/8mJ-61Hy4zA, http://youtu.be/VJCpInLfbCc ,http://youtu.be/aKsFzQ5vSeU, http://youtu.be/19_Jr8ljy24
War planes target the city of Tabqa in the liberated province of Raqqahttp://youtu.be/_BrnYT2WLMY
By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The treatment of women in Saudi Arabia has long been a concern of many human rights activists. Each woman is assigned to a relative male guardian who basically controls where and if a woman can travel, whether she can go to university, or work. Women are also required to wear an abaya (full length, loose fitting cloak) in public, and often wear niqabs (facial veil) as well.
One rationale for wearing a niqab is to hide the beauty of the woman’s face as to not tempt other males. Saudi Arabia recognizes polygamy as legal and permitted by Sharia law. That ultimately means that a man can have dominion over a whole flock of women. These women are often made to wear niqabs so that no man is tempted to lead one of a man’s many wives astray from the nest.
Get out of town . . . Seriously, get out of town
Despite the male dominated controls aimed at preventing any possibility of the apparent second class from committing infidelities, there are some external factors that are generally uncontrolled for. One of such factors is the irresistible impact a dashing young United Arab Emirates man can have on the minds and bodies of Saudi women.
That is why three Emirati men were recently kicked out of a festival in Saudi Arabia and deported back to Abu Dhabi. The mutawwa, Saudi religious police, deemed that the three men, including actor Omar Borkan al-Gala, were “too handsome” to stay in the country because their looks may cause women to be attracted and fall for them.
Previously, I have seen Middle Eastern regimes punish individuals for peacefully congregating to protest in violation of a freedom to express and assemble. I have seen similar punishments for criticisms of regimes over the internet in violation of a freedom of expression. Women have also been detained for attempting to enter or leave Saudi Arabia without a male guardian in violation of a freedom of movement.
Never before though have I seen a person be punished for simply being too good looking. Discrimination based on one’s appearance, generally because of race or gender, is perhaps the most insidious type of discrimination. This specific discrimination, while not quite as insidious, is still nonetheless a problem, although perhaps not the worst problem to have.
Many wonder, some seriously and some jokingly, why the authorities did not just order the three men to wear facial veils themselves, instead of forcing them to leave the country.
Others are calling their deportations the most jealous, insecure move an authoritarian monarchy could potentially make.
This also marks the first time someone was told that it should be a crime to have such a face, that it was meant as a compliment, and literally considered a crime.
For further information, please see:
JD Journal – Omar Borkan Al Gala Deported by Saudi Arabian Religious Police for Being ‘Too Handsome’ – 26 April 2013
New York Daily News – Was This Hottie Deported from Saudi Arabia for Being ‘too Handsome’? – 25 April 2013
Time – Saudi Arabia Reportedly Deports men for Being ‘Too Handsome’ – 17 April 2013
Arabian Business – UAE men ‘too Handsome’ for Saudi Festival – 16 April 2013
On the Broken Hand!
On the one hand, U.S. involvement in Syria will under no circumstance be a cakewalk. On the other hand, broken as it is at this stage, the longer we wait the more complex the task will be. For the U.S., there is no running away from this, irrespective of the wishes of its leaders.
Rebels Charge That Assad Continues to Use Chemical Weapons On Thursday, the Syrian Support Group (SSG), a U.S.-based advocacy organization that has pressed Obama to provide the Syrian opposition with advanced weapons, issued a report that said two chemical weapons attacks were conducted on April 25 in the southern part of Daraya, a suburb of Damascus. One doctor working from the Daraya medical center said 75 victims were treated for symptoms including “muscle spasms, bronchial spasms, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and miosis” following a 1 a.m. rocket strike. Another 25 victims were sent to the medical center complaining of similar symptoms when a second attack hit the area at 7 a.m. local time, according to the SSG and a statement from the local coordinating council of Daraya, a media group affiliated with the Syrian opposition.
U.S. believes Syria used chemical weapons but says facts neededU.S. intelligence agencies believe Syria’s government has likely used chemical weapons on a small scale, the White House said on Thursday, but added that President Barack Obama needed “credible and corroborated” facts before acting on that assessment. The disclosure of the assessment, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said was made within the past 24 hours and the White House said was based in part on physiological samples, triggered immediate calls for U.S. action by members of Congress who advocate deeper U.S. involvement. But while President Barack Obama declared that Syrian use of chemical weapons would be a game-changer, his administration made clear it would move carefully – mindful of the lessons of the start of the Iraq war 10 years ago.
Lawmakers demand ‘action’ in Syria after intel confirms chemical weapons use Top-ranking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle declared Thursday that the “red line” in Syria has been crossed, calling for “strong” U.S. and international intervention after administration officials revealed the intelligence community believes chemical weapons were used. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, were among those urging swift action.
McCain: “Chemical weapons being used” in Syria “The president of the United States said that if [Syrian president] Assad used chemical weapons it would be a game changer, that it would cross a red line,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., adding that in light of recent reports that chemical weapons were used on a small scale in Syria, “I think it’s pretty obvious that red line has been crossed.”
Rebels: West should react to Syria’s chemical attacks Several groups including the Syrian Network for Human Rights say Assad has been using weapons like sarin gas far more frequently than has been reported. Early this week, an intelligence chief for the Israeli Defense Forces said Israel concluded Assad used them last month. In a report released exclusively to USA TODAY, the network said Syrian human rights observers such as itself have concluded that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons on “10 separate locations in Syria” in four provinces over the span of several months starting in December. “Beginning at Homs, and then in the suburbs of Damascus, and then at two attacks inside Damascus in Jobar neighborhood,” Damascus-based activist Sami Ibrahim, of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, told USA TODAY. Ibrahim says his group — a Syrian group of human rights activists that collects victims’ accounts of the conflict — can back up its claims of chemical weapons use by Assad. Its report says Assad has been using “different types” of chemical weapons, including sarin gas, on at least two separate occasions in suburban Damascus and Aleppo. “We have videos of those killed, we have photos, we have testimony from the eyewitnesses, from the doctors inside the hospitals; they are speaking inside the video,” Ibrahim said of his report’s findings.
US has a range of military options in Syria after revelation of regime use of chemical weapons The military options could include establishing a no-fly zone or a secured area within Syria, launching airstrikes by drones and fighter jets and sending in tens of thousands of ground forces to secure the regime’s chemical weapons caches. Setting up a no-fly zone over Syria would present a greater challenge than it did in Libya because Syria has a more sophisticated and robust air defense system. Crippling it would require jamming the radars and taking out the missile sites, or possibly even using some type of cyberattack to interfere with the system.
Syria Claims Disruption of Rebel Supply Lines The official SANA news agency said that soldiers fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad had overwhelmed the opposition in the town, Otaiba, to such an extent that they “discovered a number of tunnels which were used by terrorists to move and transfer weapons and ammunition.” Terrorist is the word used by Mr. Assad to describe armed opponents, backed by the West and many Arab states, seeking his overthrow in a revolt that is now more than two years old. The rebels see Otaiba as a crucial way station for supplies of weaponry and food in their campaign to advance toward the capital, Damascus, and have been resisting a furious government onslaught there for weeks. Rebel fighters on the ground said Thursday that, despite the official claims, the insurgents were still holding on to some parts of the town. An activist who had been involved in the fighting and who wished to be identified only as Ammar said the claimed capture of Otaiba was an exaggeration. “Both sides are still fighting,” the activist said. “The regime are attacking from the east side, the Free Syrian Army from the west side.”
FPI Board of Directors Urge U.S. Action After Assad’s Chemical Attacks “Other nations, such as Iran and North Korea, will be watching the American reaction closely. If the U.S. government itself declares that a red line has been crossed in the use of such weapons but then takes no action, this may give Iran, in particular, confidence that it can move forward in developing a nuclear weapon without fear of any action by the United States. It may choose to ignore President Obama’s repeated warnings that development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable to the United States. This is a critical moment for the Obama administration. We urge the President and his advisers to take the necessary action to save countless innocent lives, deter further dangerous actions by Assad and others, and restore confidence in American global leadership.”
Syria rebels launch attack in central Hama after months of calmHeavy clashes erupted for the first time in months in Syria’s central city of Hama Thursday as rebels tried to relieve pressure on comrades under attack from President Bashar Assad’s forces elsewhere, activists said. They said at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded when fighting broke out at 4 a.m. in Hama, a historic symbol of dissent against four decades of Assad family rule. Most of the reported casualties were civilian, they said.
Revealed: tragic victims of Syria’s nerve gas war The chemical attack that killed Yasser Yunis’s family was a small, almost private affair. Had the 27-year-old car mechanic not managed to struggle out of the doorway of his home in Aleppo on to the street in the darkness of night, clutching his infant son to his chest, no one might have ever known what wiped out the family. They died twitching, hallucinating and choking on white froth that poured from their noses and mouths. Their doctors believe that they were killed by nerve gas.
A Hired Killer in Syria Reconsiders His Role Abu Rami said he was paid 15,000 Syrian pounds, or $215, per month, which is around the minimum wage in Syria. Payments were higher, he added, for those who accepted missions outside their own neighborhoods and for killing armed opponents. A confirmed kill earned a bonus of 2,000 pounds… Life changed for Abu Rami in January, however, when his older brother, in a bid to extract him from the shabiha, took him to a workshop organized by an opposition group that promotes dialogue over violence. The group, Building the Syrian State, known by its acronym B.S.S., is a political movement founded by a longtime opposition figure, Louay Hussein, that focuses on removing Mr. Assad by political, not military, means… “It was an astonishing result,” Mr. Joudeh said. “In just four days he experienced a dramatic change in both behavior and personality.” For example, Mr. Joudeh said, one of the workshop’s first activities was to write down roles models based on their spheres of influence. Abu Rami put down the leader of Hezbollah and Mr. Assad: but “after the first day of the workshop, he went back to that paper and tore it off the wall,” Mr. Joudeh said.
Seven Times The White House Discussed The Syria Red Line Ever since August 2012, the Obama administration has defined the use or proliferation of chemical weapons as a game-changer that would be a “grave mistake” for the Assad government. But the “red line,” and threat of a resulting response by the U.S., has never been clearly defined by the White House. Obama has qualified his statements by saying the red line would be crossed with “a whole bunch” of chemical weapons. He has also never explicitly promised a military response to the use of chemical weapons, though his administration’s comments have suggested such a possibility. For now, the White House is only saying it will investigate further, and stay prepared.
Analyses & Op-Eds
The Case for Intervening in Syria: More than two years into the uprising, the balance of power does not look like it’s tipping in favor of the rebels. A bloody, grinding stalemate in Syria will not only empower Islamist extremist groups, who are currently still limited in their support and power inside Syria. It will also increase tensions in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. Both scenarios have catastrophic consequences for regional stability and for the position of the United States in the Middle East. The Syrian crisis has long since reached the point where, the least bad–and the least risky–scenario is a serious international effort to shift the military balance toward resistance forces, and specifically those that are not radical Islamist. Multilateral intervention is needed toward this end, and only the United States can lead it.
Syria’s uneasy Christians feel both sides closing in Traditionally regarded as loyal to Assad, Christians are facing aggression from Islamist rebels, and, whatever their sympathies, are becoming a trapped minority in a disintegrating country.
Is the U.S. Set to Intervene in Syria? “Since the mid-1920s chemical weapons have been taboo—not that they haven’t been used by Mussolini in Ethiopia, the Japanese during a battle in China, or the Egyptians in Yemen, but the only major use of chemical warfare has been by Saddam Hussein against the Iranians and his own Kurdish population in the 1980’s.” The use of chemical weapons in Syria would be the first time they’ve been used since the Chemical Weapons Convention was signed in 1993, Juul notes, “So maintaining the taboo here is important.”
The Thick Red Line: White House Cautious on Chemical Weapons Use in Syria Catching up with the assessments of France, Great Britain and Israel, the Obama administration now says it believes that chemical weapons, including the lethal nerve agent sarin, have been used in Syria. Given that President Obama has declared chemical weapons use a “red line,” this could mean war. But it almost certainly won’t.
Lee Smith: Obama’s Meaningless ‘Red Line’? It is very unlikely that the administration is now going to find sufficiently compelling evidence, because the White House has designed its conditions so that they would be virtually impossible to meet, evidently because it does not want to do anything to bring down Assad. In a conference call this afternoon, a senior Obama administration official explained that the White House is “pressing for a comprehensive U.N. investigation that can credibly evaluate the evidence and establish what took place in association with these reports of the use of chemical weapons.” That investigation, said the official, “needs to have credible access in order to ascertain exactly what took place.”
On the Broken Hand
Approaching the conflict in Syria from the perspective of “maintaining the taboo” on use of chemical weapons is not enough, and will surely not end the conflict. Classical containment no longer works. The focus in Syria should be on stopping state-level impunity. At this point in the development of global order, state-sponsored crackdowns and state-instigated civil wars are not issues that can be tolerated as domestic affairs, because their repercussions will reverberate across the world. Classical interpretations of sovereignty need to be reassessed. Security is no longer a local concern. The tendency for overt authoritarian and corrupt practices such the ones observed in Syria today pose a clear and present danger to global order, they need to be curbed and punished. Attempting to contain the conflicts they generate is no longer sufficient to ensure global security, because the repercussions in such an interconnected world are hard to predict.
Case in point: chemical weapons are now being used in Syria, and the fate of huge stockpiles is now at stake. If one rogue state gets away with it, what would stop another rogue state from following suit? This was the question that the crackdown in Syria posed even without the use of chemical weapons. Use of chemical weapons simply ups the ante. Moreover, with the identity of the Boston attackers in mind, and the fact that there are Chechen groups now operating in Syria, and while there is no clear organizational connection between the two theaters at this stage, we cannot but wonder about the future and its possibilities. Indeed, conditions are fast ripening for the emergence of such connections.
Containing the fallouts from this situation requires serious involvement through supporting moderate rebels and imposing a no-fly zone in order to facilitate the emergence of local governance structures. It will be up to these structures to maintain local law and order as well as a system of accountability that prevents vendettas and stands up to extremists. Assad has to go as well, the sooner the better. In order for the current global order to have any legitimacy, it cannot give a pass to someone willing to engage in such unspeakable acts of horror. Accountability is critical to legitimacy. That makes involvement in Syria a pretty toll order, but that’s the nature of the challenge, and it will not disappear or get any simpler just because we are wary of it. The reality is Syria has already been broken, and the world already owns it.
In the words of Timothy Garton Ash, a professor at Oxford University: “In a no-polar or G0 world, with multiple competing powers, both global and regional, having an interest in a fractured country, such civil and proxy wars become more difficult to stop… Unless we develop new ways of conflict resolution, strong enough to constrain this new world disorder, the 21st may be bloodier yet.”
Syrian network for human rights documented 109 victims, Thursday 25/4/2013 all across Syria, including 12 children, 4 ladies, 12 tortured to death, 38 armed rebels
Obama’s Great Failure!
A policy of doing the right thing only when it is cheap and easy is prescription for disaster, and disaster is exactly what we have now in Syria, as a result of this policy. But, let’s be clear here: No facet of intervention in Syria will be easy, or cheap, but intervention is still a moral and a strategic must. Millions of lives are at stake, so is the fate of an entire region with all her peoples. Lebanon Iraq and Jordan are already beginning to feel the spillover effects of the conflict in Syria. The fact that WMDs have begun to be used, even if on a limited scale at this stage, is not a good omen at all. And the longer we wait the worst the situation will get. But in order for the U.S. to do the right thing here, we need a courageous president in the White House, one that is willing to face the truth, then relay it honestly to the American people, even if they are reluctant to hear it. No matter how wary and weary the American people are at this stage, there are certain things that their government still needs to do in order to maintain the global order and keep them and all of us safe. Regrettably, President Obama seems incapable of rising to the challenge.
Free Syrian Army general: ‘Clear proof chemical weapons used’ “We took some samples of the soil and of blood. The injured people were observed by doctors and the samples were tested and it was very clear that the regime used chemical weapons,” General Salim Idriss told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. Idriss said his doctors gave the samples to “observers” of the civil war in Syria, but refused to name which groups. Both Britain and France now say soil samples indicate “some use of chemical weapons.”
Hagel skeptical of Syria chemical weapons claims Any U.S. response to Syria will be based on American intelligence findings, Hagel said in his first public remarks since an Israeli official alleged Monday that the Syria government had used chemical weapons. “Suspicions are one thing,” Hagel told reporters traveling with him. “Evidence is another.”
Syria crisis: UN to study soil samples for proof of sarin gas United Nations investigators will examine soil samples collected by western intelligence agencies and enter Syrian refugee camps in an effort to assess claims that the Assad regime has used sarin gas against its opponents. Proof of sarin use would increase pressure on the Obama administration which, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is deeply reluctant to intervene in what could be another protracted and unwinnable conflict.
Syria: We wouldn’t use chemical arms against Israel “Even if Syria does have chemical weapons, our leadership and our military will not use them either against Syrians or against Israelis, above all for moral reasons and secondarily on legal and political grounds,” Omran al-Zoabi was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying at a Moscow university. He said Syria would not resort to chemical weapons even if it had to go to war with Israel and use “all resources”.
Syrian army seizes strategic town near capital Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad seized a strategic town east of Damascus on Wednesday, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the rebels, activists and fighters said. Rebels have held several suburbs ringing the southern and eastern parts Damascus for months, but they have been struggling to maintain their positions against a ground offensive backed by fierce army shelling and air strikes in recent weeks. “The disaster has struck, the army entered Otaiba. The regime has managed to turn off the weapons tap,” a fighter from the town told Reuters via Skype. “The price of a bullet will go from 50 Syrian pounds to 1,000 Syrian pounds ($10) now, but we must pay and retake it. It’s the main if not the only route.”
Syria crisis: ‘Heavy clashes’ at Aleppo Minnigh airbase Rebels took hold of a key military position outside the Minnigh airport on Tuesday and launched a raid the following day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. “The rebels, who have laid siege to the airport for months now, entered it for the first time around dawn,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based activist group, told AFP news agency. Heavy fighting was taking place in the grounds, he added.
Minaret of famed 12th century Sunni mosque in Syrian city of Aleppo destroyed Standing inside the mosque’s courtyard, a man who appears to be a rebel fighter says regime forces recently fired seven shells at the minaret but failed to knock it down. He said that on Wednesday the tank rounds struck their target. “We were standing here today and suddenly shells started hitting the minaret,” the man says. “They (the army) then tried to storm the mosque but we pushed them back.” The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting of the events depicted.
Pope Francis calls for two Syria bishops to be freed Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed for two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria to be freed and for the bloodshed to end, speaking during his general audience on St Peter’s Square. The pope told around 100,000 people present on the square that there were “contradictory reports” about the fate of the two bishops and asked that “they be returned quickly to their communities”.
Syria accuses U.N. envoy Brahimi of interfering Brahimi told a closed-door session of the United Nations Security Council last Friday that Damascus was “surprised and embarrassed” by a January offer of talks from opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib, and its response was “slow and confused”. At the conclusion of his remarks, which were later circulated by U.N. diplomats, Brahimi suggested Assad “voluntarily forego” the right to stand for another term as president in an election scheduled for next year. Syria’s foreign ministry said in a statement that if Brahimi wished to continue his role, he must show impartiality and realize that “the Syrian people are the only decision-makers who will choose their representatives”. “The briefing … was marked by interference in the Syrian Arab Republic’s internal affairs and a lack of neutrality which should characterize his mission,” the ministry in a statement.
Qatar faces backlash among rebel groups in Syria Tiny, U.S.-allied Qatar has emerged as one of the strongest international backers of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Many in the Syrian opposition laud Qatar, saying it has stepped in while the international community has failed to intervene or send military aid that would help tip the balance in favor of the rebels, three years into the uprising-turned civil war that has ravaged the country and killed more than 70,000 people. But its role has also caused tensions within the ranks of the highly fragmented rebellion and political opposition. Some rebel brigades complain they are left out in the cold from the flow of money and weapons, sparking rivalries between secular and Islamist groups. Fighters and opposition activists worry that Qatar is buying outsized influence in post-Assad Syria and giving a boost to Islamist-minded groups if the regime falls.
What is the Syrian Electronic Army?One key question revolves around how close the group is to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has been involved in a bloody civil war for more than two years. On that subject, all the signs are of “tacit support,” says Helmi Noman, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He has been tracking the Syrian Electronic Army since May 2012, when it first emerged as an organized group with a Facebook page and then its own website. “What we know is their domain name was registered by the Syrian Computer Society. We looked into the Syrian Computer Society and discovered that it was headed by al-Assad in the 1990s, before he was president,” said Noman. “It’s hosted on the network of the Syrian government, which is interesting because it’s the first time we’ve seen a group with questionable activities being hosted on a national computer network.”
From Belgian school to Syrian battleground A camera shakily films a group of rebel fighters preparing to pray, lined up in rows, their weapons at their feet. A young man walks into shot and takes off his rifle before briefly turning towards the camera. “That’s Brian,” says Ingrid de Mulder, pointing at her nephew in the online video on her computer. “I’m 100% sure. That’s him. No doubt.” Nineteen-year-old Brian de Mulder from Antwerp is one of hundreds of Europeans authorities believe to be in Syria. “It’s not the Brian brought up by his mother,” says Ingrid. “Brian was athletic, he was sporty, he was helping everybody. We never saw him like this. For me it’s a programmed robot.”
Syria Open Backyard Refineries as War Reaches Oil Field “There is also little proof the national coalition has much oil under its control,” David Butter, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa program at London-based Chatham House said. “It’s all very sketchy.” The fields of the east and northeast are in areas where Islamist militants predominate, the Economist Intelligence Unit said in an April 24 report. “The majority of the fields are controlled by al-Qaeda; some by the Free Army; some others by the Kurds,” said Rami Abdurrahman of the Coventry, England-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “We cannot confirm what percentage each controls.”
Analyses & Op-Eds
Bennett Ramberg: Syria’s Chemical Genie Recent statements from US officials have not been reassuring. In January, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the US was not pursuing options that involve “boots on the ground” to secure Assad’s arsenal during the conflict. At the same news conference, Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that preventing the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons would require such clear, comprehensive intelligence that obtaining it is “almost unachievable.” Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17, Dempsey added that he had no confidence that US forces could secure the arsenal given the number of sites. Such remarks from senior military authorities suggest that Obama’s warnings may be hollow. Worse, they inspire little confidence that the US can deal with future cases in which countries with nuclear assets find themselves in revolt, civil war, or political collapse – and with compromised domestic atomic safeguards risking the spread of nuclear havoc to other regions. Such risks demand examination and planning. But, to rely on the US government alone to plot the most effective strategy in the shadow of possible internal group-think is asking too much. Outside vetting – including published reviews by congressional investigative bodies, think tanks, and scholars – could add important insights.
Could John McCain’s roadmap for intervening in Syria work? “No one should think that we have to destroy every air defense system or put tens of thousands of boots on the ground to make a difference in Syria. We have more limited options. We could, for example, organize and overt and large-scale operation to train and equip Syrian opposition forces. We could use our precision strike capabilities to target Assad’s aircraft and Scud missile launchers on the ground, without our pilots having to fly into the teeth of Syria’s air defenses. We could use similar weapons to selectively destroy artillery pieces and make their crews think twice about remaining at their posts. We could also use Patriot missile batteries outside of Syria to help protect safe zones inside of Syria.”
Chemical weapons in Syria: Bashar al-Assad hovers over a red line In the past, Damascus has backed down when faced with the credible threat of force: for example, in 1998, under Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, when Turkey massed tanks on Syria’s border until it ceased supporting Kurdish insurgents; or in October 2005 when Bashar sent an emissary to sue for peace in Washington as the Bush administration readied reprisal options against his funnelling of jihadi volunteers into US-occupied Iraq. The problem now – in addition to the passivity of the international community – is that the Assad clan and its hardline, mostly Alawite support base sees this conflict as existential. They are prepared to destroy Syria and, after more than 70,000 deaths, wade through the blood of the Syrian people to impose their right to rule. So it is no longer about testing limits. There are none.
A video found on the mobile phone of a pro-Assad militiaman captured and killed by rebels. The place of the massacre is believed to have taken place a few days ago in the town ofAl-Otaibeh in Damascus Suburbs, which fell completely back into regime hands earlier today (Wednesday)http://youtu.be/qkRcA9gLJaA A second clip shows the corpses being gathered in a ditch and set on fire http://youtu.be/i9y6Y_8lAyQ A third video from the same mobile seems to show the perpetrators http://youtu.be/caqj–dkFwo
Rebels attacking Minnigh Military Airport in Aleppo claim that these corpses belong to Iranian soldiers fighting for Assad http://youtu.be/vgGTtfpTpgc
Rebels in Lattakia claim that these grad missiles targeted the Alawite town ofQardaha, Assad’s hometown http://youtu.be/hFEGHowXpPw
In Aleppo City, rebels claim that pro-Assad militias bright down the historic minaret of the Aleppo Omayad Mosque, one of the oldest in the world http://youtu.be/vqcTkCEzfow Targeting mosques and minarets in particular have been a modus operandi for pro-Assad militias since the early weeks of the revolution.
By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
BRUSSELS, Belgium – After lengthy negotiations and the apparent breakdown of talks, Serbia and Kosovo approved a normalization agreement earlier this week, which many hope will help ease tensions along their shared boarder.
Last Friday, April 19, Serbia and Kosovo signed the European Union- brokered, 15 point First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations, under which ethnic Serbs in the northern region of Kosovo will elect a regional police commander and ensure that a majority of court judges are Serbs, but, the police and courts will be integrated into the Kosovo police and justice system. In exchange for managerial control of the Northern region of Kosovo, the ethnic Serbs living there will recognize the authority of the Kosovo government. The agreement also prevents both Serbia and Kosovo from obstructing one another as they seek eventual membership in the E.U.
Kosovo’s parliament, in Pristina, approved the tentative deal with Serbia in a vote on Sunday. Serbia followed with a unanimous decision from its parliament, in Belgrade, also approving the deal on Monday, along with orders for Serbian ministries to begin implementation.
Although almost 100 countries, including the United States and 22 of the 27 members of the E.U., have recognized Kosovo, Serbia has not. Kosovo, whose citizens are primarily ethnically Albanian, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, following nine years of U.N. administration backed by a NATO-led peacekeeping force, after Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo in June 1999. However, sporadic violence persisted in Kosovo, particularly in regions of high ethnic tensions. Serbia has vowed never to recognize Kosovo, and insists the E.U.-brokered deal approved this week is not a formal recognition of Kosovar statehood.
Following Serbia’s parliament’s approval of the agreement, protests against the deal erupted in Belgrade. Several thousand flag-waving Serbs, chanting “Treason, Treason”, gathered in Belgrade shortly after the approval. As many as ten-thousand more pro-Serbia protesters appeared on the streets of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, unsatisfied with the deal.
Coming to terms with Kosovo (12% of Serbia’s former size) as a separate entity from Serbia is culturally difficult for many Serbians. The province Kosovo, in the middle ages, was the center of the former Serbian Empire, and many Serbs consider it the birthplace of their nation.
However, normalization with Kosovo, in addition to easing tensions in the region, will have an additional benefit for Serbia with respect to its relationship with the E.U. Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic earlier said that “if the government accepts the agreement, I expect Serbia to get a date to start membership talks with the European Union”.
Before the deal was even been finalized, the E.U. began recommending opening membership talks with Serbia Furthermore, the E.U. also signaled the go-ahead for Kosovo to begin association agreement talks.
Of Serbia, a European Commission report [pdf] stated that Belgrade “has taken very significant steps and [made a] sustainable improvement in relations with Kosovo.” Therefore, the Commission “recommends that negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia.”
Of Kosovo, the Commission also stated in a separate report [pdf] that Pristina had met all its “short-term priorities,” and recommended member states authorize “the open[ing] of negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement” with the E.U. The Commission also proposed allowing Kosovo to participate in 22 EU programs.
E.U. Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele described the agreement and move towards E.U. membership as a significant shift for the entire region. “[It is] a historic day,” he told reporters. “It is also a game changer, it is a game changer for Serbia and Kosovo. It is a game changer for the whole region of the Western Balkans.”
The E.U.’s foreign policy chief Baroness Catherine Ashton, who mediated the talks, described her hoped for full implementation. “I am very hopeful that with the determination we have seen, they will move to implement all of the elements of this agreement. I will support them in any way that I can and I have already offered to help and to participate in not only implementation, but if they continue their dialogue I am at their disposal. It has been a real privilege to help them.”
In an attempt to extend another olive branch, Serbia president Tomislav Nikolic also formally apologized earlier today, April 25, for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys. However, he stopped short of recognizing the massacre as genocide, as it has been declared by two international courts. “I kneel and ask for forgiveness for Serbia for the crime committed in Srebrenica,” Nikolic declared during an interview to be aired on Bosnian national television. “I apologi[z]e for the crimes committed by any individual in the name of our state and our people.”
Normalization between Serbia and Kosovo represent a huge step in healing the wounds left by the conflicts in the 1990s, however both countries will have to make a continuing effort to advance human rights. “The normalization agreement between Belgrade and Pristina is a positive step toward peace and reconciliation in the region,” said Lydia Gall, Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch. “With commitment from both governments and support from their EU partners, it could help improve human rights for everyone in Kosovo and Serbia.”
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Serbia President ‘Apologises’ for Massacre – 25 April 2013
HRW – Serbia/Kosovo: Landmark Opportunity for Human Rights – 23 April 2013
Al Jazeera – Serbians Protest Kosovo Deal – 22 April 2013
BBC News – EU Commission: ‘Start Serbia Membership Talks’ – 22 April 2013
The Independent – Serbia Deal Ends Conflict with Kosovo – 22 April 2013
RFE/RL – European Commission Recommends Opening Accession Talks With Serbia – 22 April 2013