Tag Archives: Syria

By Leila Shrooms for Tahrir-ICN

Photo from: YallasouriyaOmar Aziz (fondly known by friends as Abu Kamal) was born in Damascus. He returned to Syria from exile in Saudi Arabia and the United States in the early days of the Syrian revolution. An intellectual, economist, anarchist, husband and father, at the age of 63, he committed himself to the revolutionary struggle. He worked together with local activists to collect humanitarian aid and distribute it to suburbs of Damascus that were under attack by the regime. Through his writing and activity he promoted local self-governance, horizontal organization, cooperation, solidarity and mutual aid as the means by which people could emancipate themselves from the tyranny of the state. Together with comrades, Aziz founded the first local committee in Barzeh, Damascus.The example spread across Syria and with it some of the most promising and lasting examples of non-hierarchical self organization to have emerged from the countries of the Arab Spring.

In her tribute to Omar Aziz, Budour Hassan says, he “did not wear a Vendetta mask, nor did he form black blocs. He was not obsessed with giving interviews to the press …[Yet] at a time when most anti-imperialists were wailing over the collapse of the Syrian state and the “hijacking” of a revolution they never supported in the first place, Aziz and his comrades were tirelessly striving for unconditional freedom from all forms of despotism and state hegemony.”[1]

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( It wont be long before the Syrian regime, with the help of four Western companies, sets up perhaps the world’s most sophisticated online tracking and surveillance system. Its goal? To assist Syrian security forces in their door-to-door hunt for activists. These companies have been racing against the clock to complete this extensive network. Since March, 3,500 citizens have been killed, including the deliberate targeting of human rights activists. Before time runs out, we must stop these companies.

We’re told by insiders that their CEO’s are on high alert, including one CEO who has announced a temporary hold on activities. Sustained public pressure will force them all to permanently withdraw. Add your name to this urgent petition now, and we’ll deliver it to their boardroom doors.

The four companies involved, Area (Italian), NetApp (American), Qosmos (French) and Utimaco (German), directly or indirectly provide the technologies needed to monitor the communications of activists on the ground fighting for democracy. The technologies of all four of these companies are required to enable the surveillance system to work properly. We just need one of them to pull out and President Assad’s latest deadly plan will stumble before it properly gets off the ground.
The decision to sell surveillance technologies directly or indirectly to Syria’s regime is made by people. These are the executives at the top ultimately responsible for those decisions:

– Andrea Formenti, Area President and Chief Executive Officer
– Tom Georgens, NetApp President and Chief Executive Officer
– Thibaut Bechetoille, Qosmos Chief Executive Officer
– Steve Munford, Sophos (owner of Utimaco) Chief Executive Officer

These CEOs are seriously debating what to do next – to complete their part or pull out for good. Area’s CEO has even made a public statement that they’re considering ending their operations in Syria. Sustained public pressure will force their hand, but we need to act fast. Tell them to permanantly stop providing technology that will undoubtedly result in the detainment and possible death of Syrian citizens:

The Access community has stood in solidarity with Syria’s protestors and asked the world’s leaders to act on the deaths of thousands in Syria. Now we’re taking it to the corporate world, telling them it’s time to put rights before profits.

With hope,
The Access Team
Call on the CEOs of four Western companies to permanently stop providing surveillance technology to Syria used in the door-to-door hunt for activists.


(hrw.orgJUNE 1, 2011 – This 54-page report is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country. The specifics went largely unreported due to the information blockade imposed by the Syrian authorities. Victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.


The main features of the Syrian revolution are its youthful, spontaneous aspect, and the fact that it was created on the streets and is linked directly to the people. It is a revolution without centralized control, led by insurgent individuals. Consequently, no-one can claim to govern it or lead and the reason is simple: the young insurgents rose up spontaneously and there are no signs of participation by religious elements, whose ideas are extremely reactionary, or indeed by any other tendency. (العربية)


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( On Sunday, Palestinians and their supporters marked the 63rd anniversary of what they call the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, that befell them as hundreds of thousands fled or were pushed out of their homes following Israel’s establishment in 1948. They observed the anniversary this year by staging coordinated demonstrations, in part inspired by recent protests around the Arab world. Thousands marched on Israeli borders and walls in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, and Lebanon. Where they attempted to climb border fences and enter Israel, Israeli troops opened fire, reportedly killing a dozen and injuring over 100. At the Syrian border, over 100 protesters breached the border, at least one of them hitchhiking 130 miles into Tel Aviv. Gathered here are images of some of the scenes around Israel last weekend. [35 photos]


( The US is to impose sanctions on the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for human rights abuses in an escalation of international pressure on his regime.

The penalties announced by the US treasury mark the first time that Assad has been targeted personally by the international community for his government’s crackdown on protesters.

The move freezes any assets of Assad and six senior Syrian officials that are in the United States or otherwise fall within US jurisdiction, and generally bars US citizens and companies from dealing with them. Read more…

(AlJazeera) As the violence in Syria continues the mainstream media presence on the ground is becoming increasingly scarce. That is because the Assad regime is doing its best to contain the story by locking journalists up – or out of the country.

But – like in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – there is still a reliable source of information coming out via social media. Yet unlike those countries, most of the videos, images and stories are being aggregated from outside of the country by a group of Syrian activists who have managed to circumvent the government’s crackdown on the media.

Our News Divide this week looks at one of the biggest existential threats to the Assad regime – the opposition news network that is being fed information from within the country and spreading it online.

Quick hits from the media world: Pakistan tries to stem the news coverage of bin Laden’s death by making life difficult for the media. Libyan activists turn to the courts to battle pro-Gaddafi propaganda on state-run TV. A Reutersjournalist is given a week to leave Bahrain for his coverage of the pro-democracy demonstrations and two US-based Yiddish language publications doctor a photo of the White House’s Situation Room taken on the night bin Laden was killed.

The micro-blogging website twitter, has been around for nearly five years now. In that relatively short period, it is accrued hundreds of millions of users, has been instrumental in breaking news in countries where the media is tightly controlled and has got just about every celebrity, politician even corporation tweeting – whether it is them doing it or not.

Fake twitter accounts are a growing trend within this 140 character micro-blogging phenomenon. Twitter has said that impersonation violates its terms of service and that it takes the issue very seriously but there does not appear to be much the site can do about it. The Listening Post‘s Nick Muirhead looks at some of the fake twitter accounts that have been making waves recently and how some of them seem more real than the people they represent.

For our Internet Video of the Week we found a clip of a talented Obama impersonator putting all his acting, singing and dancing skills to work. His name is Iman Crosson and his satirical interpretation of the president’s speech on the night bin Laden was killed cuts through the usual diplomatic platitudes and delivers – what seems to be – a more honest and rhythmically tuned account of what happened.


( Fears mount that regime of Bashar al-Assad is planning to repeat the siege tactics it deployed in Deraa

Syrian tanks rolled into the Mediterranean coastal town of Banias on Saturday and opened fire on demonstrators as President Bashar al-Assad continued the violent assault on his opponents.

A day after clashes with anti-government protesters that left at least 30 dead nationwide according to activists and an eyewitness, fears mounted that the Syrian regime was planning to repeat the siege tactics it deployed in Deraa, another key opposition centre.

Those fears were bolstered by reports yesterday that Syrian forces had shot dead four women demonstrating on a coastal road near Banias. Ammar Qurabi of the National Organisation for Human Rights said the women, part of a small all-female gathering, had been protesting against the siege and the cutting of power lines when they were killed by plainclothes security forces or pro-government gunmen. Their bodies were taken to hospital in a Sunni district of the besieged town.

“Banias is now surrounded from all all directions, not a single person can go in or out,” said a resident, who did not wish to be identified. He added that electricity and phone lines had been cut and residents were charging their mobile phones on car batteries. Activists said gunboats could be seen off the Banias coastline and gunfire was heard after tanks approached from three directions in the early hours.

As civilians made human chains to protect neighbourhoods, eyewitnesses added that Sunni rather than Alawite neighbourhoods were being targeted. Banias, which has an oil refinery and is the main point of export for Syrian oil, is a predominantly Sunni city close to the Jebel Ansuriya stronghold of Assad’s minority Alawite sect. It has a potentially explosive mix of religious groups and sects.

The latest attacks came in defiance of a US sanctions regime already imposed and despite the expected announcement that the EU will announce sanctions next week against 14 regime officials, although not Assad .

The eyewitness said an atmosphere of fear and apprehension had taken over the town, adding that two-thirds of the population had already fled, notably women and children.

Activists in touch with residents confirmed his account, saying the town, which has become a leading focus of anti-regime demonstrations, was now besieged. The activists also spoke on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

The moves came after human rights groups said at least 30 were shot dead in anti-government protests on Friday’s “day of defiance” and rights group Sawasieh raised the total death toll since mid-March to 800.

“The use of tanks makes us think they are planning to siege the city like Deraa,” said one analyst in the capital. Banias’s persistent restiveness – like that of the southern stronghold, which was surrounded by tanks on 25 April – has irked the government. And, like Deraa’s Omari mosque imam Ahmed Sayasna, Banias has a prominent cleric, Anas Airout, who has come out in support of the protesters.

As news of the tanks’ arrival broke in the capital on Saturday , supporters of the protesters said the international community’s response had been too slow, allowing a brutal crackdown to push to the limit the protesters’ resolve.

The international community, like Syrian protesters, has rejected military intervention and has struggled to find ways of putting pressure on the Assad regime.

On Saturday some Syrians in the capital expressed frustration at the lack of momentum, claiming that many more people wanted change than the protests numbers suggested.

“When a television show gets one complaint, you know there are 100 more who are unhappy but couldn’t be bothered to write,” said one young man who identified himself as Omar. “It’s the same here, but each protester may be worth 200 or 300 people who are too scared to come out.”

by Katherine Marsh
~ is the pseudonym of a journalist living in Damascus

( Human rights activists seen to be involved in pro-reform protests in Syria have been forced into hiding after receiving threats from Syrian authorities, Amnesty International said today as a “Day of Defiance” took place around the country.

Syrian authorities heightened security measures ahead of today’s protests, leading to several protester deaths and the detention of a key opposition activist.

“Given recent events, Syrian human rights and political activists have cause to fear for their lives and liberty, and a number have gone into hiding after receiving threats,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Syrian security forces have killed hundreds and arrested many more during and after protests. This campaign of violence and intimidation must cease and human rights defenders must be allowed to carry on their work without fear for their personal safety.”

Amnesty International has learned of several prominent human rights and political activists who have recently been forced into hiding.

These include: human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh and her husband Wa’el Hammada; Haytham al-Maleh; Hind and ‘Omar al-Labwani; Jwan Yousef Khorshid; Walid al-Bunni; and Suheir al-Atassi.

Authorities approached Wa’el Hammada’s brother ‘Abd al-Rahman, a 20-year-old student and accountant, at his home in Damascus on Saturday, 30 April, after he earlier evaded them at his place of work. They arrested ‘Abd al-Rahman after he was forced to call his brother to persuade him to come out of hiding but was unable to get through to him.

Human rights activists Hind al-Labwani, aged 23, and ‘Omar al-Labwani, aged 19, both went into hiding sometime following the protests on 30 April after security forces threatened to arrest them. Their father Kamal al-Labwani is a prisoner of conscience who is currently serving a 12-year prison term. They have participated in protests since they began in their home town al-Zabadani near Damascus.

Jwan Yousef Khorshid is a Kurdish human rights activist and member of the board of directors of the unauthorized Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria (RASED). He was involved in the protests in his home city of Qamishly, north-eastern Syria. He reportedly went into hiding on 25 April. The Military Security visited his home on more than one occasion in early May and on 5 May they threatened his wife with arrest if Jwan Yousef Khorshid did not hand himself over within 24 hours.

Haytham al-Maleh, a veteran human rights lawyer and former prisoner of conscience, went into hiding last week after his son, Iyas al-Maleh, who lives abroad, received a tip-off and phoned him at home in a Damascus suburb. Iyas al-Maleh told Amnesty International that threats his father receives by email and on his Facebook account, such as “you deserve to be hanged”, have failed to silence him – last night he spoke on Al Jazeera television.

Walid al-Bunni, twice detained as a prisoner of conscience and a member of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change, an unauthorized opposition coalition, fled his home on the outskirts of Damascus on 5 May after the security forces broke down the front door of his house. He has gone into hiding.

Suheir al-Atassi, president of the unauthorized Jamal al-Atassi Forum discussion group, has also gone into hiding. A prominent participator in the pro-reform demonstrations, she had been arrested on 16 March when plain-clothes members of the security forces violently dispersed a peaceful protest calling for the release of political activists. She was dragged away by her hair, then held in several detention centres including the Muntaqa Branch of Military Security. Upon her release on 3 April, she continued to demand reform.

“Syrian authorities must stop this campaign of intimidation against individuals who have merely expressed their views in public protests,” said Philip Luther.

“The ever-worsening violence, mass arrests and ill-treatment of detainees has only served to embolden protesters around the country, and they must be allowed to make their opinions known in safety.”

Opposition leader Riad Seif was arrested today while leaving the al-Hasan mosque in Damascus, a launch point for street protests in the capital. A former independent member of the Syrian parliament, he was twice before held as a prisoner of conscience and suffers from advanced prostate cancer, sparking fears for his well-being in detention.

Hundreds more have been arrested and held in incommunicado detention since pro-reform protests began in mid-March.

Amnesty International is concerned about many others detained in recent days for their participation in or support for the popular protests around the country. These include political and human rights activists, mosque imams and journalists.

Since 30 April, the Syrian security forces and army have been conducting house-to-house arrests in towns and cities around Syria, including al-Zabadani and Madaya (west of Damascus), Dera’a in the south, Duma (near Damascus), and the coastal city of Latakia. In most of these places telephone lines and mobile phones were cut off.

Amnesty International has compiled a list of more than 540 names of individuals killed by Syrian security forces in the last seven weeks. Several additional protesters were reportedly killed in today’s “Day of Defiance” protests around the country.