Syrian rebels destroy Armenian genocide monument


This video says about itself:

Jabhat al-Nusra attacks Syria’s ancient Aramaic village

5 September 2013

The Syrian village of Ma’loula in the mountains north of Damascus is a UNESCO world heritage site, it is one of the only villages in the world where ancient Aramaic is still spoken – that’s the language believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ.

It has been overrun in an assault by al-Qaeda linked group Jabhat al-Nusra, who were fighting alongside opposition brigades from Baba Amr in Homs. A nun from a convent in Ma’loula has accused Jabhat al-Nusra of shelling the village and its inhabitants indiscriminately.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Jabhat al-Nusra blows up Armenian church in Deir el-Zour: A savage blow that echoes through Armenian history

Islamists’ destruction of a shrine to the victims of genocide marks the latest chapter in a tragic national history. Robert Fisk reports from Qamishli, north-eastern Syria

Monday 10 November 2014

In the most savage act of vandalism against Syria’s Christians, Islamists have blown up the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, built in dedication to the one and a half million Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the 1915 genocide. All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins.

This act of sacrilege will cause huge pain among the Armenians scattered across the world – as well as in the rump state of Armenia which emerged after the 1914-1918 war, not least because many hundreds of thousands of victims died in death camps around the very same city of Deir el-Zour. Jabhat al-Nusra rebels appear to have been the culprits this time, but since many Syrians believe that the group has received arms from Turkey, the destruction will be regarded by many Armenians as a further stage in their historical annihilation by the descendants of those who perpetrated the genocide 99 years ago.

Turkey, of course, miserably claims there was no genocide – the equivalent of modern day Germany denying the Jewish Holocaust – but hundreds of historians, including one prominent Turkish academic, have proved beyond any doubt that the Armenians were deliberately massacred on the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government across all of modern-day Turkey and inside the desert of what is now northern Syria – the very region where Isis and its kindred ideological armed groups now hold. Even Israelis refer to the Armenian genocide with the same Hebrew word they use for their own destruction by Nazi Germany: “Shoah”, which means “holocaust”.

The Armenian priest responsible for the Deir el-Zour district, Monsignor Antranik Ayvazian, revealed to me that before the explosions tore the church apart towards the end of September, he received a message from the Islamists promising to spare the church archives if he acknowledged them as the legislative authority in that part of Syria. “I refused,” he said. “And after I refused, they destroyed all our papers and endowments. The only genocide victims’ bones left were further north in the Murgada sanctuary and I buried them before I left. They destroyed the church there, but now if I could go back, I don’t even know if I could find where I put the bones.”

Msr Ayvazian later received a photograph taken in secret and smuggled to him from the Isis-controlled area, showing clearly that only part of the central tower of the Deir el-Zour church, built in 1846 and renovated 43 years later, remains. Every Armenian who has returned to the killing fields of the genocide has prayed at the church. Across these same lands, broken skulls and bones from 1915 still lie in the sand. When I investigated the death marches in this same region 22 years ago with a French photographer, we uncovered dozens of skeletons in the crevasse of a hill at a point where so many Armenian dead were thrown into the waters of the Khabur that the river changed its course forever. I gave some of the skulls and bones we found to an Armenian friend who placed them in the crypt of the Deir el-Zour church – the very same building which now lies in ruins.

“During the Armenian genocide, the Turks entered the church and killed its priest, Father Petrus Terzibashian, in front of the congregation,” Msr Ayvazian said. “Then they threw his body into the Euphrates. This time when the Islamists came, our priest there fled for his life.” Msr Ayvazian suffered his own personal loss in the Syrian war when Islamist fighters broke into the Mediterranean town of Qassab on 22 April this year. “They burned all my books and documents, many of them very old, and left my library with nothing but 60cm of ash on the floor.” Msr Ayvazian showed me a photograph of the Qassab church altar, upon which one of the Islamists had written in Arabic: “Thanks be to God for al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front and Bilal al-Sham” (another Islamist group). The town was retaken by Syrian government troops on 22 June.

Msr Ayvazian recounted his own extraordinary story of how he tried to prevent foreign Islamist fighters from taking over or destroying an Armenian-built hospital – how he drove to meet the Islamist gunmen and agreed to recover the corpses of some of their comrades killed in battle in return for a promise not to damage the hospital. “As I approached the hospital, a Syrian jet flew over me and dropped a bomb 40 metres from the building. I know the officer who sent the aircraft. He said it was his way of trying to warn the rebels not to harm me. They came out of the hospital like rats – but they did not harm me.”

I spoke later to the local Syrian military air force dispatcher and he confirmed that he had indeed sent a MiG fighter-bomber to attack waste ground near the building. Msr Ayvazian subsequently went to the old battlefield with Syrian government permission and recovered several bodies, all in a state of advanced decay and one with a leg eaten off by dogs. But he bravely set off with trucks carrying the dead and handed the remains to the Islamists. “They kept their word and later withdrew all their foreign fighters from the province of Hassake. I later received a letter from one of their emirs, very polite, telling me – and here the priest produced a copy of the note – that: “We vow to keep your property and your cherished possessions, which we also hold dear to us.” Msr Ayvazian looked scornfully at the letter. “Look, here at the start,” he said, “they have even made a mistake in their first quotation from the Koran! And then look what happened at Deir el-Zour. It was all for nothing.”

Each year, thousands of Armenians have gathered at their church in Deir el-Zour on 25 April – the date they commemorate the start of the genocide, when Armenian lawyers, teachers and doctors were arrested and later executed by the Turks outside Istanbul – to remember their million and a half dead. The 100th anniversary of the mass slaughter would have been a major event in Deir ez-Zour’s history. And although Syrian soldiers are still holding out in part of the town today, and Syrian authorities have promised to rebuild Armenian churches when their lands are retaken from the Islamists, there is little hope that any Armenians will be able to visit the ruins of their church in five months’ time.

Isis in Syria: In the shadow of death, a few thousand Christians remain to defy the militants: here.

There has been a “total collapse of international solidarity” when it comes to helping the ever-growing number of refugees from Syria’s civil war, humanitarian agencies said today: here.

British veterans for peace


This video from Britain says about itself:

8 October 2014

on remembrance day
when the army prays
and the flags go up
to remind us that they do it for us

on remembrance day
by the flower display
where the Church explains
how the heroes keep the villains away

there I’ll
tell it to the careless wind
there I’ll
tell you when the good guys win

on remembrance day
I should stay away
from the BBC

where they tell you what a real man should be

and the children watch
as the vicar walks around with a cross
‘cos to love is fine
if you do it at a sensible time
there I’ll
tell it to the careless wind

yes I’ll
tell it to the careless wind
yeah I’ll
tell you when the good guys win
yes I’ll
save it for the next of kin

on remembrance day
on remembrance day
on remembrance day.

Last year I took my kids to Remembrance day church parade. I was struck by how the balance seem to have shifted from remembering the dead to celebrating their heroism. The poppy was like a red blanket thrown across all conflicts since 1914 many of which were opposed by a majority of British citizens. I was in a church unable to stand separate from the state because the Church of England is part of the state.

Anyway, when I got home I wrote this song, I hope it is critical without being condemnatory. It has been picked up by the Christian think tank Ekklesia to promote the white poppy and will be performed for Veterans for Peace as part on remembrance day this year.

Make a contribution to Peacedirect by downloading from https://vincentburke.bandcamp.com.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Peace campaign veterans remember all war dead

Monday 10th November 2014

War veterans campaigning for peace held a sombre vigil at London’s Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday yesterday, marching under the banner “Never again.”

As millions across the country joined Establishment figures to pay tribute to the war dead, the Veterans for Peace UK (VFP) group — which includes former Afghanistan serviceman and anti-war campaigner Joe Glenton — marked its own ceremony outside the memorial in Whitehall.

The afternoon ceremony was held “to remember all of those killed in war including civilians and enemy soldiers.”

Joined by supporters, VFP members faced the war memorial to sing Where Have All The Flowers Gone and read the poem The Cenotaph.

A wreath containing 90 per cent white poppies and 10 per cent red, to highlight the huge proportion of civilians killed in modern warfare, was also laid.

VFP members all wore hoodies, dark clothing and black ties. Supporters were advised to wear clothes “as if you were attending a funeral.”

A one-minute silence was observed before a reveille was sounded to mark the end of the ceremony.

Mr Glenton, who was jailed for absconding from military service in 2007, said he joined VFP to “counter the institution of war and to lead the way towards better alternatives to it.”

Falklands war veteran and VFP member Gus Hales, from Nuneaton, said: “War is always based on a lie and those that start them never fight in them.”

Earlier the Queen laid the first wreath at the Cenotaph after the nation marked two minutes’ silence at 11am. Thousands gathered at the Tower of London to see the installation of ceramic poppies.

Visiting the installation, Minouche Daniels, 54, said: “Seeing it makes me wish that there weren’t wars in the world. Coming from Lebanon I have a different perspective to all of it. I still wish that there weren’t deaths due to war.”

Russell Leach, 93, who helped build Mulberry harbours used by the Allies to bring cargo ashore during the Normandy landings in WWII, said of the installation: “Seeing it makes me feel sad. One wonders what it was all for. I think it is more questions than answers, really.”

This year’s Remembrance Sunday marked 100 years since the beginning of WWI, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the end of Britain’s 13-year military presence in Afghanistan.

Bahraini government-ISIS connection


This video is called Freed Bahrain activist Maryam al-Khawaja on arrest, prison and Nabeel Rajab.

From the Bahrain Mirror:

Inside Nabeel Rajab’s mind… “Bahrain Mirror” presents a defense and evidences concerning the involvement of the Bahraini security bodies in embracing “ISIS”

22/10/2014

(Exclusive): The re-arresting of Nabeel Rajab, Director of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, for his tweet, in which he described the Bahrain security institutions as an “ideological incubator” of ISIS, brought to light the dominant combat doctrine in this institution that forms “a passage” for several Bahraini fighters found within “ISIS” in the conflict areas in Syria and Iraq.

The Bahraini Ministry of Interior had already confessed on 5th September that one of its officers, Mohamed Isa Al-Binali, known as Abu Issa Al Salami, had joined ISIS.

The Ministry of Interior declared “it had already dismissed him for failing to attend work”. Meanwhile, this was considered the first official confession about the affiliation of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria to the security institutions.

Question marks raised about Bahrain’s participation in the international coalition against terrorism, led by the United States to fight ISIS, led to the acknowledgment of the Bahrain‘s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, on 29th September, that there is at least 100 Bahraini fighters fighting alongside ISIS.

However, the government spokeswoman, Samira Rajab, stated on 30th September “this is all the information we have until now. There is no more precise information.”

In this context, the video, of the lieutenant “Al Binali” with 3 of his friends, posted last week came to disclose a new era of the Bahraini Jihadi phenomena. Al Binali called his fellows in the Bahraini Ministry of Interior to follow him, join ISIS and leave their jobs in the Ministry. The officers in the Ministry know that “they are wrong” and they are still in their jobs for financial motives, added the defected lieutenant.

It is worth mentioning that the “Al Binali” tribe, which Issa Al Binali belongs to, is of the few Arab tribes which is allied to the Bahraini ruling family and whose members are allowed to take leading position in the Bahraini security bodies. The Al Binali tribe occupies the first place among the tribes and the Bahraini families in terms of providing the Jihadi organizations with a number of Bahraini fighters.

There are at least 6 fighters from this tribe who are actually involved in the battles in Syria and Iraqi alongside “ISIS“. The tweets of these 6 fighters reveal that they are publically involved in the battles. However, until 2013, Turki Al Binali, who studied the Islamic law, had been visiting Bahrain as one of the prominent leaders in ISIS. Turki is responsible for mobilizing a number of Sunni youth from Busaiteen region and encouraging them to fight in Iraq and Syria.

At least two Bahrainis from the Bahrain Defence Force, Abdul Aziz Al Othman and his brother Abdul Rahman Al Othman, were killed in 2013 while fighting for Al Nusra front in Syria. Social media published their photos in (May 2013) in different regions in Syria wearing the Bahraini army uniform.

The Extremist “indoctrination” in the army institution

These evidences opened the door to a debate about the doctrine of the army institutions and the indoctrination of those working in it. In an attempt to answer this question, a group of books issued from the Religious Guidance directorate in the Bahraini Defence Force was unveiled in June this year. In the context of sectarianism practiced by the Bahraini army, these books degrade Shiites, who represent the majority of the Bahrainis, ideology and present it as Takfiri.

“The light of Sunnah and darkness of heresy in the book and Sunnah” book by the author Saeed Al Qahtani presented Shiites as Takfiris with reference to their religious beliefs in visiting the tombs and shrines of the Prophet Mohammad and the Imams in Medina in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. In his book, Al Qahtani discusses that “going around the tombs to devour those buried inside” is among the acts of infidelity.

In his book, Al Qahtani describes the “Raafidis”; a degradation name used by the extremists to refer to the “Shiites”, as heresiarchs and classifies them among the “misguided groups” with respect to their beliefs; including “Druzes, Ismaili, Alawites and others.”

The book, which is being distributed to the officers in the Bahrain Defence Force, describes the Raafidi and other religious groups’ celebrations of the Birth of the Prophet as “considering it a festival in imitation of Jews and Christians”, noting that Muslims should be forbidden from imitating them.” The writer also referred to the celebration of Isra and Mi’raj and that of 15th Shaaban.

The Religious Guidance directorate in the Ministry of Defence also printed another book on its own account for the same author, Al Qahtani, under the title of “The light of monotheism and the darkness of polytheism in the light of the book and the Sunnah”. This book includes the same Takfiri implications and is one of the books being distributed to the officers in the Bahrain Defence Force.

Applied Models of the “Takfiri” indoctrination

The opinions of the Bahraini military spokesman, Khalid Al Buainain, on his twitter account @Al_Bu3inain provide “a clear sample for the military doctrine that is full of extremism acquired from this kind of indoctrination.” These opinions also reveal the usage of the Salafist “Takfiri” lexicon in its stance towards the West, USA, Shiites, Christians, Jews and Alawites.

Al Buainain (who has been recently banned from tweeting and asked to delete all his tweets pursuant to an internal investigation) objected to the granting of a government license (in August 2012) to establish a Catholic Church. He said, “How will God grant us victory when we build temples for Shirk and pagans. How will God grant us victory when polytheism is being supported by the government fearing from saying that we are against the human rights?”

However, the comments of the Minister of the royal court, Nasser bin Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who is an officer in the Bahraini Army and the chairman of East Riffa club, give another sample that shows the Salafi incursion inside the ruling family. His twitter account @nasser_khalid is full of clear indications that reveal a fundamentalist configuration of the same national ideology adopted by “the Salafia Jihadia”.

Nasser bin Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa says in one of the comments, “Bahrain is not for all, it is an Arab Muslim country pursuant to the Constitution” adding that, “We don’t force the Magi (the Shiites) to monotheism, yet refusing their shirk is a duty and helping them to shirk in Allah is a great injustice”. He continues in this context, “Not calling Sunnis and Shiites, but only Bahrainis is a Jahiliyyah naming set by those calling for shirk.”

His twitter account has regularly been an announcing port in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to the “Equipping Ghazi (militant)” campaign that aims at preparing fighters to fight in Syria. Nasser also stated that “the door of equipping the fighters in Syria is still opened. Don’t withhold yourselves.” He also considered that “There is no good in Muslims’ wealth and fortunes unless they assist their brothers in religion in the eastern and western wings of earth.”

Until the middle of 2012, “Equipping Ghazi (militant)” campaigns, designed to finance and prepare the fighters, were done in public in the Bahraini mosques such as “Shikhan Al-Farsi Mosque” in Riffa, “Abu Hanifa Mosque” in Busaiteen, “Nadi Al-Sahel Mosque” in Al Hidd, “Sheikh Isa bin Ali Mosque” in Muharraq, “Al Esmah mosque” in Hamad town, “Galali Al Garbi Mosque”, in Galali, in addition to other mosques in Isa town and Manama. These campaigns were launched under the supervision of Salafist leaders known for their deep relations with the leader of the Bahrain Defence Force, the field Marshal Khalifa bin Hamad, who announced in a talk on 16th June 2013 that “The Syrian revolution is the only one that can be referred to as people’s revolution.” Adding, “What happened in other Arab countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain is not but a western conspiracy.”

According to this information, the human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab’s tweets came to shed light on what he called “the ideological incubator” for the Bahraini fighters. He, nonetheless, stated that “many of the Bahrainis who joined the ISIS militia came from the country’s security institutions; these institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

Perhaps this information opened the door for an official investigation that might have ended up with a big scandal regarding the involvement of the military institutions in broadcasting the extremist ideology and forming a starting ground to the extremist jihadists. However, because all of these happened in Bahrain, the government will only arrest Nabeel Rajab!

This video is about passports of ISIS fighters in Kobani, which turned out to be from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Now that the United States is forming another military coalition to combat evil in the Middle East, maybe we should pause to take a closer look at the members of this coalition.  Sure, the Islamic State is terrible and does awful things like behead people, but they’ve got nothing on Saudi Arabia, which beheads people as a matter of policy: here.

Youth unemployment within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries can no longer be overlooked. The recently released Rethinking Arab Employment report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) exposes some facts and challenges relating to this burning issue. At 8.1 per cent, 7.4 per cent and 5.6 per cent, unemployment rates are a concern in Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia: here.

There is a pattern of economic interests, political allegiances and military parameters that come into play when it comes to Bahrain. We know that, but yet a people cannot be made to live in slavery because it is politically and economically convenient to foreign powers: here.

A complaint by activists that human rights regulations were breached when the Formula 1 Grand Prix was staged in Bahrain “merits further examination”, a UK government panel has said: here.

ISTANBUL (AP) — Militant leaders from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida gathered at a farm house in northern Syria last week and agreed on a plan to stop fighting each other and work together against their opponents, a high-level Syrian opposition official and a rebel commander have told The Associated Press: here.

Queen Rania of Jordan has admitted that the establishment in the Middle East is complicit in the rise of ISIS. She mentioned a lack of ‘quality education for everyone, boys and girls’ and of jobs.

Homophobic Roman Catholic bishops’ backlash


This 2008 satiric video is called Headzup: Pope Benedict And The Crime Of Being Gay.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Vatican backtracks on gay tolerance comments after angry reaction from bishops

Vatican claims report is a ‘working document’ – not Church doctrine

Heather Saul

Wednesday 15 October 2014

The Vatican appears to have backtracked on their unprecedented positive comments on homosexuality after a furious reaction from conservative Catholics.

On Monday, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo read out an interim report at the Synod’s General Congregation that declared homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and even raised the prospect of the Catholic Church recognising the positive aspects of same-sex relationships.

The church, it added, must welcome divorced people and recognise the “positive” aspects of civil marriages and even Catholics who live together without being married.

The document was described as an “earthquake” in the Church’s attitude towards gays and heralded as a “turning point” in policy by Vatican experts.

But on Tuesday, conservative bishops distanced themselves from the document’s remarkable opening toward gays and divorced Catholics, calling it an “unacceptable” deviation from church teaching that does not reflect their views.

The leaders of the bishops’ meeting that produced it have now said it was simply a “working document” and was not intended to be an official statement of church teaching on family life.

Instead, they said it was a reflection of bishops’ views that will be debated and amended before a final version is released on Saturday.

The Holy See press office said bishops had “appreciated” the document but some offered additional reflections “to bring together various points of view.”

‘The bishops called for “prudence” over same-sex relationships so that “the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the church is not created”.

“The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation,” the Vatican said.

Bishops also suggested the final document highlight faithful Catholic families to avoid “a near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations”.

“The report, obviously composed under pressure, has easily given rise to some misinterpretation,” British Cardinal Vincent Nichols said Tuesday.

“It is not a doctrinal or decisive document. It is, as stated in its conclusion, ‘intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer on reflection.”‘

Several conservatives who participated in the synod also immediately distanced themselves from the report. The head of the Polish bishops‘ conference, Cardinal Stanislaw Gadecki, called it “unacceptable” and a deviation from church teaching.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s Supreme Court, told Catholic World Report that the document contained positions “which many synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept.”

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, from novel to religion


This video is called Lord of the Rings- The two towers, Battle of the Hornburg Part 1 HD.

Translated from Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Markus Altena Davidsen’s thesis is the first major work on the Tolkien religion. In it he examines the religion that is based on the stories of British fantasy writer JRR Tolkien. He also explains how fiction can become religion. Davidsen will get his PhD on 16 October. …

The second characteristic of religious fiction texts is that they explicitly claim to be truthful. The texts have to say about themselves that they are about the real world, or at least question their own fictionality. Tolkien did that in the preface to the first edition of The Lord of the Rings. He said he hoped that the Hobbits who are still alive today in our world will like the book. Later he much regretted this, possibly because he thought that being a very strict Roman Catholic, he should not have committed that frivolity. But for many Tolkien religious believers that does not matter at all.

From the summary of the PhD dissertation by Markus Altena Davidsen:

The Spiritual Tolkien Milieu: A Study of Fiction‐based Religion

This book offers a comprehensive analysis of the history, social organisation, and belief dynamics of the spiritual Tolkien milieu, a largely online‐situated network of individuals and groups that draw on J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary mythology for spiritual inspiration.

It is the first academic treatment of Tolkien spirituality and one of the first monographs on fiction‐based religion, a type of religion that uses fiction as authoritative texts.

Other fiction‐based religions include Jediism (based on George Lucas’ Star Wars) and the Church of All Worlds (inspired by Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land).

The first religious practices inspired by Tolkien’s narratives appeared in the late 1960s after the publication of a paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings in 1965.