Syrian Armenians threatened by opposition paramilitaries


This video from California in the USA is called Valley Armenians demand action! In Syria rebel forces attack Armenians.

By Patrick J. McDonnell in the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Ethnic Armenians tell of flight from Kasab, their town in Syria

‘We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,’ says one man who made it to safety in Lebanon as rebels advanced from Turkey, a situation with historic parallels.

April 9, 2014, 5:30 a.m.

BEIRUT — They fled Kasab at daybreak, amid the clamor of artillery and word that Islamist rebels were advancing toward them from Turkey.

About 2,500 residents, most of them ethnic Armenians, gathered documents and what few possessions they could carry. They piled into cars and minibuses that carried them 40 miles down mountain roads to the government-held city of Latakia. Only some elderly remained behind, residents said.

“We escaped with the clothes on our back,” said one of those who eventually made it to Lebanon.

Many had heard reports of atrocities committed in August by other rebels elsewhere in Latakia province. Armenian Christians have lived in Kasab since the days of the Ottoman Empire, but they feared for their lives if they remained.

“We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,” said George, 45, a displaced Kasab resident now living in Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood. He was among a number of Armenian exiles who asked that their surnames not be used for security reasons.

Coming close to the centennial of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, last month’s wholesale flight of Armenian Christians drew global attention. Kasab is among the last remaining Armenian-populated towns that survived a genocide that began in 1915, in the waning days of the empire.

Armenians worldwide have come to Kasab’s defense, drawing attention to the historic parallels.

“What happened to Kasab is a continuation of the genocide which was in 1915 carefully planned and executed against Armenians,” said His Holiness Aram I, Beirut-based pontiff of the Armenian church and spiritual leader of the Armenian diaspora.

Since Kasab’s fall to Syrian rebels March 21, activists have headed to the region in a bid to provide assistance.

“The preservation of this village and its people is of utmost importance to the Armenian people,” said Garo Ghazarian, an Encino-based attorney and chairman of the Armenian Bar Assn., who traveled to Beirut on a fact-finding trip about Kasab.

Turkish officials deny mass extermination of Armenians, which the U.S. House of Representatives and several nations have labeled genocide. Turkey says the millions of deaths in the early 20th century were the result of war, displacement, disease and other factors.

While Armenian activists try to avert Kasab’s destruction and press for residents’ safe return, pro-government Syrian forces are fighting to recapture Kasab. Meanwhile, a virtual battle has ensued.

Armenian groups have marshaled a massive Web campaign to denounce what they call Turkish-backed abuses in Kasab, but pro-opposition media activists have said that rebels in Kasab have gone out of their way to evacuate civilians and respect property rights.

On Tuesday, lawmakers from California, home to several hundred thousand people of Armenian heritage, spoke on Capitol Hill of the dangers facing Armenians and other Christians in Syria.

Given the widespread devastation during more than three years of war that has killed thousands of people, displaced millions and destroyed scores of towns in Syria, sparing Kasab from ruin will probably be a difficult task.

Uncertainty hangs over the newest residents of Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood, a cluttered, animated district of narrow streets and multi-story apartment buildings that is a signature Armenian diaspora community.

Like so many other displaced Syrians, the Kasab exiles don’t know when, or if, they will go home. Even before the rebel onslaught, the war had wiped out the lucrative tourism business in Kasab, once a popular summer retreat because of its altitude and relatively cool weather. Many had already returned to the business of their ancestors: tending fruit orchards.

“We all went back to farming,” said Rafi, 44.

Some Kasab exiles call for an international solution that will force a rebel withdrawal or even create a demilitarized zone. But prospects for such a deal appear dim amid the geopolitical crosscurrents of the Syrian war.

Turkey is a close U.S. ally and the eastern bulwark of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Washington, like Ankara, seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has provided assistance to anti-Assad rebels.

A more likely scenario — a protracted government offensive to recapture the town — could leave Kasab in ruins. Government and opposition forces have been fighting in territory outside the town.

Kasab exiles say their ancestral homes are occupied by rebels, including elements of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabat al Nusra, or Al Nusra Front, whose ranks include non-Syrian fighters. A Moroccan fighter and former inmate at the U.S. lockup on Guantanamo Bay was among those killed in the Kasab area in recent fighting, various websites reported.

“I telephoned my house and someone answered, ‘We are Jabat al Nusra,’” recalled Maral, 40, still stunned at the turmoil that has torn apart her once tranquil family life. “They are helping themselves to our food, to our homes.”

The day of the attack, she noted, was Mother’s Day in Syria. Many had prepared pastries and other treats.

She and others bemoan their current predicament: dependence on the generosity of relatives and friends, the inability to enroll children in schools, the absence of homes where most resided all their lives — all of the unfortunate realities of life as a refugee, now so familiar to multitudes of Syrians. That they are better off than many Syrian refugees living in tents and abandoned buildings is of little consolation.

“People have been very kind to us, they are sharing everything,” said Maral, a mother of three. “But Kasab is our home, not here. We all dream about Kasab. We dream about what we left behind.”

See also (in French): here.

Climate change-fueled droughts are about to make Syria even more hellish: here.

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Sarin gas attack in Syria and the Turkish government


This video from the USA is called Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry Picked” Intel on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike (1 of 2).

And this is Part 2.

By Patrick Martin:

New exposé by Seymour Hersh: Turkey staged gas attack to provoke US war on Syria

7 April 2014

In a lengthy article published Sunday by the London Review of Books, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports that the sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb on August 21, 2013 was actually carried out by Syrian “rebel” forces acting at the behest of Turkey, for the purpose of providing a pretext for a US attack on Syria.

The gas attack killed many hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, and the Obama administration and the corporate-controlled US media immediately blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for the atrocity. The New York Times, in particular, published a lengthy analysis by its military “expert,” C. J. Chivers, which purported to show, based on rocket trajectories, prevailing winds and other technical factors, that the gas shells could only have been fired from Syrian army artillery positions.

For several weeks, the Ghouta attack became the pretext for a warmongering campaign by the White House and the US and European media. Obama threatened immediate air strikes, claiming that the Syrian government had crossed a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, which he had laid down in 2012.

The US president then abruptly reversed himself and announced he would seek congressional approval first, only to call off any overt military action in favor of a deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Assad agreed to the supervised dismantling of his chemical weapons stockpiles.

By Hersh’s account, “Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff… As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.”

The US military leadership also knew that White House claims that there could be no other source for the sarin gas than the Syrian army were false. “The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons,” Hersh reports. “On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell…”

Hersh quotes extensively from this US government document, which the office of the US director of national intelligence now denies ever existed:

Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW [chemical weapons] aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future… Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators… were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.”

Hersh notes that members of al-Nusra were arrested in Turkey last May in possession of two kilograms of sarin. They were charged in a 130-page indictment with “attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin.” All have since been released pending trial, or had charges dropped altogether.

Those arrests followed chemical weapons attacks in Syria in March and April 2013, where a UN investigation found evidence implicating the Syrian “rebels.” One source told Hersh, “Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.”

The “no one,” of course, was the US government, its European allies, and its UN stooges—as well as their political apologists in the media and the pseudo-left groups such as the International Socialist Organization that were either openly campaigning for military intervention in Syria or justifying it by portraying the US-financed “rebels” as the bearers of a democratic revolution.

When the August 21 attack took place, Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing Syria, and, as a former intelligence official told Hersh, “the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently ‘painful’ to the Assad regime.”

The US bombing plan ultimately envisioned “a monster strike” involving two wings of B-52 bombers equipped with 2,000-pound bombs, as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from submarines and surface warships.

Hersh continues: “The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had,’ the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.”

The bombing attack drawn up at the direction of the Obama White House would have itself constituted a war crime, causing thousands if not tens of thousands of casualties and crippling Syria as a functioning society.

Hersh then passes on to his most important revelation: that US officials believed the Turkish government, or its intelligence agencies, had instigated the gas attack in Ghouta.

He cites concerns among US military and intelligence leaders that “there were some in the Turkish government” who supported “dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria—and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”

This was reinforced by the British military intelligence finding on the type of gas used in Ghouta. This included a message to the Americans: “We’re being set up here.” This was followed by a further message about the Ghouta attack that “a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime [i.e., Assad]’. UK & US know this.”

Hersh suggests that the bitter controversy over the attack on a US consulate and CIA mission in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, which killed four Americans including the ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, is directly linked to the infighting over Syria.

It has been widely reported that the CIA organized the shipment of Libyan weapons stockpiles from Benghazi to the Syrian rebels. Hersh cites a “highly classified annex” to the report of the Senate committee that investigated the Benghazi attack.

This document “described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and [Turkish] Erdogan administrations… By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.”

According to Hersh, after the Benghazi fiasco, the CIA was pulled out, but the Libya to Turkey to Syria pipeline continued, possibly including “manpads”—portable surface-to-air missile launchers, which the Obama administration had opposed supplying the rebels out of concern that they would be used to attack civilian airliners.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tasked Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) with engineering a provocation that would give a pretext for direct US military intervention. Hersh quotes his source: “‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training—including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there… Erdogan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’”

Two sources described to Hersh a working dinner during Erdogan’s visit to Washington in May 2013 in which Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon met Erdogan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and MIT chief Hakan Fidan. Erdogan appealed for Obama to attack Syria, telling him “your red line has been crossed.” Obama then pointed at Fidan and said, “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.”

Hersh cites a “US intelligence consultant” who describes a classified briefing for Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, prepared before the August 21 gas attack. The briefing noted “the acute anxiety” in the Erdogan regime over the military setbacks for the Syrian rebels and warned that the Turkish leadership felt “the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response.”

In the period following the gas attack, Hersh’s former intelligence official source explained, communications intercepts and other data supported the suspicion that Turkey had organized the Ghouta attack. “We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’—who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas—‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey—that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’”

Only a week ago, evidence surfaced that supports the credibility of Hersh’s report. A video was posted on YouTube of a meeting of Turkish officials, including Fikan, in which the intelligence chief suggests that Turkish agents should mount an attack on a Muslim shrine inside Syria to provide a pretext for a Turkish invasion of the country.

Hersh’s account is his second long exposé in four months of the “false flag” gas attack in Damascus. Both articles were published in the British journal because no major US newspaper or magazine will any longer publish material from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Beginning with his reporting of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam for the New York Times, Hersh has specialized in developing sources in the US military and intelligence apparatus, frequently those with policy differences with the current administration in Washington. Hersh left the Times for Newsday, and then wrote for the New Yorker for many years.

Both the New Yorker and the Washington Post refused to publish his first report on the Ghouta gas attack, which charged that the sarin attack had been carried out by Syrian rebels in the al-Nusra Front, forcing Hersh to find a British publisher for his account. The US press was largely silent on that report, and it has so far blacked out the latest exposure.

The author also recommends:

Seymour Hersh exposes US government lies on Syrian sarin attack
[10 December 2013]

The war drive against Syria
[26 August 2013]

Syria chemical warfare claims aim to provoke Western intervention
[22 August 2013]

“If you’re inside the bureaucracy, you can’t tell the White House something they don’t want to know.” -Seymour Hersh: here.

Media blacks out Seymour Hersh exposé of US lies on Syrian gas attack: here.

US officials say they have a plan to supply the “moderate opposition” in Syria with weapons that are to be channelled through Washington’s regional allies: here.

Syria, Russia and Ukraine: here.

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Turkish boy killed, solidarity demonstration in the Netherlands


Funeral of Berkin Elvan in Turkey, photo EPA

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Rally in Nijmegen after Turkish violence

Wednesday March 12, 2014, 20:49 (Update: 12-03-14, 21:20)

About a hundred people in Nijmegen took to the streets to demonstrate against police violence in Turkey. Media in Gelderland report this. The protest march is because of the death of Berkin Elvan. The demonstrators chanted slogans like “Erdogan killer” and carried banners.

Elvan has become the symbol of violent police actions in Turkey. The 15-year-old boy was at the protests around Gezi Park in Istanbul last summer and was hit by a tear gas grenade at his head.

Turkish police used the grenades to drive away around 2,000 protesters. Elvan was in coma for 269 days and died yesterday.

In Istanbul and Ankara tens of thousands of people took to the streets to commemorate the boy. Demonstrators were dispersed by police with tear gas.

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Turkish teenager killed by regime teargas


Turkish boy Berkin Elvan when he was still alive

Not only in Greece lack of democracy. Just more to the east as well.

From Zaman daily in Turkey:

Shot with tear gas canister during Gezi protests, 15-year-old Elvan dies

11 March 2014 /İSTANBUL

Berkin Elvan, 15, who was shot with a tear gas canister during last summer’s Gezi Park protests, has died after a nine-month battle for his health.

Berkin was on his way to buy bread on the evening of June 16 when he was hit at close range with a tear gas canister fired by riot police in İstanbul‘s Okmeydanı neighborhood. Berkin has been in intensive care unit at İstanbul’s Okmeydanı Hospital for over 269 days. In a Sunday press release, Elvan family’s lawyer said that Berkin weight is 16 kilograms and his body’s resistance and brain functions are significantly compromised. …

Berkin’s family announced his death on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. on Twitter.

“We lost our Berkin at 7 a.m. this morning. May he rest in peace.” the message said.

His death raises the number of people killed in the protests to at least eight, including a police officer.

The protests were sparked by a police crackdown on protesters objecting to the razing of a central İstanbul park and quickly turned into nationwide protests demanding more democratic freedoms. Police say some 3 million people took part in demonstrations from May to September.

Police, protesters clash outside hospital

On Tuesday morning, when the news of Elvin’s death broke out, people gathered outside the hospital where Elvin died. Meanwhile, police vehicles arrived outside the hospital, prompting a reaction by the group. …

Republican People’s Party (CHP) Melda Onur told Hürriyet daily that people were silently keeping vigil outside the hospital and people only reacted when the riot police arrived. She criticized the police for not avoiding to fire tear gas near the hospital, which she claimed also affected the inside of the hospital. She claimed that the riot police intervened “without any restraint.”

One man, believed to be in his 20s, was injured in the head when a tear gas canister hit his head. Hürriyet daily published his photo with blood on his head.

Crowd swelling outside forensic medicine

Meanwhile, dozens of people had started to gather outside Institute of Forensic Medicine in İstanbul’s Yeni Bosna neighborhood as Elvin was being brought to the institute for an autopsy.

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Dutch parents fear daughters forced into prostitution in Syria


This video from the USA is called Washington Post: CIA Delivering Weapons To Rebels In Syria.

Translated from Janny Groen, in Dutch daily De Volkskrant:

Parents of Muslim girls fear ‘jihad prostitution’

03/06/14, 07:01

“These girls going to Syria will end up in prostitution.” Without hesitation Rachma el Hamdaoui (over 50) of the The Hague Mother and Daughter Foundation explains the greatest fear of parents of prospective jihad brides.

El Hamdaoui has in the The Hague Schilderswijk neighbourhood a discussion group with girls who walk around with jihad plans; and now, she speaks at a meeting of Muslim women in Gouda.

According to the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) twenty Dutch Muslim women are in Syria. Five of them come from Gouda. They marry without parental consent. Not in the mosque, but for example in an apartment, a Gouda district police officer knows. Such marriages are invalid according to Islamic rules which their parents use.

The young women travel after their man, the mujahid (warrior). Or they are persuaded via WhatsApp messages from the front area to come to Syria to marry their hero. They have most often met him through jihadi social media. …

Sex with twenty, thirty, a hundred rebels

But there are also other views. In September last year the Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo sounded the alarm. He wanted to put an end to the jihad al-nikah, also described as sex jihad. Young women traveling to the Chaimbi Mountains in Tunisia, where Al Qaeda fighters are fighting against the Tunisian regime; and especially to Syria to satisfy warriors. Some girls, according to the minister, have sex with twenty, thirty or even a hundred rebels. …

Pubescent girls traveling

In Dutch Muslim communities there is fear that their daughters landed in Syria in a very different world than the one they were dreaming about. El Hamdaoui: “They are often teenagers who want to travel. They know nothing, they cannot estimate the consequences of their actions.”

Muslim parents read disturbing stories on Arabic sites. They read about young women who are married (briefly) before sexual activity, and then divorce immediately afterwards. There are indications that the sex jihad is not entirely a figment of the imiginations of evil spirits. Thus, the prominent Tunisian Muslim scholar Sheikh Farred Elba stated (to the BBC and others) that he knew young women who had got trapped in this. He said there was medical evidence of that as well.

There are no signals that Dutch girls are in sexual jihad in Syria and go from hand to hand, according to the Gouda police district officer. However, what does happen is that, if it does not click between the “lovers” , the girl is married off to another mujahid. And if that man is killed, another warrior is quickly brought in.

In the eyes of the Muslim women who were gathered in Gouda, that smells like prostitution. As one of them says: “Our prophet has never meant that.”

Turkey and war in Syria: here. And here.

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Turkish Internet freedom demonstrators attacked by police


This video is called Thousands protest against corruption in Turkey.

From Reuters:

Turkish police fire tear gas to break up Internet protest

ISTANBUL Sat Feb 8, 2014 1:19pm EST

Police fired water cannon and teargas to disperse hundreds of people protesting in central Istanbul on Saturday against new controls on the Internet approved by parliament this week.

The new powers, once approved by the president, will let authorities block web pages within hours, in what the opposition has said is part of a government bid to stifle discussion of a corruption scandal.

Riot police advanced along Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue behind armored vehicles firing water cannon at protesters, some of whom waved flags and held up placards.

“Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption,” some chanted, in a variation of an anti-government slogan used by demonstrators in protests across the country last summer.

The corruption scandal erupted on December 17 with the arrest of businessmen close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and three ministers’ sons, and has grown into one of the biggest threats to his 11-year rule.

Since the scandal broke, Erdogan’s government has purged hundreds of police, sought tighter control of the courts and fired executives from banking and telecoms regulators and state television.

(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Stephen Powell)

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Internet censorship in Turkey


This video is called Critics slam new internet curbs in Turkey.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

MPs pass internet censorship law

Thursday 6th Febuary 2014

Turkish MPs approved internet controls on Wednesday night enabling web pages to be blocked within four hours.

But the opposition decried the measure as part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal with methods more suitable to “times of coups.”

The Bill provided for telecommunications authorities to block access to material within four hours without a prior court order, tightening restrictions imposed in a widely criticised law adopted in 2007.

Social media and video sharing sites have been awash with recordings of ministers, including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, and businessmen close to him presented as evidence of wrongdoing.

“This is against the constitution. Bans like this exist in times of coups and have not been able to conceal any corruption,” opposition Republican People’s Party deputy Umut Oran told the general assembly.

The legislation, which still needs the approval of President Abdullah Gul, will also allow for the storage of individuals’ browsing histories for up to two years.

Scandal erupted on December 17 with the arrest of businessmen close to Mr Erdogan and three ministers’ sons.

The prime minister has portrayed the fiasco as an attempt to undermine him in the run-up to presidential elections.

His government has responded by purging the police and judiciary, reassigning thousands of police officers and dozens of prosecutors.

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