War in Syria, Carla Del Ponte resigns

Syria war

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Former chief prosecutor of the Yugoslavia tribunal Carla Del Ponte no longer wants to work for a United Nations commission investigating human rights violations in Syria. She will resign within a few days. …

The former prosecutor at the start of the war six years ago favoured support for the opposition in Syria which wanted to overthrow President Assad’s government. But now, according to Del Ponte, the Syrian opposition consists mainly of extremists and terrorists.

According to the original text of Ms Del Ponte’s interview with Swiss Blick magazine, the Syrian opposition does not consist ‘mainly’, but ‘exclusively of extremists and terrorists‘.

Ignored By Western Media, Syrians Describe the Nightmare the Armed Opposition Brought Them. Trapped between a police state and Al Qaeda, average Syrians explain why they fear regime change. By Rania Khalek / AlterNet. May 15, 2017, 12:25 PM GMT


British Conservatives, Trump’s Syria war poodles

This video from the USA says about itself:

Hersh: Trump Ignored Intel Before Bombing Syria

26 June 2017

Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh reports that President Trump bombed a Syrian military airfield in April despite warnings that U.S. intelligence had found no evidence that the Assad regime used a chemical weapon.

Correction: the German outlet that published Hersh’s story is [conservative daily] Die Welt, not Deutsche Welle.

Trump’s Syrian chemical weapons claims: A house of cards: here.

A full week has passed since the publication by a major German newspaper of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s thoroughgoing debunking of the false claim of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack on April 4. The supposed atrocity by the regime of Bashar al-Assad was used to justify the April 6 US cruise missile strike on the al-Shayat air base. At least nine civilians, including four children, died when 59 Tomahawk missiles rained down on the base in western Syria: here.

It has been over a week since the German daily Die Welt published Seymour Hersh’s exposé of the US missile strike against Syria in April. The main pseudo-left organizations and publications have maintained a stony silence on the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s most recent article: here.

By James Tweedie in Britain:

Fallon: We’ll Back Trump’s Syria War

Wednesday 28th June 2017

Defence Secretary rallies behind US as president threatens more military action against Assad

BRITAIN’S “weak and rotten” government must not march behind US President Donald Trump into another disastrous Middle Eastern war, the Stop the War Coalition warned yesterday.

Convener Lindsey German condemned Foreign Secretary Michael Fallon’s craven support for Mr Trump’s latest threat to intervene in Syria’s civil war — on the grounds that the Bashar al-Assad regime is allegedly planning a chemical attack.

Following a statement on Monday from White House spokesman Sean Spicer saying the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack” by Syrian forces, Mr Fallon said the government “will support” US bombing in Syria.

The White House statement alluded to the incident in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s southern Idlib province in early April, where al-Qaida affiliated insurgents claimed air force jets dropped nerve gas.

Mr Trump ordered air strikes on Syrian troops in response.

But the US narrative on what happened in Khan Sheikhoun is highly contentious, with Syria and Russia suggesting at the time that a rebel-controlled chemical weapons store could have been hit in a conventional air strike.

Syrian rebels have been caught trying to cross the Turkish border with sarin gas, the nerve agent said to have been used in the attack, and veteran US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed in Die Welt newspaper that US intelligence was deeply sceptical of Syria’s responsibility — with one official calling it a “false flag” attack by al-Qaida.

Mr Spicer did not provide any evidence for his claims on Monday, although the Pentagon backed the White House yesterday, with spokesman Captain Jeff Davis claiming that the US had seen “activity” at a Syrian army base that “indicated active preparations for chemical weapons use.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday morning, Mr Fallon said: “As always in war, the military action you use must be justified, it must be legal, it must proportionate, it must be necessary.

“In the last case it was,” he claimed — although April’s attack and several on Syrian troops and aircraft since were conducted without the authorisation of the UN security council or a formal declaration of war.

“If the Americans take similar action again, I want to be very clear — we will support it,” Mr Fallon stated.

Ms German said: “While we oppose all chemical weapons attacks from whatever source, even some in the US military are sceptical about Trump’s evidence.

“The last thing the people of Syria need is more military intervention, which is taking the Middle East towards worse wars.”

Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar denied the US claims, saying the statement presaged a “diplomatic battle” against his country at the UN.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the US threat “unacceptable” and challenged the reference to “another attack,” as the April incident had not been “independently investigated.”

He pointed to several confirmed chemical weapons attacks by Isis and other extremist terror groups, adding: “There is a potential threat of the repeat of such provocations.”

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has said that Britain will support any response by the US to the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons: here.

THE TERRIBLE consequences of the West’s air campaign in Iraq and Syria have dropped off the news agenda. No doubt the media would argue they have been preoccupied with the era-shaking general election and the Grenfell Tower disaster. But the unpalatable truth is our so-called fiercely independent and critical fourth estate have rarely shown much concern with the human cost of Western military intervention in the Middle East: here.

Trump’s air force kills ISIS’ prisoners

Map of Syria

Recently, United States President Donald Trump authorized the use for the first time ever of the world’s biggest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan. ‘Against ISIS‘; but among the dead were prisoners of ISIS.

And today, from the BBC:

Syria war: Air strike on IS [ISIS] prison in Mayadin ‘kills dozens’

Almost 60 people have been killed in a suspected US-led coalition air strike on a prison run by so-called Islamic State in eastern Syria, activists say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 42 prisoners … died when the facility near Mayadin, in Deir al-Zour province, was hit on Monday.

The Deirezzor24 news website said dozens of civilians and [anti ISIS] Syrian rebel fighters were detained there.

A coalition spokesman said it was looking into the casualty reports.

Mayadeen, which lies in the Euphrates river valley about 45km (28 miles) south-east of the city of Deir al-Zour, has been targeted frequently by coalition aircraft. …

The Syrian Observatory, a UK-based group that monitors the country’s six-year civil war through a network of sources on the ground, said the prison was hit at dawn on Monday by what were believed to have been coalition aircraft.

According to Dutch NOS TV, a Syrian pro-Damuscus government TV station has confirmed the report of the anti-Damascus government Observatory, saying ISIS had imprisoned many civilians there.

Deirezzor24, which is run by an activist collective, reported that the facility was located near the village of Tayibiya wa al-Maaharufa, and that it had once been the home of a commander of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. …

It put the death toll at 60, but said it only included two militants serving as guards. …

At the start of June, the coalition said its 21,035 air strikes in Syria and Iraq since 2014 had unintentionally killed at least 484 civilians. However, human rights groups believe the true figure is far higher.

Airwars, an organisation that tracks allegations of civilian deaths, estimates that at least 4,118 civilians are likely to have died.

A US air strike early Monday killed dozens of civilians near the Euphrates River town of Mayadin in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zour province: here.

A Syrian refugee speaks

This video says about itself:

20 December 2016

Ahmad Al-Rashid brings us a first-hand account of the plight of refugees. With ISIS knocking at the door, Ahmad fled his home, made a dangerous (and illegal) journey from Aleppo in Syria, and eventually found himself in Surrey, in England. He filmed his journey, which was recently shown on BBC2 as part of a documentary called Exodus. Since his arrival in the UK, Ahmad has been working with various groups and organisations advocating for refugee rights. He has spoken in the UK Parliament on several occasions and appeared on the BBC, ITV, and Sky, and his articles have also appeared in The Guardian and The Independent; He regularly participates in panels, events and public debates to raise awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees. Currently he is a postgraduate student at SOAS, University of London studying violence, conflict and development.

In 2015, twenty-five-year old Ahmad al-Rashid, who was born in Aleppo, Syria, joined thousands of others who made the extremely difficult decision to embark on a dangerous journey, first by sea, then by treacherous border crossings often on foot, to flee war-torn Syria. Al-Rashid has recalled that he is amongst the lucky ones who survived and reached safer ground, but thousands of others did not: ‘Al-Rashid arrived in the UK after a 55-day-long journey in very difficult circumstances, which included hiding in the back of a lorry after spending nearly two weeks in Calais. Whilst he was relieved to finally reach Britain, he admits that ‘it wasn’t an easy start…imagine yourself arriving in a new country and everything you have is only the clothes you are putting on.’

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

By Ahmad Al-Rashid in Britain:

‘Bringing my family out of death is the greatest thing I will ever achieve’

Friday 23rd June 2017

Refugee activist AHMAD AL-RASHID, who ‘starred’ in BBC Exodus documentary, tells the story of his traumatic journey to Britain from Syria and his reunion with his wife and children

WHEN I started filming my journey, it was just for me, for my family to be able to see what I’d been through, to know how hard I tried for them.

Filming in secret was hard. The traffickers always make you remove the battery or destroy the Sim because to them, a camera phone is deadly like a Kalashnikov.

But I managed it, and when I came across the BBC filming in Greece, one guy approached me about the Exodus documentary and asked if I’d be willing to share my material.

I’d seen people beaten by authorities and traffickers for filming, but I said yes. I knew it was a risk but it was a risk I thought worth taking, to document these moments of horror that we refugees go through so people understand the human consequences of Europe’s policies.

You see reports but they never show the reality or the humanity of it. They talk about a million people crossing to Europe — well that’s a million stories. I wanted to share just one, in its completeness. For them.

When we realised we had to get out, my family and I were already separated. They were still in Aleppo and I was in north-east Syria. In between is Raqqa, the Isis capital. I would have been beheaded, for sure. When I spoke to my wife on the phone, we kept remembering a friend from my home town who left in 2014 with his wife and children on a visa to Libya.

From there, they took a dinghy to Italy and it went down. He had seen his pregnant wife and four children drowning in the sea in front of his eyes, nothing he could do. They all died, every single one. My wife and I were talking like we were dead already.

It made it easier somehow to make plans, to feel less afraid, if we pretended we were already dead and just needed to choose how to die. That’s how we thought about it. I knew if I was killed in an air strike, it would be quick and that drowning would be very frightening. But on the other hand, that road might lead my family to safety. I had to gamble. I chose to make the journey to give them a chance, however small, to make it out alive.

They stayed in Aleppo and I took the route from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, then a ferry to Athens.

In Athens I met another smuggler who gave me a fake Bulgarian passport to buy so from there I could fly to Marseilles, destroying the passport en route in case I was caught by the police and sent back to Greece. Game over.

Those two weeks in France were very difficult times. I was eating and sleeping in the streets, trying to jump onto refrigerated lorries. It’s so dangerous, doing that.

My last night in Calais an Egyptian smuggler put me with seven other people in a tanker of bread and flour. Two hours, they said, and you’ll be in Britain.

And then we were locked in total darkness and he walked away.

I turned my phone on but I had no signal. We couldn’t contact anyone and there was no air. For five hours the tanker didn’t move.

After seven hours we started to panic, certain that we would suffocate. We screamed and cried and hit the walls. A small child passed out in the floor.

Eventually the driver stopped and let us out. It was the French-Italian border. Wrong car, wrong driver.

We got out of the tanker, covered in flour and headed back to Calais. This time, from Calais I went back to Germany and met my little brother for the first time in five years. Seeing him gave me what I needed to keep going.

I found another smuggler who put me in a lorry for three days with two other people. But this time, at least, when I was let out my feet landed on British soil. That was June 2015.

I had chosen to come all this way to Britain because I speak the language — which I knew would save me three or four years of stolen time and enough had already been stolen from us.

I’d also heard Britain’s family reunification system was faster than Germany’s. I had one friend whose family had been trapped in Syria for three years while he tried to get them safe passage. Back home it’s constant shelling, constant bombing, and when you can lose everyone in a minute, waiting three years just isn’t an option you want to consider. After I arrived, I was detained by police for a time and then dispersed by the Home Office. After three months of uncertainty and waiting, I got my refugee status.

That very day, I already had my family reunion forms ready to go. We had been apart for one year and I couldn’t wait a moment longer.

Even then, there were new obstacles. After you get refugee status, with no national insurance number or anything, you have 28 days to find new accommodation or you’re out on the street. Imagine that, your first steps in this country are into homelessness — what a horrible idea.

Then I came across Refugees At Home and this husband and wife — descendants of refugees who fled the nazis in Austria — invited me into their home until I got settled, so I’d have a roof for my wife and children.

People like that, they’re what “shared future” means to me. Refugees At Home has sheltered a refugee over 20,000 times now to prevent them from sleeping on the street.

That kind of mutual aid shows the best of what it means to be human, whatever your skin colour, wherever you’re from. To have suffered, truly suffered and find people stepping towards you in solidarity with open arms — it’s an amazing thing, and it makes a difference that lasts generations. It builds our shared future.

Twenty-nine days after I got my status my wife and two baby daughters were on a plane to Heathrow. Meeting them at the airport was the happiest moment of my life.

I knew when I left them I had little chance of ever seeing them again. But here they were, back from the dead. I didn’t believe it until I had my arms around them.

I took them home to our flat and while everyone was sleeping I spent the whole night sitting up, watching my daughters’ faces. I couldn’t stop, thinking about all the families and children that lived around us in Aleppo who were separated or gone.

Looking at their peaceful, sleeping faces, I couldn’t believe we had made it. Sometimes I still can’t. Bringing my family out of death is the greatest thing I will ever achieve in life.

The time I spent hosted by Refugees At Home changed everything. They developed my confidence and English skills and encouraged me to apply for a refugee scholarship at the the School of Oriental & African Studies.

Now I’m studying for a master’s degree in violence, conflict and development and it’s been one of the most exciting experiences of my life.

Life at Soas is very interesting, the way it brings together people from all over the world, with so many experiences and perspectives. Every day there are debates, marches, talks. And there are so many different societies — including a Syrian and Kurdish society.

To me, this is something unbelievable. All my life in Syria we were never even free to speak Kurdish, to show our flag, share our identity — and here, everyone expresses it freely. It’s beautiful.

It’s not all rosy, though. Being someone who’s been living in a conflict zone in the last five years, I still can’t quite get used to sitting in lecture theatres and discussing the theory of why it all happens.

It’s really changed my perspective because even though I had lived experience of war, I didn’t know enough to analyse its causes. But that’s also been traumatic, that learning process.

I’ve been so shocked to find out how the system really works, how the UN actually operates, how international aid really works — or doesn’t work. It’s very shocking, but so important.

All my people back home have no idea about all of this, they’re building their hopes and dreams on nothing. They talk about how in Syria one day everything will be all right and we can go home. But social cohesion has been destroyed. The economics of that country have been destroyed. And international powers are playing a very dark role; they’re not going to let Syria out of their control.

To see the truth, it makes me very depressed. It will be a very long process for Syria to get back on its feet, it will cost many more lives and take many more years. That’s the truth.

But what I’m interested in is learning how to understand and contribute to that process and preserve peace in other parts of the world. I’m also involved in the exiled Syrian community, helping to try to extend scholarships to more refugees, and giving talks on my asylum experience.

I talk about my story as a story of hope and I really think we need more of those, especially in dark times.

Stories of hope are what bring people together and coming together is a win-win situation. I am so proud of being Syrian.

After six years of bloodshed the Syrian people remain so determined to stay standing, to rebuild their lives and contribute to something better, tomorrow.

The world has a great opportunity to embrace my people, who will be a credit to their new communities.

As for us, my family and I know we are among the very lucky few. Every night when the four of us go to sleep we are so happy. I put my head on the pillow to sleep and I can feel confident that when I wake up my wife and daughters will be safe.

I had forgotten what that [was] like after six years living in constant fear. Truly, it’s like heaven. And watching my little girl grow up, learning English at nursery, laughing and playing … it’s a wonderful thing.

Young Syrian refugee gets special violin

Aboud Kaplo plays violin in Lebanon, photo by Amr Kokash

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Oxford lends historic violin to Syrian musician

Tuesday 20th June 2017

OXFORD University has sent a 19th-century violin to a young Syrian refugee living in Lebanon.

The German-made violin was part of a collection of historic instruments held by the university which has lent it to 14-year-old Aboud Kaplo.

Mr Kaplo and his family were forced to flee their home city of Aleppo amid the Syrian civil war.

Film-maker Susie Attwood noticed Mr Kaplo’s passion for music while she was making a film about Syrian Christians in Lebanon.

However she noticed that the talented teen did not have an instrument.

Bate Collection of Musical Instruments curator Andy Lamb said that “the moment I read about this lad’s situation I thought the collection could make some kind of positive contribution.”

See also here. And here.

Trump-Russia escalation stops Australia bombing Syria

This video from the Australian Senate says about itself:

Question Time – Australia’s involvement in Iraq and Syria

12 August 2015

Scott [of the Australian Greens] questions the [right-wing] Abbott Government over negotiations with the US to increase Australia’s military role in Iraq and Syria.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Australia suspends air operations in Syria

Today, 08:48

Australia is stopping temporarily bombing Syria. According to the Australian Department of Defense, it is a precautionary measure, as the tensions between Russia and the United States over the air strikes have risen.

The reason for the tension is an incident in which US pilots shot a Syrian fighter plane down on Sunday. Russia, ally of Syria, is furious about that. Yesterday, Moscow announced that it is now considering all aircraft and drones of the international [Donald Trump’s Pentagon-led] coalition operating west of the Euphrates river as targets.

Also Australia has been a part of the international coalition that has been active over Syria for several years, but the country has now suspended that. The department does not yet say how for long the suspension will last.

The Australian participation in operations on Iraq will continue, says the ministry.

Raising the specter of the Syrian conflict escalating into a military confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers, the Russian Defense Ministry Monday issued a warning that it would treat any US or allied aircraft operating in western Syria, where Moscow’s own forces, as well as those of the Syrian government, are based, as a hostile target: here.