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URGENT, PLEASE SHARE: #Assad uses chemical weapons on #Homs

Assad’s forces are pressing their savage assault on the city of Homs, attacking the remaining 20% of the city that remains free - particularly in the old city, and districts such as Khalidya.

Today, the vicious bombardment was renewed on the city, as Hezbollah mercenaries and regime troops and militants determinedly pressed ahead with a final offensive designed to crush all remaining free Syrian opposition, armed or unarmed, in the remaining districts.

"It appears the regime wants to take Khaldiyeh (district), no matter what the price," said Tariq Badrakhan, an activist within the district. In his report about the latest, savage assault on the city, he claimed that regime forces and Hezbollah terrorists are using multiple-rocket launchers, tanks, and mortars to attack the area on three sides, in an attempt to enter the district and crush resistance there, once and for all.

Even more horrifically, the regime has clearly been using chemical weapons in the latest assault - causing horrific injuries, deaths, and wounds to anyone in their path. A series of videos of the victims has emerged: 
This videos shows horribly injured victims of chemical weapons and thermobaric bombs, in the makeshift hospital in Khalidya.
This video shows the appalling destruction in the city center of Homs.
Please share this report with all the media and humanitarian organisations that you can - it may not seem like much, but it could at least induce some action, some awareness, and prevent another massacre. 
Here are some useful contacts to contact with this information, to raise awareness:

1. Human Rights Watch:

Emma Daly dalye@hrw.org

Human Rights Watch

350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10118-3299

USA

Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700


2. Amnesty International:

http://www.amnesty.org

To contact:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=523035454422468

3. Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)

Children’s Defense Fund

25 E Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20001

Tel: 800-CDF-1200 (800-233-1200)

Email: cdfinfo@childrensdefense.org

www.childrensdefense.org

http://www.childrensdefense.org/

4. Human Rights Action Center:

Jack Healey: HRAC Director

can be reached directly by:

jackghealey@gmail.com

http://www.humanrightsactioncenter.org/

5. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

InfoDesk@ohchr.org

http://www.ohchr.org/

6. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

syrda@unhcr.org

http://www.unhcr.org/

Get to it! If enough emails are sent en masse, action may be taken, in the form of news reports, increased awareness as a result, more outctry, etc.

Thanks for your time and help.

-The Radio Free Syria team.

Dispelling the lie that Assad is ‘winning’

Much ‘western media’ coverage of late is dominated by the idea that Assad is ‘winning’, the rebellion is on the back-foot, etc. However, to quote this narrative is to quote the regime’s malicious, biased, one-sided narrative, which it seems to be very successfully peddling to anyone who will listen, parrot, and believe.

One of Assad’s thugs celebrates destroying the people of his
own nation, and their property.

However, to claim that Assad is ‘winning’ is completely contrary to the facts - on the contrary, Assad is by no means ‘winning’. The evidence for his alleged recent ‘winning’ streak is largely the result of Assad’s pyhhric victory in the Battle of Al-Qusayr. However, to take this one town near the Lebanese border, Assad’s forces had to be reinforced by as many as 2000 Hezbollah fighters, and a massive amount of air power. It took some three weeks and hundreds of dead troops and Hezbollah terrorists before the city fell into regime hands - when you have to get  a foreign army to fight your battles, and commit thousands of troops to take one small town, you are not ‘winning’.

Similiarly, the latest Rif Dimashq offensive launched by the regime to clear rebel fighters from the Damascus suburbs, has been inconclusive. Regime losses stand at some 750 men (and probably many more, given the army’s history of refusing to publish casualty figures), and have failed to decisively dislodge the rebel presence from Damascus since March - rebels have even re-captured the strategic town of Qasya in a counterattack, and the regime is only managing to make a ‘grinding' advance in the suburbs. The army has failed to cut the rebel arms supply into Damascus, or expel them from there.

The situation in Aleppo, by July 2013. The green areas are 
FSA-controlled areas, red regime controlled, green PYD (Kurd controlled), and brown symbolises an unclear situation.

In Daraa, the rebels seemed to be much less successful after their offensive bogged down, and their lack of experience greatly hindered their ability to hold their ground. However, after initial fears about being potentially 'routed' in the south, they bounced back, taking control of a crucial government checkpoint in Daraa city itself, where the protests began in 2011. The campaign to take full control of the city is ongoing.

In Aleppo, much was made of the regime’s allegedly incoming offensive to re-capture the city, dubbed 'Operation Northern Storm'. In one instance, the regime bragged that Hezbollah had trained some 80,000 fighters in the Syrian ‘National Defense Forces’ (an organised sectarian shabiha) to re-capture the city.

However, after some abortive army assaults (at least one of which may have just been a probing attack), the government incursions into rebel-held areas were soon repelled, and the rebel troops allegedly strengthened by the arrival of some 50 Konkors anti-tank missiles from Saudi Arabia. The rebels have even launched their own counteroffensive, called The Battle of Qadisiyah - a reference to a historic battle in which an Arab army defeated a Persian army (a clear reference to the huge levels of support which Iran gives Assad.

The rebel advance in Aleppo has brought them very close to the crucial , and the pro-regime residents of the city, and online supporters have become both angry and nervous,  complaining bitterly about the rebel offensive, the cost of things in the city due to the rebel siege, and the fact that ‘Mr. President’ is allegedly neglecting the ‘security’ of Aleppo. Rage in impotent fury all you like…

In Idlib, no key gains have been made since mid-2012, in terms of strategic advances. However, rebels are currently successfully besieging Idlib city, and hold much of the province.

Homs after Assad’s ‘reforms’.

Homs seems to be the only city in which he enjoys some gains in past months - around 80% of the city is under his regime’s control. But even now, regime offensives against Homs are, although suffocating, capturing no new ground whatsoever. Against all odds, the free residents of Homs continue to hold out - albeit at a terrible price. Action is urgent, if Homs is to be saved, let alone the rest of Syria.

Does all this smack of a man who’s regime is winning, on any front whatsoever? Assad will probably continue to hold out if his air force continues to dominate the skies (despite having around 50% of his air force put out of action), and if the FSA continue not to get anti-aircraft weapons. However, it is rumored that Saudi Arabia is sending these to certain rebel groups - thus, Assad’s air power is by no means secure. Exasperatingly, in Homs, regime jets have been flying low, and if rebels had the right sort of weapons, they could easily bring them down.

The fight is unbalanced for sure - Assad has heavy weaponry, committed allies, etc - the FSA have dithering ‘allies’, few friends, and are effectively fighting the world, most of which likes Assad for being the devil they know. The US likes him for guaranteeing Israel’s border security (notice how he would never dare shoot at Israel), Putin likes him for buying his weapons and giving him a base - you name it. Everyone has a common ground and interest in Assad staying, apart from Syrians themselves.

He may be holding out for now, but he is by no means ‘winning’. How long this will go on for is uncertain, but it could be for some time yet, if foreign powers continue to dither, instead of providing sufficient help to the Free Syrian Army. Even Saudi Arabia and Qatar seem to be only providing arms to select numbers of Islamist groups, marginalising the rest who need them too (clearly as an attempt to further their own interests). There is no sign of the promised arms from the United States. If there ever was a time for action, it is now.

Thousands of lives may be at risk in al-Qusayr - intervention is essential

al-Qusayr may have fallen to Assad’s forces - meaning that thousands civilians are still trapped within the city, at risk of being slaughtered by Assad and Hezbollah’s forces. Raising our voices and urging intervention is essential. In the words of Hadi Abdullah, Qusayr-based journalist and activist:

Furthermore, in the words of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:

Homs province: Fighters from the Lebanese Hizbullah have overrun the city of al-Quseir after intense bombardment cover overnight by regime forces, which continued until dawn today.

 Reports indicate that the rebel forces retreated from the city due to lack of ammunition and men, this comes despite the many promises that supplies would reach the rebels of al-Quseir.

The SOHR voices its deep concern over the fate of more than 1200 injured in the city, we urge the Red Cross to enter the city immediately.

Raising awareness and getting various humanitarian groups and governmental outlets to act is ESSENTIAL. To save more lives, and prevent more small, vulnerable towns from falling into the hands of Assad and Nasrallah’s brutal forces, a no-fly zone and international intervention are urgently needed, including supplying the Free Syrian Army with all the arms it needs. 

Here are some useful contacts to contact with this information, to raise awareness:


1. Human Rights Watch:


Emma Daly dalye@hrw.org

Human Rights Watch

350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10118-3299

USA

Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700


2. Amnesty International:

http://www.amnesty.org

To contact:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=523035454422468

3. Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)

Children’s Defense Fund

25 E Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20001

Tel: 800-CDF-1200 (800-233-1200)

Email: cdfinfo@childrensdefense.org

www.childrensdefense.org

http://www.childrensdefense.org/

4. Human Rights Action Center:

Jack Healey: HRAC Director

can be reached directly by:

jackghealey@gmail.com

http://www.humanrightsactioncenter.org/

5. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

InfoDesk@ohchr.org

http://www.ohchr.org/

6. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

syrda@unhcr.org

http://www.unhcr.org/

Get to it! If enough emails are sent en masse, action may be taken, in the form of news reports, increased awareness as a result, more outctry, etc.

Thanks for your time and help.
- Ben, and Radio Free Syria.

AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM DR. QASSEM EL ZEIN IN AL #QUSAYR, SYRIA - PLEASE SHARE AND SEND TO ALL MEDIA AND HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS

(PLEASE READ THE LIST OF CONTACTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE).

In Qusayr alone, thousands have died in a matter of days due to a brutal assault by Hezbollah and Syrian government troops and militants. As the army encircles the besieged town, thousands more are under threat of being massacred en masse, as was the case in Darayya, Houla, al-Bayda and Baniyas, and elsewhere. This is a report by Doctor Qassem el-Zein, who is within the besieged city of al-Qusayr:

‘We call upon all humanitarian organisations.

We have got hundreds of wounded civilians; some in critical conditions.

We cannot do anything to help them due to the lack of medical supplies.

We just want to get them out of the city. We just want safe corridors to get them out.

We have thousands of children in dire need of care, medicines and food.

We have thousands of women and elderly people in need for care and and medicines as well.

We have no flour, no water, or electricity or water.

We are bombarded by fighter jets, tanks and rockets.’

As Assad’s genocide goes on with no end in sight, it is urgent that action is taken. Please send this to all the humanitarian organisations, all the governmental outlets, all the humanitarian organisations, and all the high profile figures you can. I have already rattled off one email to several outlets, reading the following:

My name is Ben. I’m an activist for a free Syria, and a worker at Radio Free Syria, with friends within Syria. Why, you might ask, does a non-Muslim westerner care about the people of Syria? My answer to you is that there is an ongoing genocide in Syria, with hundreds of thousands being slaughtered merely for expressing opinions which their myopic, thuggish dictator doesn’t want his closed, brutal ears to have to hear. Every day, hundreds of innocents are being slaughtered and the world continues to do very little.
In Qusayr alone, thousands have died in a matter of days due to a brutal assault by Hezbollah and Syrian government troops and militants. As the army encircles the besieged town, thousands more are under threat of being massacred en masse, as was the case in Darayya, Houla, al-Bayda and Baniyas, and elsewhere. This is a report by Doctor Qassem el-Zein, who is within the besieged city of al-Qusayr:
"We call upon all humanitarian organisations
We have got hundreds of wounded civilians; some in critical conditions.
We cannot do anything to help them due to the lack of medical supplies.
We just want to get them out of the city. We just want safe corridors to get them out.
We have thousands of children in dire need of care, medicines and food.
We have thousands of women and elderly people in need for care and and medicines as well.
We have no flour, no water, or electricity or water.
We are bombarded by fighter jets, tanks and rockets.’”
As you can see, this is becoming appalling for all, regardless of if you are an armed revolutionary or a defenseless civilian. The original report can be seen posted onto our radio’s Facebook page, here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=464814896937056&set=a.382885705129976.91927.363889943696219&type=1&theater 
Could I please ask all of you to use any power vested in you to raise awareness of this - via announcements, posts on your websites on social media sites, contacting anyone of influence you can (particularly those in the media), and so on. It may not seem like much, but if enough awareness is raised, genocide may be prevented, at least in this instance.
So far the world has remained largely indifferent to this genocide perpetrated by Assad - but all this could change, with even some support from you and your organisations. I hope this message reaches you well. 
Regards, 
Ben, and the rest of Radio Free Syria.”

Qusayr is facing the same danger that Benghazi faced in 2011, when Gaddafi’s forces were about to invade it. But, unlike in Libya, there are no fighter jets or foreign aid coming to the oppressed people of Qusayr, to help defeat the forces of Hezbollah and Assad.

GENOCIDE is incoming, if nothing is done. The same genocide that Assad is inflicting on all of Syria. It is already underway in Qusayr, and must be halted.

Here is a list of contacts to email: 

1. Human Rights Watch:

Emma Daly             dalye@hrw.org

Human Rights Watch

350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10118-3299

USA

Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700

2. Amnesty International: 

http://www.amnesty.org 

To contact:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=523035454422468 

3. Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)

Children’s Defense Fund

25 E Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20001

Tel: 800-CDF-1200 (800-233-1200)

Email: cdfinfo@childrensdefense.org

www.childrensdefense.org

http://www.childrensdefense.org/ 

4. Human Rights Action Center:

Jack Healey: HRAC Director

can be reached directly by:

jackghealey@gmail.com

http://www.humanrightsactioncenter.org/ 

5. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

InfoDesk@ohchr.org

http://www.ohchr.org/ 

6. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

syrda@unhcr.org 

http://www.unhcr.org/

Please send emails and phone calls as soon as possible

Regards, 

Ben, and all of Radio Free Syria.

yallair7al:

***LEAKED VIDEO*** ASSAD’S FORCES TORTURE, HUMILIATE AND THEN EXECUTE AN OLD MAN. (Date & Location Unknown) - They already shot him in the leg. He’s injured badly. AS they hurl insults at him “I will f**k your mother you dog” they force the man to crawl to the side of the path where they can execute him. The Assad thug treats the elderly man as dog as he makes him crawl. The executioner even has the time to answer his phone, seemingly annoyed, and say “I’m busy, i’m busy, talk to you later” as casual as someone would say it if they were loading a shopping cart.

When the Assad thug finally decides to execute the man, with each shot he shouts “This is for Bashar Al Assad! BANG. This is for the Alawites! BANG

These are Assad’s thugs. This is what they do. Are you not outraged? 

Thanks @Racanarchy 

(PLEASE READ AND SHARE WIDELY) Syria: A heartbreaking appeal from an elderly lady in Homs

The siege of Homs goes on unchecked. Thousands of thousands of civilians have been massacred in Homs - bombed, starved into submission, shelled, gunned down in the streets, and so on. Many more are trapped in the city and surrounding areas, bravely enduring the military’s savage attacks upon them, day by day.

One video recently caught my attention - one showing a kindly looking elderly lady who states she is 95 years old, and surrounded by signs of destruction and injured people, some of whom seem to be limping. The lady begs the (disgustingly silent) world to lift the suffocating, brutal siege of Homs so that supplies can be brought in for those that need them - the children, the women, the wounded, and so on.

PLEASE watch this video, and share it as widely as possible - with news outlets, activist groups, humanitarian organisations, etc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbctokQZK1U
Here is the full transcript of this woman’s address to the world: 

Peace be upon you. How are you?

My brother, open the road for us please.

I am ninety-ninety five years old,

it’s very hard for me to find something to eat.

I swear I do not have anything to eat,

I have no one to bring me anything to eat,

open the road for us. These young children need doctors,

they need clothes they need… this is so sad.

They need milk, a four year old child, where can I get,

the wall fell on his mother and she can no longer nurse him.

Where can I get milk for him?!

I swear we cannot find anything,

this is only a child.

Can you accept the loss of children just like that?!

Look at them; they are nude with bare feet, brothers.

May God bless you. Please open the road for us.

*At which point her nephew interjects.*

The leaders who are inside too…

*He is evidently referring to the FSA and others.*

Can open roads for us. Address them auntie.

*She continues*

May Allah be with you. Please open the road for us!

Open this road for us!

We are the servants of God, we have no food, no water, and no clothes, and doctors.

These corpses, and the injured people on the ground all over it, do they not need someone to treat them, brother?

May Allah be with you! Open this road for us!

Debunking Ankhar Kochneva’s RT ‘report’

If you have been following Russia Today’s recent coverage of the Syrian uprising (which could arguably be called a civil war) then you will know that it has been far from objective, commonly parroting the Syrian and Russian government narratives. As much more evidence damaging to the Assad regime has been emerging recently in the form of emails leaked by Anonymous and Wikileaks, the Russian propaganda machine has become that little bit more vicious. 


The most malicious and shamelessly biased piece of propaganda to emerge from the Kremlin’s media machine is the recent ‘report’ filed by Ankhar Kochneva, a Russian ‘journalist’ working for RT. In this article she goes out to insult the intelligence of millions of Syrians, and make ridiculous accusations, barely providing a shred of evidence. The ‘report’ takes the form of a Question-and-Answer article, where ‘RT’ asks questions and the ‘journalist’ responds.

The article is rather melodramatically titled: ‘Bloody bandits and Western lies: What’s really going on in Syria’. The reference to the rebels as ‘bloody bandits’ is clearly supposed to invoke the indignant protest of the readers, as is the reference to alleged ‘Western lies’ - the RT watchers are well-trained in marginalising any evidence that doesn’t fit their Western-bashing world view. This is the alleged “reality” of the situation in Syria.
Now for a little analysis of the content, courtesy of moi. Firstly she declares in response to an RT question:

RT: While visiting Turkish camps for Syrian refugees, I was told that the Syrian army was shooting at them.
Ankhar Kochneva: There are a large number of videos from those camps showing people walking upright, not ducking down even though you can hear shooting. The options are that either the sound was added to the video later, or that people knew that they were only shooting in the air without any intention of actually hitting them.
The Syrian army has no reason to shoot up these camps, as Syria is doing its utmost to ensure these people return home. And in fact they are doing just that if you go by the official Syrian data; 16,500 people have returned. Meanwhile, Turkey and the Syrian opposition are strongly interested in having those camps. If it weren’t for these camps, who would believe in the regime’s atrocities described by the opposition?

There is no basis for these allegations of tampering. Furthermore, the allegation that the shooting was “in the air” is also ridiculous. No explanation is given for thw two Syrian refugees and the Turkish translator which were badly wounded. Were they flying in the air at the time? Otherwise how would they have been hit if the gunfire was directed into the air? The facts just don’t add up.

The alleged cross-border shooting is also rubbished by the ‘journalist’ (and I use the term with great disdain) on the grounds that the Syrian army has no reason to ‘shoot up’ the camps. On the contrary. Up until the recent months, these camps have been an attractive prospect to many refugees who see them as a safe haven away from the terror and repression across the border. If the Syrian government forces can dispel this impression and make it seem as if there is no escape, then it may encourage fewer people to attempt to leave the country.

Next is the allegation that Syria is “doing the utmost to ensure” that these refugees return home. On the contrary - the terror campaign has resulted in them fleeing in their thousands, as they continue to do. In fact, it is reported that 1000 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey in one single day. But maybe Syria does want them to return - to silence any voices getting to the outside world and telling the truth about the government atrocities. If some 16,000 have returned then who could blame them - anyone would find it hard to be suddenly uprooted from their livelihood, and would certainly return if given the opportunity.

Then there’s the part I find the most ludicrous - “If it weren’t for those camps, who would believe in the regime’s atrocities described by the opposition?” How can anyone claim to be a ‘journalist’ and then spout this kind of biased reporting? Since March of last year, the regime’s atrocities have been documented by footage posted all over the web, testimony of countless military defectors, refugee testimony, satellite imagery clearly showing the positions of Assad’s heavy weaponry in the cities… Yet all this can just be marginalised? Disgusting. With or without those camps, the government atrocities are clear for all objective observers to see.

By the way, many of these camp residents had to flee due to the atrocities committed by bandits. For instance, in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur on the border with Turkey, 120 policemen and a large number of peaceful civilians were murdered in a deadly incident last summer.

I can’t tell who she’s working for at this point in time - RT or SANA? This is a downright lie. Tens of thousands of people wouldn’t just flee because of a few ‘bandits’. A few gangs of bandits would have no public support and would be quickly seen off by the people and security forces. Heck, they wouldn’t have the resources to terrify so many people from all across Syria into going to Turkey - especially as Turkey is portrayed as housing these ‘bandit’ bogeymen.

Yet again, more important evidence is being marginalised - the testimony of the refugees themselves. They are painting quite a different story - the ‘bandits’ driving them from their homes in terror are actually the Syrian government. Here is a Reuters article containing some testimony from refugees. Some of the best examples of which are:

"The killing in Syria hasn’t even started yet," says Abdullah Kartan, a teacher who fled to the Reyhanli refugee camp in Turkey.
"Syrians have made a decision and if three-quarters of them have to die, if their houses have to burn, they will do it to get Assad out. There is no going home until the regime falls."
"There is not enough trust left in our country for any kind of truce. Assad was supposed to move his tanks before stopping the shooting, but he didn’t because he knows he really will lose control if he does," says Kartan, who is from the countryside of Hama, one of the centers of rebellion against four decades of Assad family rule.
"The soldiers burned down around 100 homes in the village of Kileh when it rebelled, and mine was one of them. It was burned to the ground, even the chickens were lying dead on the floor. Why would I leave here? We have no work, we don’t even have a house," said Abdelatif Muadil, wearing a tattered sweatshirt over a faded traditional Arab robe.
The farmer, 65, from the Idlib countryside close to Turkey, said his sons remained in his village “because they still have work to do” - a vague reference to the rebels.
Nearby, the young Abdelrahman gives a nod of approval: “Everyone knows this truce is temporary.”


The narrative that the government is wanting people to return to their homes seems to be true, as mentioned in the RT article and confirmed by various other news sources - the difference being that nobody seems to  be doing it, in stark contrast with the alleged en masse returns that RT would like us to believe:

Syria’s Interior Ministry urged Syrians who have escaped violence to return to their homes, but Kartan - staring beyond the rows of white tents towards the green, mountainous border - said no one was thinking about heading back.

 Next, we have this quasi-SANA-type jargon:

All Syrians have a large number of family members who live across the entire country in large, spacious houses. When they have troubles at home, they go stay with their relatives rather than in camps in strange countries. The bandits, however, blocked all the roads except for the ones leading to Turkey. People found themselves caught in a trap, just like Israelis shooed Palestinians off their land by building them a ‘corridor’ to Jordan.

How could ‘bandits’ block every single road along a border that is some 900 kilometers long?! What a load of utter nonsense. That also ignores the fact that Syrians have crossed from all over the country, and not just Syrians from the border regions. This article is also very self-contradictory - why should Turkey be a “strange country” if they have relatives there? It reminds me of Syrian government spokesman Reem Hadad claiming that the refugees fleeing over the border was them basically “visiting their mum’s for a bit”…
Reem Hadad, another totalitarian apologist

Oh, and then we get the typical Israel-bashing propaganda - that is, trying to stirr up the unmitigated bias possessed by most of the readers by comparing the refugee exodus to Palestinians ‘shooed’ off their land by the evil Israeli’s. Did the Israeli’s massacre some 20,000 Palestinian civilians when Israel was founded?

RT:Where will refugees resettle within Syria, as only 20 thousand of them went to Turkey and there’re many more of those?
AK: The majority of refugees mainly stay with their relatives or rent apartments. It’s very difficult to find an apartment in Damascus, Tartus or Latakia. For instance, in Homs, the previous school year was disrupted as people had to move to areas where their children could go to school. We see that people run to the government, rather than from the government, for protection. Getting these people to settle is a huge burden for the state treasury as they have to establish new schools, to provide food, healthcare, and so on for hundreds of people. And this is what the government is doing. There are a large number of volunteers who work for free helping people resolve their problems as they get settled.

 Whilst the logic that many internal refugees will resettle with their families in other areas is a certainty, any slight objectivity that may follow on from this is somewhat dashed down due to the fact that the ‘report’ suddenly begins to extol the virtues of the benevolent Syrian government once again. If people “run to the government, rather than from the government, for protection” then why have some 60,000 soldiers defected to the opposition’s Free Syrian Army? To say nothing of the huge refugee exodus? Anyone who can ignore these facts isn’t writing anything resembling a “report”. Regarding the “large number of volunteers” helping people then this is indeed true - helping them after they were attacked by their own government.

A Syrian refugee camp in Turkey
People are returning to Homs, to areas that have been cleared of bandits. The army guards their homes. I have pictures showing soldiers in one of the streets taking pot flowers out of houses and placing them outside so that they can water them until the locals return home. None of them had any idea that some journalists would show up – we appeared totally out of the blue.

I’m becoming more incredulous as these paragraphs go on. The “bandits” in Homs - the Free Syrian Army - were welcomed by the people as a means of protecting areas of Homs such as the opposition stronghold of Bab Amr. When they pulled out of Bab Amr in February (due to a government military offensive) then many residents were genuinely angry about this, having wanted the FSA to protect them, and even going so far as to call them cowards for withdrawing. This is an extract from the linked BBC article above, of an opinion given by a Bab Amr resident:

"They betrayed Baba Amr," he said.
"Those who took the decision to withdraw are cowards. Now they are drinking tea and chit-chatting in Qusayr [a nearby town] and watching Baba Amr being destroyed."
He went on: “Why didn’t they do something to protect us? They could have attacked the artillery positions from behind. They waited until after 30 days of bombardment to withdraw. They could have left on the first day if that’s what they were going to do.”
On Monday afternoon the Free Army pulled back again, hurriedly leaving the village just outside Homs where we had been staying.

 Furthermore, satellite imagery clearly showed/shows that evil in April, people were not returning to their homes. Rather, large areas of Homs are practically deserted due to the ongoing fighting in the city. Compare the satellite imagery from August of 2011 in comparison to April 2012. Samsomhoms, an activist active on Twitter and living in Homs itself, tweeted on the 4th March that:

"All signsof life are absent here in #Homs since Feb 5th- shops, institutions , banks, schools, universities are all closed #Syria

The allegation by Ankhar is further damaged by the fact that Abo Emad, another activist inside Homs itself at the time, reported in early March that:

"The main humanitarian need in Homs is for the Assad militias to leave, because they are the people who are killing us. That’s more important than the lack of food and water and medical supplies.
"They [the authorities] have been trying to clean the Insha’at and Baba Amr area so that they can say ‘armed gangs’ did all the damage. It’s a kind of setup."
Emad said the regime was bringing in supporters from pro-regime neighbourhoods to Baba Amr in a stage-managed ploy to demonstrate support for the government.
Regime forces recaptured Baba Amr last Thursday but residents say Damascus deliberately delayed allowing the UN and the Red Crescent to make a visit in order to cover up evidence of atrocities and carry out “mopping up” operations by pro-government soldiers and militias.

Then there’s the laughably ludicrous assertion - that Ankhar arrived on a visit to Bab Amr, “totally out of the blue” and surprised a group of soldiers who were placing “pot flowers” outside deserted homes for the returning people. 

The devastated streets of Baba Amr, Homs

How could any sort of journalist or reporter gain access to Homs and turn up unexpectedly without the regime’s knowledge, when organisations like Red Cross have been barred from entering the area several times, the people who live there have been expelled, and journalists who managed to enter were killed, and so on? It smacks of an untruth through and through. They were evidently on a stage-managed visit; the regime knew they were coming and was prepared accordingly. Thinking from a logical perspective, soldiers who have been massacring innocents one minute, plant flowers for what’s left of their families the next?

RT: Why do you keep calling people fighting against the Syrian government bandits?
AK: Because I have seen what they do to the kidnapped people. I have been to the torture chambers; I have met mothers who saw their children die. The whole country loathes them as bandits. There is nothing worse than being loathed by your own nation. They killed a mufti’s son, they kill Christian priests, and they kidnap and torture children. A few days ago they killed two elder brothers of a five-year-old boy to take vengeance on him for reciting poems at rallies to support Syria. They massacred the whole family of an MP. I have been to homes turned into bandit hideouts. I have seen empty liquor bottles; how does it square with Islam? I have been to churches destroyed by bandits in Homs. I have been under their fire, with grenades dropping right next to me. I have been targeted by snipers who could perfectly see I am a woman, not a soldier. In the bustling street where I lived, near the marketplace, they blew up a few cars. Why blow up civilians shopping for food?

This is now becoming pathetic. This smacks totally of an individual who has been taken on a Syrian government-sponsored tour of the ‘cleaned’ areas formally occupied by the ‘armed gangs’, and who has totally embraced their narrative.

Human Rights Watch gives a map of Syrian government torture centres. They aren't even mentioned by Ankhar, surprise surprise...Talk is made of alleged “torture chambers” used by the rebels. Yet, as is usual in this report, next to no evidence is given that might back up this claim. But, in the meagre defence of this allegation, Human Rights Watch has declared that Syria’s rebels are also guilty of human rights abuses, which include torture. Yet the report also declares that they are much fewer and further between in comparison with the level of atrocities committed by the government. This is in utter contrast with what Ankhar is doing here - completely ignoring the huge number of reports and first-hand testimonies that blame the government for what is being called a widespread policy of state-sanctioned torture, to the extent that it is a ‘crime against humanity’. Instead, all the focus is put into staying entirely mum on these allegations, and putting a disproportionate level of blame on the rebels.

What Ankhar is doing here is doing what all totalitarian apologists do when justifying atrocities by their favourite dictator - seeing things in black and white. Here, she is portraying the rebels are portrayed as a sacreligious (hence the “empty liquor bottles”, conveniently forgetting the fact that not everyone in Syria is Islamic), drunken, civilian-murdering, assassinating, bomb-detonating, homogeneous mass of mercenaries and bandits. This could not be further from reality - the rebels are actually a rather disorganised mass of different armed groups opposing the Assad regime, as is documented in this well-sourced, objective assessment of them by Nir Rosen - a report which is the exact opposite of this piece of claptrap.

It is true that the rebels have not been saints - but as a whole, the crimes of the minority should not be used to brand the majority. How does she know for sure that they are responsible for the car bomb attacks which “blow up civilians shopping for food”? On the contrary, these attacks do not even seem to be carried out by the general rebel groups, but possibly by a non-aligned group of Islamists known as the al-Nusra front, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, or other such extremist groups - not the rebels in general.

Then, after some 17,000 innocents have died, she even has time to briefly lament the loss of Mufti Hassoun’s 22 year old son in an assassination (she doesn’t do the same for any such individual connected to the opposition) and the alleged death of the family of an MP (who is very conveniently left unnamed), and claim that she was shot at by snipers - and blame it all on the evil rebels on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. The rebels are not one armed group with the same ambitions and beliefs - they are many. If one group commits atrocities (atrocities are unacceptable on both sides, for the record) then it does not mean that the entire opposition cause is something inherently evil as Ankhar would like the readers believe.

Besides, Mufti Hassoun has threatened the Western world with suicide bombers, criticised President Assad and then gone back on his word, and so on. Hardly an innocent observer in this crisis a Ankhar would have you believe.

I don’t think I even need to address the poisonous, vicious, generalised sneering expressed in the statement claiming that “The whole country loathes them as bandits. There is nothing worse than being loathed by your own nation.” She evidently hasn’t seen, or has ignored, the countless rallies held all over the country by thousands of people wishing to show support for the Free Syrian Army.

RT: The opposition and the insurgents have sought to assure me that this is all the doing of criminals released and hired by the Syrian government. The insurgents also claimed it was the Syrian government that staged explosions in public places.
AK: This theory is ridiculous. The government has announced nine amnesties for criminals and opposition activists never implicated in any murders. Yet now the government is blamed for these amnesties! Let me remind you that the bandits would first set court archives on fire with files of criminal cases and smuggling. A few terrorist attacks targeted buildings that stored the intelligence and police archives. For example, on December 23, 2011, suicide bombers set the intelligence archives ablaze before blowing themselves up in a car.

These attacks targeted these buildings because they were housing organisations that are notorious for being important outlets of Syrian government repression. Besides, it is not known it was responsible for those bomb attacks, so how can this ‘journalist’ rubbish the notion that the government could be responsible with such ease? In fact, many Syrians do in fact blame their own government for the bombings. As usual, the assertions in this article are largely based on hearsay and opinion.

RT:Are the escape of the Syrian pilot to Jordan and the Turkish aircraft incident related?
AK: When the aircraft got hijacked on July 21, I was in Beirut, at the Al Mayadin TV channel which was headed by Ghassan Bin Jiddu, the former chief of Al Jazeera’s bureau in Libya. He was the one who caused a scandal by quitting the channel due to lies that the channel had been broadcasting for the last year and a half. On that day, this channel was the first to report the jet hijacking in Jordan. The first question was, how quickly Jordan would return the plane, which it was obliged to do according to the international laws. It wasn’t as much about the aircraft itself, but rather about the friend/foe enciphering system. According to military experts, it takes about a week to decipher it. The fact that the aircraft wasn’t returned immediately gives a reason to doubt Jordan’s neutrality. There are reasons to suggest that the incident was thoroughly staged. On 23rd June, a Turkish reconnaissance aircraft flying at an extremely low altitude intruded into Syria. Some experts believe that by then, Jordan could’ve deciphered the codes, and that Turkey made an attempt to use them.

What a preposterous allegation. There is no evidence suggesting that the aircraft was hijacked by an opposition bogeyman whatsoever, nor does Ankhar attempt to provide any. She’s also completely marginalised the fact that a Syrian pilot was piloting the plane - if that isn’t true, then where is the pilot? Because all CREDIBLE sources say that the pilot is in Jordan and has been seeking asylum. Besides, Jordan is one of the many nations appalled by the Syrian government’s barbarity. No wonder the aren’t returning the jet. Even Jordan’s monarch has spoken out against President Assad. The theory about the codes sounds plausible, given that all nations are self-interested, but there is no evidence to prove it. Again, an attempt is made to discredit the entire opposition on the basis of the alleged media bias of Al-Jazeera. Can someone please remind this ‘journalist’ that no media outlet is unbiased?

RT:Turkey denies its plane was flying over Syrian territory. What do they say in Syria
 AK: The aircraft was flying at an altitude of 1,000 meters. It deliberately performed several circles over neutral waters and land. It was then shot down with a weapon of a range not exceeding 3,000 meters. A machine gun was used, rather than a missile launcher, as the world’s media insist. Immediately Syria proposed establishing a bilateral commission for investigating this incident. But Turkey refused doing it. And now, the latter has been declaring that it was Syria that didn’t want to do it. It gets even funnier than that: Turkey says that it will not let Syrian provocations go unanswered. They are bringing a large number of armored vehicles to their border, even though provocations, arms smuggling and militants infiltration are happening on the part of Turkey, with the consent of the Turkish government.

The claim about the machine gun seems to be true at least, with US intelligence agencies seemingly agreeing with the Syrian government story and not the Turkish one. Or is it? Recent information seems to suggest that the jet may have been brought down in an accident. Besides, why complain at Turkey for increasing border defences and refusing talks after a direct attack on military personnel and their hardware? No state would let such an act happen without showing a strong face in response.

RT:Reports say that Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian opposition leader, has sneaked into Syria and there are already areas in Latakia and Homs beyond the control of Damascus.
AK: The Benghazi scenario is impossible in Syria. So in order to justify a possible intervention, they spread sensational yet false information. It is only recently that the media have stopped huffing and puffing over the takeover of an air defense base in Al-Rastan. A video even claimed the missiles would target the presidential palace in Damascus. The next day I was in Homs, which is within a distance of some 10 km from Al-Rastan. When asked about the seized base, the officers joked and treated me to tea, while the province governor was holding a conference to restore the affected regions and provide aid to citizens. If the information on the seized base and weapons were true, they would only be concerned about the air defense base rather than compensations for destroyed homes. This is copybook deception. When you hear that the presidential palace is under fire, you will believe it, because you have already been brainwashed that there are enough weapons to open fire. They used the same method of preemptive lies in January. First they said that hostilities were rife in the center of Damascus when there were none, next they doctored rumors of the president’s allegedly fugitive family.

To deny that there are areas of the country beyond government control (which she seems to be doing) is to deny reality. Al-Qusayr has been out of government control since at least November of 2011, despite frequent Syrian army attempts to retake it. Al-Rastan has changed hands at least twice, despite several vicious army offensives. Half of Homs is still out of government control, despite a fierce siege since early May of 2011. Even your camera crew caught them on film, clearly in control of a Damascus suburb. Caught in your own trap of lies, eh? This is to name but a few examples. The media naturally stopped “huffing and puffing” over the takeover of the air defence base in Al-Rastan because it happened OVER A MONTH AGO. The conflict in Syria is changing constantly every day, to focus on an individual topic for too long would not be appropriate.

You were clearly taken in by these lovely officers treating you “to tea”. What did you talk about over the cuppa, Ankhar? How many civilians they had massacred? How many shells were indiscriminately fired into the city? While you were snuggling up to the Syrian military’s higher ranks, people were being slaughtered all over the country. Besides, just because the Syrian military deny a story, it does not mean that what they say is bible truth, or that they are an objective source of information. Quite the contrary. I believe you are forgetting that they work for a government that classes any form of opposition as the work of Islamist and terrorist bogeymen.

Besides, if anyone should pay “compensations for destroyed homes” then should it not be the military which is responsible for destroying them through intense shelling. How can a large, disorganised and often penniless rebel group carry out a guerrilla war and find the time and money to carry out repairs?

Besides, nobody in the evil Western media ever said the FSA rhetoric about the missiles and the presidential palace was a certainty. They merely quoted the FSA rhetoric in their report/reports. You are so focused on the ‘brainwashing’ of the Western media, that you fail to address the bias of the Eastern media - outlets such as RT (which you work for) have constantly been parroting the Syrian government narrative and marginalising other pieces of evidence?

AK: This is a lie. All the military I know sneer at these messages. Naturally, they’ve intimidated some people into doing that and paid others. They made other people choose between an officer’s honor and familial honor, but 90 per cent of videos that feature desertion cases show soldiers abducted by bandits. They read a text someone else wrote.
I will never forget a military pilot with his hands bound and two dozen insurgents behind his back. If they bound his hands, it means he fought to the utmost. They kidnap soldiers from their homes; they attack their cars and capture the passengers. Sometimes bandits would stop a regular bus and take the military hostage. First they make the soldiers claim they are deserters, next they torture them, and finally kill and play them off as victims of the army. Kidnapping people is a major business of the so-called revolutionaries. Lately, they have kidnapped 12 Lebanese pilgrims on their way home and two Iranian drivers on the same day.

Syrian military defectors. Or are they "abducted by bandits"?

Not even good lies. A small number of armed men could not possibly abduct dozens of soldiers, and get them to stand in front of a camera, against their will. Especially not with weapons in their hands. They would resist or refuse to be filmed, or even be tied up, clearly exposing such a video as fake. Dozens of videos of army defectors exist - often of defections of whole units which have filmed themselves - and none of the soldiers look restrained or as if they are forced to stand for the videos, let alone as if they are about to be killed afterwards. What is more, figures exist to back up the alleged 60,000 or so defections, showing that as many as half the conscripts have not shown up in the past three call-ups. Explain that.

If soldiers were being abducted and murdered on this scale, then their families and others would create such an outcry that even the media outlets that you so despise would not be able to hide it. If the Free Syrian Army are kidnapping or killing soldiers then that may be true, but in war, each side is allowed to target the combatants of the other. How you can completely marginalise the torture, kidnapping and murder carried out against thousands of innocents by the Syrian government is beyond me, especially when you live in Syria.

Then again, maybe that isn’t so surprising. The reason you are the only journalist living permanently in Syria is due to the fact that you are an unmitigated parrot of the Syrian government narrative. Anyone denying this needs to read this article, and note the lack of Western journalists or others living in Syria.

The opposition claims that the people do not support the government, even though it has to use mercenaries from Iran and Hezbollah. They claim that there are 15,000 soldiers in Syria, but so far the opposition has only been able to show the world a video with five Iranian electricians. They must have killed the sixth one to intimidate the rest. Wait and see when they show us “Iranian mercenaries” and twelve “Hezbollah mercenaries”, they have to make use of the kidnapped people after all! I have seen what they do to the military captives. This is the price they pay for having chosen this job. The military are one of the main targets for attacks. They can be killed for wearing a military uniform. So why flop over to those who can kill for wearing a uniform?

Ahh, now this I find interesting. Your own employers were one of the most significant parroters of the reports that up to 15,000 Iranian soldiers are currently assisting the Syrian government inside Syria. By your logic, is that not a media lie - therefore, are RT and others (hypothetically) lying too? What is more, Iran, a strong Syrian ally, has admitted sending troops to Syria as admitted by General Ismail Qa’ani, Deputy Commander of the Revolutionary Guards. This corroborates earlier reports of Iranian soldiers and Hezbollah fighters on the ground. Again, an Iranian official admitted the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Syria, specifically mentioning around Zabadani.

Regarding the Iranian electricians, nobody is sure of the answer to that question. But it is said that Iran has been sending military men under the guise of electricians and others. Taking the above evidence into account, it is ignoring evidence in the extreme to suggest that “so far the opposition has only been able to show the world a video with five Iranian electricians”. 

RT:Does Damascus still have the situation under control?
AK: Due to the commitment to suspend fire, the army has slowed down slightly.

There never was a commitment to suspend fire. The army never slowed down. The ceasefire plan only exists on paper and in Mr Annan’s head. Hence why he has been frantically flying around the Middle East in an attempt to save it.

But if necessary, all areas can be quickly brought under control again. The bandits “supervise” the places from which the army has been withdrawn upon the order of the United Nations. So, these territories were not occupied by military operations. They can’t and they don’t know how to fight the army. I have information that a military invasion of Western forces into Syria is expected to take place in August-September. But there’s hardly any reason for justifying such invasion. They’ve searched for this reason for the whole year. But they didn’t give any information about the exact deadline. Now it’s done – and we should expect new provocations and new information during the time that is left. If the world believes this, it will empower the aggressor.

Can I point out at this stage that the point of propaganda is that it is supposed to be a convincing bunch of biased reporting and/or lies. This is none of those. Ankhar has no proof that the UN are behind the FSA control of these areas, the evidence clearly shows that the army is degrading and cannot defeat the armed opposition fighters (which seemingly know very well how to fight the army, given the high casualty rate sustained). Furthermore, her lies are clear. When asked to produce her evidence, she declares…

RT: What kind of information regarding this decision is there? What is the reaction to it in Syria?
AK: I’m not going to reveal my sources. I have no doubt about their reliability. In Syria there’s no panic or certitude about such an attack. People in Yugoslavia, Libya and Iraq didn’t believe in the possibility of such invasion until recently. One of the indirect pieces of evidence regarding the information I have is the widely spread news that Russia and China allegedly agreed to remove Assad. This is as much a lie as all the trash that the media sells to its audience.

Of course you aren’t. They don’t exist. How stupid do you think we are? Can I also point out the hypocrisy of calling such reports “trash” when you have written one of the longest strawmen since the conflict began - based on too little evidence, and too much hearsay.

RT: Who takes part in pressurizing Syria and how is it done?

AK: Iraq, especially in light of the fact that about 2 million of its citizens live in Syria, supports it, in particular, by helping combat smuggling. Lebanon helps the struggle against smugglers, but Saad Hariri’s Mustaqbal movement is one of the major stakeholders in the anti-Syrian campaign. This person finances the militants, supplies them with weapons and manpower. His media empire leads the information war against Syria. We’ve recently witnessed the turmoil in Beirut. Hariri’s people tried to pull the forces from the border by inciting the riot in the capital as the army almost overtook the smugglers. As for Jordan, its state can’t be envied. On the one hand, the country is much dependent on its relationship with Syria – economically, in food supplies and transit, but, on the other hand, if Jordan isn’t much of a compliant ally of the USA an NATO, the King isn’t likely to save his power during the «Islamic awakening».

Saad Hariri, second son of Rafiq (former Prime Minister of Lebanon, responsible for much reconstruction of the nation after the civil war).

Smuggling has been going on across the Syrian border on all sides since the Cold War, and before. I can also see right through your clever linkage of Saad Hariri to this. Saad is the son of the late Rafiq Hariri, the Lebanese politician who was assassinated in 2005 (in an assassination which Syria and their ally Hezbollah seem to be responsible for) due to his anti-Syrian stance (given Syria’s long-term occupation of much of Lebanon, ended by the consequences of the Hariri assassination). Given that Ankhar is such a shameless parrot of her hosting government’s narrative, it seems she has shamelessly adopted their anti-Hariri stance (stemming from his position opposing the Syrian government) and split any hairs she can so as to paint his son in a similarly negative light by making up nonsense about his “inciting the riot” in the capital - again, based on a tiresome lack of evidence and a conspiratorial attempt to put two and two together and make five.

Regarding Jordan’s alleged dependence on Syria, then I’m sure a post-Assad government would be more than willing to deal with Jordan in terms of economic supplies. Besides, after a year or so of Syrian civil war, Jordan has had plenty of time to forge new routes and relationships with the surrounding Arab nations. What that was, is a not-so-subtle attempt to frighten Jordanese people away from aiding Syrians, and hypocritically waving the threat of an uprising in the face of Jordan’s ruling clique. A stab is also taken at the Arab Spring in general - it is referred to as the “Islamic awakening” to stirr up all the typically drilled-in preconceptions about Islamists, and their often large-scale participation in the Arab Spring across the Middle East.

Civil war and instability in Syria are very profitable for Israel. Apart from this situation, nobody raises the issue of returning the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. The specific characteristic of Israeli mass media is making up sensational news. As for Qatar, one could speak for ages about this nano-aggressor: they provide weapons and money supplies in an attempt to solve their own internal problems.

One of the millions of Syrian voices that Kochneva has actively chosen to ignore.

Another incorrect misconception. By being all talk and no action against Israel for years, Assad has been guaranteeing Israel’s borders for years and keeping up regional stability - stability which has increasingly shown with time. Israel has no love for the Assad regime, but it would take no pleasure in seeing it suddenly collapse - with all the insecurities about dangerous weapons (which are already causing some alarm), rampant civil war, and refugee influx that it would likely create if something resembling an invasion destroyed such a centralised system of repression, Deja Vu Iraq…

But of course, RT and other Kremlin-satellite news outlets could never resist the traditional whining and finger pointing against Israel (the regime of which I am no supporter of) could they?

To conclude, a naked piece of propaganda designed to promote the Russo-Syrian/Iranian agenda and smear the Syrian uprising in the eyes of all who care to read it. Sadly, many of RT’s most zealous, unscrupulous supporters will probably swallow this as bible truth. I know the media in the West are not the most objective sometimes, but is this the only alternative? Biased reporting, parroting of a dictatorial agenda, and unscrupulous marginalising of evidence? Is the notion that the Arab Spring is not selective, and that all these dictators from Saleh to Assad are tarred with the same brush really so hard to fathom? She can deride the atrocities by the government all she likes - they are reported by sources too numerous to state, and impossible to gloss over.

Countless cynics will no doubt disagree with me or deride me for taking this stance, but I felt unable to stay silent when I read this naked piece of propaganda. All I can do I thank you for reading, and hope that the sceptics will at least study my article with a practical eye.

- Ben, 18, soon-to-be university student, UK.

If Kofi Annan thinks he has got anywhere in dealing with Assad, then he will be disappointed

Recently the UN peace envoy Kofi Annan travelled to Syria (after initial reluctance on the part of the Syrian government) to meet with the ever-embattled President and representative of his family Mafia - both a single person - Bashar al-Assad, the man who’s security forces (and they can conclusively be called his security forces under the legal responsibility invested in the President) have been killing peaceful protesters and  for months, spawning the latter to protect the former.

Every single agreement that was supposed to halt the violence has has next-to-no effect on the levels of bloodshed on the part of the security forces. The Arab League peace plan in November 2011 went completely unheeded by the Syrian government and their was still unabated killing in the form of around 250 deaths between the 2nd November (the date of the signing) and the 12th November.  The Arab League Monitoring mission in December 2011 merely delayed the time period in which the security forces would open fire on demonstrations - as soon as the observers were out of sight.

Every single plan proposed has either been rejected by Damascus in the name of the “sovereignty” of Syria, has been paid lip service in the form of meaningless rhetoric, or has been downright ignored. 

Now Mr Annan thinks he may have made a change. He has presented Mr Assad with a series of "concrete proposals" to curb the violence. Meaning that he has done very little that most other international actors have already done or tried to do. Condemn the violence, hand over some proposals (backed by next to no practical action  to ensure that the government enforces them) to the President, shake hands, leave.


Will his “concrete proposals” (which he has yet to elaborate on but will likely be nothing innovative) change anything?

Unlikely. The regime has shown time and time again that the only respect it has is for violence and violent methods of suppression. Notice how Assad was never talking about any kind of negotiated settlement until the armed resistance came about as a reaction to his brutality. On the 30th March he was rambling on about avoiding “subjecting the reform process to momentary conditions, otherwise it will be counterproductive”. The only negotiated settlement that came about (and the only significant development of this kind throughout the entire conflict) was after fierce Free Syrian Army resistance for days on end against  almost impossible odds, and government acceptance that they could not dislodge the fighters for the time being. This is evident from the fact that General Shawkat himself (Assad’s brother-in-law) was reportedly leading the ceasefire negotiations himself. A sure sign that the Assad’s were listening to force and force alone.

Now, after repeated rejections and ignoring of every single peace settlement or plan, Mr Annan believes that he can somehow solve this crisis through negotiation? He even talked of reforms (we all know how swift and progressive Assad’s reforms are) which would create a "solid foundation for a democratic Syria".

All this bloodshed and some still think that this rotten travesty of hereditary Ba’athism can be reformed? Have around 10,000 deaths not shown the answer to this question? Someone pull Mr Annan out of March 2011.

Talk of “reforms” and leaving Mr Assad with a list of "a set of concrete proposals" to end the violence will get zilch achieved, save an increase in hot air while more innocents are killed. Mr Annan would do better to try to gain better access to weapons for the Free Syrian Army to help them defend these innocents. They can’t fend off the Shabeeeha while hiding behind pieces of paper, can they?

Pieces of paper which will end up down the back of the Assad family sofa, alongside Asma’s credibility and the new “constitution”.


Scores of civilians have been killed since Mr Annan departed with no agreement in his hands whatsoever, because Assad says a solution is impossible as long as the “terrorist groups” continue throughout the country. Read between the propaganda lines and change “terrorist groups” to “the oppositon movement”.


Of course, Assad hopes to sign an agreement with some meaningless opposition sock puppets as soon as he has wiped them out. But if he thinks he can do so then he is extremely deluded. When in history have bullets crushed ideals?

The government only respects violence and will fall by the same road. Not by “concrete proposals” amounting to hot air and no tangible action.

Bashar al-Assad is either isolated from reality, deluded, or a liar - or all three

Recently, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave a speech to his embattled nation and to the world. In this speech he vowed to strike “terrorists with an iron fist”, again denounced the “external conspiracy” that he thinks (or says) is responsible for the current unrest in Syria, and declared: “We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders from inside the country”. He also proclaimed “When I rule, I rule because that is the people’s will, and when I leave office, I leave because it is the people’s will”  and vowed “victory” in-between the odd cheer from the rubber-stamp parliament members and Baath party loyalists.    


He later delivered another speech the next day, to a largely enthusiastic crowd of thousands. He could have made it into a spectacular event and crowd-surfed, microphone in hand, but instead stood shyly and unsure of his ground, speaking nervously, slowly, and typically devoid of charisma and full of his typical rhetoric. His wife and three children were in the crowd at the front, as a clear sign of solidarity.  

This points to one thing - a feeble leader, totally unenthusiastic about his job (he allegedly never had any political ambitions and tried to refuse the job of president) and isolated from reality, or at least in a state of extreme denial.   
Over the previous weeks, some guilt has maybe been evident, or at least a wish to distance him from the violence. In his previous interview with Barbara Walters in early December last year, he showed these signs when he ironically said: “If you don’t have the support of the people you cannot be in this position”. He went on to claim, when asked about the atrocities the military was blatantly committing against peaceful protesters: “They are not my forces, they are military forces belong to the government.”  

What on earth was he talking about?! He seems to be trying to say that the president and the government are not mutually exclusive. Then it gets better: “I don’t own them. I am president. I don’t own the country, so they are not my forces.”  

Not his forces?! Firstly, the President in Syria is legally head of the army, and therefore commands the functions of the military, orders operations, etc. To distance himself from the military is simply a lie. Saying they are not his forces is also incorrect; the government and the army are very cynically entwined (hence the low number of high-level defections in the ranks of the military) and he (at least in theory) is the supreme commander. In this hierarchical structure, the military is not allowed to deploy anywhere without orders from the highest chain of command. Who could that be?   

 Even hypothesising or speculating that Assad may only be in command of his army in theory (his more openly murderous brother Maher appears to enjoy some influence) and that commanders and members of the government have more influence, his labelling the army as under control of the government also fails to exempt him from the massive and undeniable shadow of responsibility which hangs over him. The President is also the supreme head of the government, hence the rhythmic Ceausescu-esque clapping and slavish eulogies given to him before speeches in the powerless parliament.   
He (effectively) blames the government, he blames “individuals” in the army and security forces who have made “mistakes”, he blames an “external conspiracy” - everyone is to blame but himself, even when all the footage, government structure, bureaucratic procedure and all manner of evidence is against him. This is a clear (relatively unspoken) indication that he knows the disgraceful nature of the oppression and wants to keep a respectable distance from it.  

If you want to look more deeply and look back over his ten years in power, you could be forgiven for regarding all this as one part of one long-running cynical ploy that Assad has been playing over the years. To claim reformist credentials, and yet when the repression kicks in to be able to keep a respectful distance from it all and make himself look like a leader with good intentions but held back by reactionary men in his government.   

It may well be the case; he may be a mere puppet of his family and ministers, hence the incoherent attempts to absolve all responsibility. However it has been reported that the country is run by the Assad family like a personal fiefdom, and the leadership is collective. There seems to be some truth in this. A Damascus resident said: 

"The protests will not go away and the regime is finished," says one Damascus resident who has taken to the streets in protest. "But the family’s gradual detachment from the people and its arrogance means they will be the last to realise it." 

But another statement made seems to give an ominous hint that it may not be like that at all. He ominously declared in the rambling, incoherent speech: “It will end when the Syrian people decide to turn into a submissive people”.This was a small slip-up but a hugely revealing one. For a second he dropped the charade of the conspiracy-theory obsessed president, and directly referred to the Syrian people, telling them that they must be submissive to end the “conspiracy” (A.K.A. the repression).  
He is basically saying: "Stop protesting and I’ll stop shooting". 
So now we see a picture suggesting he may be a liar. Subtle hints, but telling hints. He’s probably lied to himself so much that he now believes it. Dictators in regimes such as these tend to surround themselves with flatterers and sycophants who tell them what they want to hear and eventually isolate them from reality. A 2009 US diplomatic cable said:   
"Bashar’s vanity represents another Achilles heel: the degree to which USG [U.S. government] visitors add to his consequence to some degree affects the prospects for a successful meeting.”   

More convincing evidence comes from his official biographer via the Guardian: 
"[Bashar] changed over time from a well-intentioned man into someone who believed the propaganda and praise of the sycophants surrounding him," said David Lesch, an American academic and Assad’s official biographer.”    
Now we have a somewhat accurate picture. A picture of an insecure, unenthusiastic, isolated and vain man who dislikes his job and is caught in between a rock and a hard place and maybe feeling some regrets. More likely a desperate-instinct of self-preservation, typical of all dictators. His end will be no different.

Why do dictatorships violently attack peaceful protesters? Read below…


The vicious cycle continues...Throughout the Arab Spring one shocking image emerges the most: armed government troops/thugs gunning down peaceful protesters in the streets, beating them, making arrests, torturing them in custody (often to death) and so on. But why? These people are unarmed you say, no threat at all. Here’s why:  
  • Delusions. Dictators often start to believe their own propaganda (Gaddafi and Ceausescu seem to have made that mistake) and believe that all their people love them. When they see them protesting they cannot (and will not) believe it, and they look for explanations in their warped minds: “armed gangs”, “terrorists”, “thugs”, you name it. They genuinely believe that. Hence (since many of them believe in being brutal and strong) they believe they have to fight (what they believe is) fire with fire. If they have surrounded themselves with yes-men and sycophants who tell them what they want to hear over the years, then this is very likely (Ceausescu can again be offered as an example).
  • Bewilderment. The curtain of fear they have created has made their people docile; too fearful to protest or speak out. Once they do, the government is baffled. How do they deal with it? All too often they see the climate of fear is broken, and panic, thinking excessive force will restore it.  
Little do they realise that the more force they use, the more the people will be determined to oust them, and that the climate of fear (once lifted) will never return. Dictators have signed their own death warrants throughout history by using excessive force against those speaking out; Ceausescu in 1989 (many agree if he had entered into dialogue with the people he could have salvaged something), Bashar al-Assad in 2011 (he is now faced with an armed opposition and protesters who frequently chant: “The people want the execution of the president!" who had previously only wanted reforms), the Tsar of Russia (his army turned against him), etc. The more bullets they shoot, the more ink they put into the pen that signs them off into the dustbin of history.    

Often, these dictators don’t even have riot police or any form of security forces with crowd control skills as they have never had to put up with any kind of mass public demonstration/anger (for the reasons above) and so they use the army or police force, often with live ammunition as they feel they have no other alternative. Another way in which they sign their own death warrants.  
  • If they know the truth. Often these dictators know very well what they’re doing and deliberately order offensives against people. The sort of dictators that are notorious masters of intrigue and manipulation (such as Gaddafi and Saleh) who will make concessions, sign agreements (only to promptly back out again at the last minute), play the opposition off against each other to weaken it, and generally do anything to keep themselves in power. They will use the “carrot and stick” method, but generally make excessive use of the stick.   
  • They respect only force. Many of these dictators came to power using brutal methods and tactics and have no compassion or humanity for those who do not use force. It’s like they expect them to as they genuinely do not know any other means of expression. Hence why so many dictatorships (such as Gaddafi’s now fallen dictatorship and Assad’s falling dictatorship in Syria) cannot be toppled by peaceful means; they will never agree to peace, dialogue, reform, etc because they only respect violence. They will live by the sword and die by the sword.  
  • They may simply be power-hungry/mad. In the words of John Dalton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They love their lucrative and privileged positions and will not give them up in a hurry, so they respond with deadly force in their greed and defensiveness.
Whatever the reasons behind it, they all are fools in these instances. The vicious circle cannot work indefinitely. You cannot indefinitely keep people down with violence. Opinion thought and voice can never be crushed, even with tanks and bullets. Soldiers and security forces cannot be forced to shoot at their families, and if they can it cannot be indefinitely. Guns will turn back at them and they will die by the swords they live by. Such is the pattern of history. 
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