Author: San

Stories from Syria – Difficulties for a doctor

Published on Mar 8, 2017

Dr Moheeb is a doctor working inside Syria, despite the constant challenges he has faced over the past few years.

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More than 20 different methods of torture used against detainees by Assad regime

SYRIAN REVOLUTION During Arab Spring on 27th Feb 2011, a group of school children in Daraa city in SW Syria innocently wrote on the walls: “Down with the regime”, “Go away Assad”.  The children were detained and tortured. Parents and locals protested. Assad security forces opened fire and arrested protesters. More protests followed and more killings by Assad regime.
It has not stopped…
Human Rights Watch documented more than 20 different methods of torture used against detainees.
Syrian children and boys are subject to Assad regime ill-treatment and cruelty!
— Prolonged and severe beatings with batons or wires
— Lashings with electric cables
— Painful stress positions
— Electrocution
— Burning with car battery acid
— Sexual assault
— Pulling out fingernails or teeth
— Gouging eyes
— Mock execution
— Sexual violence
— Use as human shields
Many were held in disgusting and cruelly overcrowded conditions; many who needed medical assistance were denied it, and some consequently died.
More than 20,000 children have been killed in the Syrian civil war, the United Nations says.

I have their blood with me

‘I have their blood with me’: new documentary charts plight of Syria’s many missing men, women and children

By James Macintyre 14 March 2017

Mansour Al-Omari, one of many detainees in Syria under President Bashar Assad, who wrote the names of fellow prisoners in blood on pieces of cloth. Monsieur features in a Channel 4 documentary next week

President Bashar Assad has dismissed their stories as ‘fake news’, but a hard-hitting documentary broadcast next week will lay out the damning case of Syria’s missing: tens of thousands of men, women and children who have been disappeared into secret detention centres.

Syria’s Disappeared: The Case Against Assad tells this horrendous story through the powerful personal testimonies of three survivors alongside damning evidence smuggled out of Syria. The film follows victims, family members and international war crimes investigators as they campaign with increasing desperation for the release of the disappeared and fight to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The background to the documentary is the Arab Spring, which swept through Syria in 2011. Since then, tens of thousands have disappeared into Assad’s secret detention centres, with vast numbers having been tortured and thousands dying inside.

The programme focuses in on three cases.

Mazen Alhummada is from a left-wing family who had long opposed the Assad regime. He protested in his home city of Deir Ezzor, videoing the demonstrations. Mazen fled to Damascus after twice being arrested. He describes his third arrest in a cafe: ‘We were drinking tea and joking with each other, he tells the Radio Times. ‘Suddenly we were raided by the security forces. They put our shirts over our heads and put me in the trunk of the car.’

Held at a detention centre run by Airforce Intelligence, Mazen recalls being subject to appalling torture before being forced into a false confession.

Taken to a military hospital on account of his injuries, Mazen made a terrible discovery. ‘You go into the bathroom and you find three dead bodies on the floor. Stacked on top of one another. You close the door and open the other bathroom and find another two bodies. Hospital 601 [where he was taken] is really a slaughterhouse.’

Mariam Hallaq, a head teacher from Damascus, was a member of the ruling Baath Party and supported Assad. But her youngest son Ayham, a dentistry student, joined the protests and eventually she was converted to his cause thanks to his enthusiasm for change and for free elections.

Ayham began working with another key figure in the film, Mansour Al-Omari. The pair documented the disappearances for a Syrian human rights organisation, but their offices were raided by the security forces and they were detained and tortured. Ayham was released after three months.

But Mansour remained imprisoned, denied all contact with the world outside.

It was then that he and four of his cellmates came up with their extraordinary plan: to record the names and details of their fellow prisoners so that if one of them were released, they could inform their families where their loved ones were being held. They tore off pieces of their shirts, found a fragment of chicken bone to write with, and used rust and their own blood as ink.

Mansour explains: ‘We were worried that somebody could leak this news to the jailers. You could be hanged for it if they knew about it. One of us was a tailor and he said I can put it inside the hem of the shirt and collars – nobody will suspect it.’

Mansour was eventually chosen for release and he wore the shirt out and then contacted the families. Of his group of five detainees, only one other survived. ‘When I look at those shirt pieces, written with blood, blood of people who are still there, some of them I knew, I got news they are dead – I have their blood with me,’ he says. ‘These pieces of shirt are filled with their souls.’

The film also features Stephen Rapp, the former US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice. Rapp has prosecuted some of the worst mass atrocity crimes in recent history, and he says the evidence against the Syrian regime is the strongest he has ever seen. That evidence includes over 600,000 pages of regime documentation smuggled out of Syria and into Europe, by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability.

Yet extraordinarily, action through the International Criminal Court has been blocked at the UN. Now, Rapp is working to open criminal cases against the Syrian regime in European national courts. The film shows the first case filed in Spain.

Article from: https://www.christiantoday.com/article/i.have.their.blood.with.me.new.documentary.charts.plight.of.syrias.many.missing.men.women.and.children/105653.htm

10 SHOCKING Facts You Never Knew About North Korea

Escaping from North Korea in search of freedom | Yeonmi Park | One Young World
Published on Oct 18, 2014

Speech from Yeonmi Park telling her story of life in North Korea and calls for action against such human rights violators.

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Yeonmi was speaking at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland. The Summit brought together 1,300 young leaders with 194 countries represented to debate and devise solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

______________________________________________________________________________________

North Korea, otherwise known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a unique nation for all the wrong reasons. It is easily the most backward, isolated country on the planet.

Because of this isolation, information about the nature of the country, and the regime in power, is scarce and often not widely known.

But North Korea is a small, belligerent nation with the capability to cause real harm to the country’s around it, even the United States. These are 10 things you should know about the rogue state of North Korea.

1. Without oil, they’ve turned to wood-powered cars.

One of the ways in which North Korea is unique is that it gives us a look at what a future without oil might look like under the worst possible scenario.

The reclusive nation, whose only trading partner is China, functions almost entirely without gasoline and petroleum products, which has forced them to improvise.

Vehicles have been retrofitted to run on what they refer to as “wood gas,” carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas that’s produced from wood or coal.

Of course, using wood as fuel for cars is an ecological disaster that ruins air quality in cities and dumps immense amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

Wood gas engines were invented in 1839 and were used through WWII, when near the end of the war, Germany turned to powering more than 500,000 vehicles with the gas.

 

2. The country’s widespread poverty is even visible from space.

North Korea’s economy is strictly centrally planned. Some reforms have occurred since 2015 but for the most part, it is still an incredibly rigid, command economy.

There is very little data about the country’s economy, but it’s likely that North Korea has the weakest economy on Earth.

The average GDP per capita in North Korea is $1,800, making it 197th in the world. The GDP is 18 times higher in South Korea and 28 times higher in the United States.

Half of the nation’s 24 million citizens live in extreme poverty, according to the KUNI report, and a third of children have stunted growth due to malnutrition.

North Korea’s life expectancy is only 69 years old and has been in decline since 1980. Most homes are heated with fire places where citizens burn whatever they can find for heat to survive the bitingly cold North Korean winters.

Electricity is unreliable, as should be obvious from the image above. Most homes receive just a few hours of electricity a day, if any at all.

 

3. North Korea has no laws regarding Marijuana.

I hesitate to say that marijuana is legal in North Korea, but it’s also not criminalized in any way.

Cannabis appears to be sold pretty freely in the nation with one 29-year-old freelance writer from England recounting a story of how he purchased an entire bag of weed from an indoor market in a rural town in North Korea and smoked it in restaurants, bars, and in parks.

According to an anonymous source, Kim Jong Un’s regime doesn’t see marijuana as a drug and therefore doesn’t see any reason to interfere with it.

It’s possible, though unconfirmed, that marijuana consumption is encouraged as an alternative to tobacco, a luxury most North Koreans cannot afford.

 

4. North Korea operates concentration camps.

People are well aware of the concentration camps from World War II, where Germany imprisoned and murdered millions of “undesirable” people, and even the United States used to intern Japanese-American citizens during the war in the Pacific. While many of us may think that concentration camps are a horrid relic of an age passed, they’re alive and well in North Korea.

It is believed that up to 200,000 North Koreans reside in prison camps, arrested because of supposed political crimes. If one person commits a political crime, their entire family is interned.

If they escape, often their entire families are killed. 40% of the prisoners interned at these concentration camps die of malnutrition. Many are sentenced to “hard labor” for a seemingly reasonable length of time but are then promptly worked to death.

5. Children must attend school, but at a cost.

Children in North Korea are mandated to attend school, similar to in the United States. But unlike in the U.S., North Korea’s school children are required to bring their own desks and chairs and are required to give up money to pay for heat. Some parents keep their kids out of school by bribing teachers to not report them.

 

6. It’s the year 105 in North Korea.

In North Korea, their calendars are not based on what the rest of the world uses. Instead of it being 2017, it is the year 105 inside their borders. Why? Their calendar is based on the date of their dear revolutionary leader Kim Il-Sung’s birth: April 15, 1912.

 

7. North Korea holds elections.

While North Korea does hold elections, they aren’t exactly free elections. Each election gives you once choice, and I’ll give you 1 chance to guess who the choice is. When the votes are tallied, 100% of the votes cast are cast for their dear leader.

 

8. North Korea will punish you for three generations.

If you are born in North Korea and your grandfather committed a crime, you’re on the hook for that crime too. When someone commits a crime, their whole family is held responsible for it.

Grandparents, parents, and children can wind up in prison work camps because of the infractions of one individual. They call this their “3 generations of punishment rule.”

9. Kim Il-Sung is their only true leader.

While Kim Il-Sung, their first leader since the communist revolution, is long dead, he is still considered the leader of the country.

It’s why his son, and now grandson, were able to so easily take the reins of leadership when the former dies. While the heirs have the reins, Kim Il-Sung will forever have the heart of the DPRK.

10. The newest leader, Kim Jong Un, is an eccentric, brutal dictator.

When he assumed power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, it was hoped that Kim, much younger than previous leaders as well as educated in Europe, would bring about reforms. This has not proven to be case. Kim is just as bent on preserving his power as his father and grandfather were.

The list of eccentricities is long. Among them, he’s the only “general” in the world with no military experience, he got plastic surgery to look more like his grandfather, he has issued the execution of people via mortar rounds, is obsessed with Michael Jordan, had his uncle “obliterated” for supposed crimes against the state, and even executed his ex-girlfriend.

For North Korea, it’s hard to see a way out of the vile, kleptocratic dictatorship they’re forced to live under. Kim Jong Un is leader for life, and there’s no sign that he will instigate reforms. For the millions of starving, impoverished people in the DPRK, we can only pray.

 

Article from: http://www.higherperspectives.com/shocking-facts-north-korea-2312425603.html?c=vidlink

Assad’s Troops Are Raping Children to Silence Dissenters

By Khaled Rawas On 11/12/15 at 5:17 PM

Children, who live in the rebel-held neighborhood of Jobar in Damascus, Syria, are pictured July 18. The Assad regime utilizes the incredibly harmful effects of rape on the victim and her society to suppress any form of dissent, the author writes. Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

“I will not forgive him, nor will I let God’s mercy descend onto him,” uttered a woman activist working to support rape victims at a secret humanitarian organization in Damascus.

The activist leveled this charge not against the regime and its Shabiha militias—which use this most cruel weapon of war systematically to intimidate, suppress and humiliate Assad’s many opponents—but in reference to the father of a twelve year-old girl who was brutally gang raped by pro-Assad factions in her own home in front of her family.

Rape is a brutal and despicable weapon in any context, capable of tearing individuals, families and whole communities asunder. In Syria, rape not only brutalizes the victims and strips them of their humanity in their own eyes but also in the eyes of their families and society.

The Assad regime utilizes its incredibly harmful effects on the victim and her society to suppress any form of dissent. Clearly, a 12-year-old girl was no threat to the regime, but raping her in front of her family was a means to repress the opposition and callously silence those who long for freedom.

“When I heard about this incident from members of the community, I managed to track down the phone number of this young girl’s father, who had come to represent a crime against humanity itself,” says the female activist. The activist learned that the girl was in the third month of her pregnancy, but in keeping with Muslim tradition, the girl’s father refused to allow her to abort the child.

When the activist attempted to speak with the father about the incident, he angrily declined to discuss the matter and quickly hung up the phone. After the young girl gave birth to the child, the activist received additional reports that she and her baby were physically assaulted by her father for bringing dishonor upon the family. Again the activist attempted to make contact with the father, but he rebuffed her.

In the end, the young girl took her newborn child and fled from her home, prompting the activist’s earlier comment of the father who mercilessly forbade his daughter from aborting the child of a Shabiha -rape, but then displayed no mercy toward the child of that rape. Already stripped her of her humanity, her family’s shame and humiliation stripped her of it a second time.

Regrettably, the girl’s story is hardly unique. Thousands women and girls have been victims of the regime’s institutionalized campaign of sexual and gender-based violence. The roots of this epidemic do not stem from the 2011 revolution, but rather extend from Syria’s legal and religious tradition set long before the revolution.

Syria’s constitution—still in force today—contains several laws pertaining to “honor crimes” and sexual assault, including the crimes of rape, seduction, licentious behavior and violations of women’s private chambers (pursuant to Section 7, chapter 1, clauses 498-507).

Article 192 of the penal code considers the perpetrator of an honor crime under the influence of passion caused by the victim’s lack of scrupulousness. Additionally, the penal code allows judges to exercise great discretion when determining how to convict and sentence perpetrators of honor crimes, calling for all factors that may mitigate the penalty to be considered when applicable.

The Syrian constitution also derives certain components of its legal code from particular interpretations Islamic law (sharia). The regime codified the narrow-minded religious precepts regarding rape and honor crimes to extend its authority into people’s personal lives. In the process it empowered a certain brand of religious men: those willing to align themselves with the government to gain influence.

Any criticism of these precepts became a challenge to the political system, silencing moderate voices of Islamic jurisprudence, which take as their basis natural law and a respect for human nature. Religious discourse and Friday sermons were further used to guide the public toward the regime’s perspective and away from any critical thought.

A woman who was a former regime prisoner said, “During my detention, I saw many female detainees whose families refused to recognize them on the assumption they had been raped, even if that wasn’t true. For example, the regime forced one activist [detainee] to conduct an interview on national television and claim that twenty-one Free Syrian Army fighters gang raped her to spread its false version of who revolutionaries are by playing on the religious and social tension of regime supporters.

“This was not the only injustice that she faced. After being transferred to the Adra civilian prison, her father visited her and disowned her, ordering her never to return to her community. Even if she was ever released from prison, she could never go back home.”

The regime’s detention of the activist was not enough; by forcing her to lie, she was crushed between the brutality of the regime and the shame of her family.

Syrian society has failed to deal with mass rape and other sensitive gender issues in a fair and just manner—incidents that only increase in frequency. For example, one common solution is for a man to volunteer to marry the victim, as though it were an act of mercy; often the man is much older than the victim and possibly already married.

As though society has not done enough damage at this point, some of these men publicly declare that the marriage is intended to protect the victim. Those who engage in this practice act as though they are committing a holy act, without pausing to consider the emotional, mental and psychological damage done to the wellbeing of the victim.

As a Syrian, I hope that the revolution will not only fight the Assad regime, but also the damaging traditions and mores that oppress our society. The fight for freedom calls for us to think and act logically, not to listen to overzealous religious leaders and a brutal regime.

Syria’s honor does not depend on the female hymen, but in eradicating the ruthless Assad regime and its cruel system of gender-based oppression. This is the revolution that we need.

Khaled Rawas is a mechanical engineer, civil society activist and member of Damascus’s Revolution Leadership Council.

Article from: http://www.newsweek.com/assads-troops-are-raping-children-silence-dissenters-393202

The Boy who started the Syrian War

We tell the story of Mouawiya Syasneh, the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.

10 Feb 2017 12:29 GMTWar & Conflict, Syria’s Civil War

Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. It was February 2011, and he could never have imagined that such a minor act would spark a full-blown civil war.

More than half a million people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. Mouawiya’s home city has been ravaged by street fighting, shelling and barrel bombing. The war has left scars that may never heal.

Now a young man, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

His life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father. And Syria has been changed for ever.

The Boy who started the Syrian Civil War offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.

We meet Syrians trying to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

FILMMAKER’S VIEW

by Emmy Award-winning producer, Jamie Doran

I was in Moscow recently, chatting to people you might have thought would have known better. Educated folk, among them an experienced journalist. I had asked them a simple question: how did the Syrian war begin?

They uniformly launched into the answer that has been peddled so often in recent times, that it has now become fact in certain circles: “It was the terrorists who started it all.”

The fact that ISIL in its current form didn’t even exist in Syria at the time, or that al-Nusra wouldn’t arrive until many months afterwards, appear to have been conveniently forgotten – not just in Moscow but in most media coverage around the world.

The surprise, even shock on their faces when I pulled out my laptop and showed them the trailer for our latest film for Al Jazeera, The Boy Who Started the Syrian War, was a wonder to behold. They simply had no idea.

They claimed they hadn’t been aware of how, for decades, dissenters towards government authority had faced the daily dread of a visit from the secret police, of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial execution.

They had apparently never heard about how fathers were frightened to allow their daughters to be alone on the streets for fear of abduction, rape and murder at the hands of the Shabiha, Assad-family militias that operated with virtual impunity.

And they were totally unaware that it was a mischievous prank by adolescent schoolchildren that lit the fuse that set a country ablaze.

Early in 2016, I was sitting in Books@Cafe, a hangout for liberally minded Jordanians on Al-Khattab Street, Amman, with cameraman and filmmaker Abo Bakr Al Haj Ali. He was busily puffing away on his narghile (hookah), as we discussed how Deraa, the city which had given birth to the revolution, had been virtually ignored by the media in recent years.

One of the reasons it had been overlooked was that the Jordanians wouldn’t let any Western journalists cross from their side. Almost the only other option was an official tour of government-controlled areas via Damascus that didn’t appeal to me at all, even if they had let me in, which was rather unlikely.

I’d spent the previous week sitting on the border, just an hour’s drive from Deraa, having established an agreement with the Jordanian military which would have made me the first Westerner allowed to cross over in three years.

READ MORE: Syria’s Civil War Explained

There I was, in the border compound about to leave Jordanian soil, when a call came to the post. Moments later, I was very politely placed in a saloon car … and driven back to Amman. I later found out that the representative of the British intelligence agency, MI6, in Amman had advised the Jordanian government that it would be a bad idea to let me cross … even though I was travelling on an Irish passport!

So, back at Books@Cafe, Bakr and I sat chatting about how we could make a film about Deraa without my physical presence. It’s his home town. His territory.

“So, who do you know, who was there at the very beginning?” I asked.

“I know the commander, Marouf Abood, who set up the very first people’s militia, after government troops attacked his village,” he responded.

“Interesting. And who else?”

He went on to reel off half a dozen names; commander this, commander that.

“Come on, Bakr. You must know someone else, someone different. Someone fresh,” I said.

Continuing to drag deeply on the narghile, deep in thought, he told me that there was no one else that was really very interesting.

And then he added: “Well, I suppose there’s the boy who scrawled the anti-Assad graffiti on his school wall that started the war.”

It was one of those moments where you could have knocked my 90 kilos over with a feather.

The boy who started the Syrian war! Think about it. It wasn’t ISIL, nor al-Nusra, nor any other terrorist group. It was an act of defiance, a moment of youthful rebelliousness, if you like, that led to an uprising which has seen more than half a million people killed and a country torn to shreds.

It wasn’t, of course, the fault of this 14-year-old boy and his three friends who joined him in this moment of adolescent disobedience – a prank which would have enormous consequences beyond their understanding. But when they were arrested by the police and tortured in a most horrendous way, a line was crossed from which there would be no turning back.

When their parents and families arrived at the police station to plead for their freedom, they were told: “Forget these children. Go home to your wives and make some more. If you can’t manage, send us your wives and we’ll do it for you.”

Anger rose. The fuse had been lit and, when police started randomly killing marchers in the demonstrations that followed, armed resistance became an inevitability.

READ MORE: The Syrian conflict does not end here

For me personally, this film has taken on an importance beyond many that I have made in the past. To be able to remind (and, in some cases, inform) a massive global audience of the true origins of the Syrian civil war, is an enormous privilege for a filmmaker.

For those directly involved in those origins, however, our film has provided an opportunity for reflection. So many have suffered greatly and sacrificed so much for a revolution which, by any calculation, is and will remain incomplete, no matter what the outcome of negotiations.

Mouawiya Syasneh, The boy who started the Syrian War, is now a young man who, like so many other young men in Deraa, carries a Kalashnikov rather than a satchel these days. As viewers will discover, his own family has paid a dreadful price for the events that followed his actions back in February 2011.

His own reflections are now a matter of record for the first time.

Article from: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/02/boy-started-syrian-war-170208093451538.html

Video from Al Jazeera English:

Published on Feb 10, 2017

SPECIAL SERIESSYRIA’S CIVIL WAR
The Boy Who Started the Syrian War
We tell the story of Mouawiya Syasneh, the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.
09 Feb 2017 10:22 GMT Syria’s Civil War, War & Conflict

Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. It was February 2011, and he could never have imagined that such a minor act would spark a full-blown civil war.

More than half a million people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. Mouawiya’s home city has been ravaged by street fighting, shelling and barrel bombing. The war has left scars that may never heal.

Now a young man, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

His life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father. And Syria has been changed forever.

The Boy Who Started the Syrian Civil War offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.

We meet Syrians trying to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

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