Monday, October 10, 2011

The penetrated revolution -- By Firas Sawah

The following piece was written in Arabic by Firas Sawah فراس السّوّاح [AR], an independent Syrian scholar (from Homs, Syria) in the field of mythology, history of religion and biblical studies. It appeared [AR] on a Facebook page [AR] dedicated to him and his writings on September 17, 2011.

The penetrated revolution  
By Firas Sawah
In 1971 I went to the United States on a scholarship given to me by the International Organization, and I was then thirty years old. I arrived to the capital Washington, DC during the height of the youth revolution that has moved from Europe to America [, albeit] a bit late. It was a revolution that aspired to change the world at the time, and to undermine the political and economic structures of modern capitalism. Millions of young people who belong to families that are well-off had left their homes and their well being and started to roam around the country to demonstrate, sing and dance, not for the sake of any living needs they had, but in order to undermine the false American democracy and to be in the pursuit of justice in the world.  The beginning of their favorite song was: Power for the people. I marched with them and demonstrated against the Vietnam War. I attended their meetings and shared with them their evening sessions in front of their tents that they put up on the bank[s] of the Potomac River. I cannot forget that week during which demonstrators flocked to the capital from all over the country and surrounded the White House and the Capitol and other federal government institutions, and filled the city, which remained under their control for several days. 
Those scenes remained etched in my memory for a long time, and I wondered whether we were going to have a similar revolution in the Arab world. But the revolution was delayed and the memories and the hopes had faded, all until they were brought back again forty years later. That was when the movement of young intellectuals in Syria broke out. It was a movement that assured me that the vitality that defined the Syrian people throughout their history had not died out, but was more like a smoldering ember under the ash, and which was about to produce flames. I dreamt of a country-wide youth movement that would  re-create political opposition, starting from the street, and not from meetings of the educated political elites. But it soon became apparent to me that this movement (or revolution, as its people prefer to call it), and which snapped the first spark for the protests in the streets, demanding political and economic reform, this movement was born penetrated. This penetration came from several groups that followed the educated young people to the streets, working under the cover of their demands.
The first penetration was by Islamic fundamentalisms, which are known from their history not to have any tool in politics other than violence. And as violence inherently induces counter-violence, I appealed to the youth, in my first call to them on Facebook, to isolate themselves from this group. That's because the feet of both warring parties would crush and abort their noble movement. That was also because a misleading team from that group began to raise slogans inciting sectarian strife, which soon broke out in a number of neighborhoods and cities, and which turned into violent confrontations between the sons of the same country.
The second penetration came from a movement of protests with demands related to daily living needs.  Members of that movement did not care about a new law for elections or a new parties law, as much as they were interested in solving their economic problems. And since they belong to the least educated segments of society, they were easily amenable to the calls for violence that emanated from suspicious parties. So, they bore arms, and citizens of the nation faced each other in a war that has no winner. 
The third penetration was by the culture of revenge that is rooted in Arab psychology. In any confrontations between protesters and law enforcement forces, and during which adrenaline reaches its highest levels in the blood, there will be casualties on both sides. And those casualties increase with the excessive use of force by security forces.  This in turn leads to boiling in the street, with the only motive being revenge. The greater the number of casualties was on the civilian side the greater was the desire for revenge, and it became difficult to break that vicious cycle.
The fourth penetration came from a spontaneous movement by groups of teenagers who were thrown outside the educational system for a variety of reasons, and who were also thrown outside the weak labor market.  They found in the street movement a venue to vent their anger and their explosive energies of adolescence, and they organized themselves in gangs that threw rocks at security forces and assaulted public and private property.
The fifth penetration was by the so-called external opposition, whose representatives (whom you see on television screens) had left the homeland several decades ago, and have integrated in their new societies [abroad]. They acquired the nationalities [of the countries they settled in] and gave birth to children who grew up to become young adults who do not know Arabic and who feel embarrassed in front of their peers of their oriental [i.e. Middle Eastern] origins. And while I do not deny those expatriates the right to be concerned about issues in the motherland, or even the right to organize demonstrations that express their opinion abroad, I do reject their organized institutional work, that aims to steal the toil, the effort and the blood of the Syrian street, particularly since their opposition had grown up under the auspices of the Ottomans in Anatlya, and under the care of a Zionist forum in Paris, and the care of the State Department in Washington. And here they are finally asserting their identity and their belongingness by choosing Doha as a place for their meeting, before heading to the [Ottoman] Sublime Porte in Istanbul. The result was that this opposition gave birth to a mouse they called the Syrian National Council, whose goal, and which will be announced soon, won’t be anything but to seek foreign protection, or in other words: military intervention that aims to destroy the Syrian army on Israel's behalf. 
The sixth and the most dangerous of these penetrations came from that phantom party that issues names to label the Fridays [of protests in Syria]. I do not have sufficient information about this party to qualify me to describe it and to [further] characterize it. But I ask you: who gave the ninth day of September the name “the Friday to seek international protection”? If you do not know the answer, and you won't know, then it is time to reconsider, and to search for realistic solutions that would heal the bleeding wounds of the homeland and that would protect it from an impending disaster.
Reprinted from the: Baladna "magazine"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Arab oil kings, human rights and imperialism

The following quote is from a front page editorial by al-Fadl Shallaq titled [AR] "The revolution will go on and the world will change" in the September 2nd, 2011 issue of the Arabic-language Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir:

"تشك الجماهير العربية في النوايا الديموقراطية والغيرة على حقوق الإنسان عند دول نفطية لا تعرف للبشري قيمة إلا بمقدار ما يكون أداة او ضحية يقدمها أمراء وملوك النفط على مذبح التقديس للامبريالية." 
"The Arab masses doubt the democratic intentions and the fidelity to human rights in oil countries that know of no value for a human being other than the one determined by the extent that human being can be a tool or a victim sacrificed by the oil princes and sheikhs at the altar of imperialism." 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nabil Fayyad: The regime in Syria is very strong and has a broad popular base

Nabil Fayyad is a Syrian intellectual who is an outspoken critic of the Syrian regime. He happens to be [AR] an expert in comparative religion and biblical criticism and has many writings in those fields. He has been arrested and detained by the Syrian authorities in the past.  The following quote by him was tweeted [AR] into my Timeline today by Syria-based Twitter user @Atoraia. I asked him for the source and he kindly pointed me to it: a Nabil Fayyad Facebook fan page [AR].

"نبيل فيّاض : رغم موقفي السلبي للغاية من النظام لأسباب خاصة وعامة، إلا أن الحقيقة تقول إن النظام قوي جداً ولم يستطع الخارج ولا الداخل إلى اليوم إخراجه عن مواقفه المعتادة. هذه القوة لا تتأتى من فراغ. النظام له قاعدة شعبية عريضة تدعمه في الداخل والخارج سواء عن قناعة أو عن انتهازية. وتجاهل هذا الأمر في المجلس الانتقالي أول إشارة إلى أن المعارضة لا تعرف حتى الآن المعنى الحقيقي للديمقراطية..."
"Nabil Fayyad: Despite my very negative position from the regime for private and public reasons, but the truth is that the regime is very strong, and neither the outside nor the inside were able to make it change its usual stances. This strength does not come from a vacuum. The regime has a broad popular base that supports it at home and abroad, whether out of conviction or opportunism. And ignoring this issue in the Transitional Council is the first indication that the opposition does not know until now the true meaning of democracy..."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is going on in Hama?

Makeshift roadblock on a Hama street (Screen captures from a YouTube video, July 5, 2011)

Bassam al-Kadi is a Syrian journalist and writer. He is also Supervisor of the Syrian Women Observatory. He is in Syria and has been critical of both the regime and the opposition since the current events started in March of 2011. He wrote an article in Arabic today on his website with the title: "Realities of what's happening in Hama .. Will we be liberated from thugs of the regime and thugs of the opposition?!". In this article he is again critical of both the regime and the opposition, and he paints in it a picture of the situation in Hama before today's events. This is a picture you will not hear about in most mainstream Arab or Western media. Here is a translation to English of an excerpt from al-Kadi's article:

Hama has suffered during the past three weeks (at least) from lawlessness and near-complete absence of the entire state and its organs, and from control by groups of armed teenagers and criminals [-], who really erected roadblacks and expropriated the city. Each criminal of them became the king of his own dunghill, where he could stop anyone to ask to see their ID card, with all the open possibilities that such a behavior entails ..
Leaders in the government even have become under house arrest in one way or another because of not being able to wander in the city, and some of them were not even able to leave their home to go to work!
A lot of employees who live outside city limits were advised against (and sometimes prevented from) trying to access their work in the city.
Criminals fought in the streets with each other because of differences, some of which were quite frivulous, while others were related to schemes aimed to paralyze the city by imposing a strike on every shop and every business.
Gunmen armed with pistols, rifles and even (medium) machine guns wandered on foot or on motorcycles and spread panic everywhere in the city, which has been abandoned by much of its people. The vast majority of them left, not because they were afraid that tanks would storm the city, as some have circulated, but to escape the danger of the streets which has become a threat to life every moment.
Government buildings were burned and things in them were looted using trucks. Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances were also looted and became "spoils of the revolutionaries" and they used them to wander around with their weapons declaring their obvious victory..
Thousands of Molotov bombs were manufactured, and weapons were distributed in a few places in public. 
This picture is some of the reality shortly before armored vehicles (certainly not tanks, for those who care to enjoy the least amount of credibility, as this is an important military difference) belonging to the Syrian army, began an attempt to enter the city at dawn today. 
And we say an "attempt to enter" because the madness of Syria's intellectuals and their satellite TV channels made it seem as if the army had already entered the city, its every street and every neighborhood. The reality on the ground however says that the armored vehicles did not go beyond some squares in the city, because they faced an armed resistence, repeat: armed. This made a determination to enter the city akin to taking a decision to accept the results of a disaster, in every sense of the word, that would spare no one neither in Hama, nor anywhere else in Syria. 
This description does not diminish one iota the fact that the fall of some 100 victims in Hama today is a distaster in itself. But that disaster is just a walk in the park compared to what the realistic results would have been, if the decision was taken to enter all of Hama. 
At the same time, it was the same madness that prompted them [i.e. the intellectuals and their satellite TV channels mentioned above] to fabricate the incidence of a split in the army in Hama, in which the defectors joined the ranks of protesters. The reality is that some of these armored vehicles were trapped by people from every direction, so they could not progress nor retreat without risking to run over thousands in their way. So, the crew played a game to get out of the situation by showing that they joined the people. Then they asked them to make room for them to move. And once the way was open, the armored vehicles turned back and returned to join their colleagues in the army. 
 If you know Arabic, you can read the entire article here

Friday, June 24, 2011

What do Syrians really want?

It has become a rare event to hear words of reason written in the English language Web about Syria. Noise is all over the place in the Western and Arab media and on social media platforms. I am a Syrian and I don't find myself in this noise. I do not agree with it and I do not see it as an honest representation of what all Syrians in Syria want or think.

This one piece written by @lumazh, a Syrian in London, is a small island of reason in a sea of noise and misinformation (from all sides). I first read the piece when Shadi Hijazi (@shadi), another Syrian in London, shared it on Twitter with the introduction "Syria's “defining moment" after the speech: a normal syrian perspective." following president al-Assad's speech at Damascus University on June 20, 2011. Just a little note to say @lumazh is addressing Syrians in this piece. If you are not Syrian, you may be tempted to look at this piece with the same eyes you used to look at movements in other Arab countries. One important thing to remember here is that the geopolitics, the circumstances of the events, the demographic composition in Syria and other details are quite different in Syria compared to say, Egypt. These are points that will not come across to you if you rely in your information on the traditional and social media sources I mentioned above. And it would be very simplistic to look at the news coming out from Syria without paying attention to these points. All patriotic Syrians in the end want what they view as the best for their country. They all agree on this.  The huge disagreement is in how to get there. I urge everyone to try to talk to more Syrians in Syria to know what they really think or want. Most of them are not active in social media. Their voice deserves to be heard too.

Here is what @lumazh had to say. The original link where you can read this online is here.

(Image: Word cloud of President Assad's speech on June 20, 2011; By Shadi Hijazi

"In any nation’s life there are times that define what that nation is and what it’s going to be; the past three months have been such a time for Syria and today was its defining moment.

Like most people, I have kept my opinion of what’s been going on in Syria between me and the circle of family and friends around me. However, today I have to practice what I preach, today silence is not a virtue.

So here are my 2 pence worth of talk, please read to the end then swear, shout, or block me from your friend list. But please read to the end before you do so and try to read with an open mind and remember that if we disagree over everything, we all agree on one thing, we all love Syria.

Over the past three months, 3 different Syria(s) emerged, the Syria which you see in Al Jazeera, the Syria you see on Addunia TV and the real country that I visited earlier this month and spent most of my short time listening to people and what they had to say, the everyday occurrences and what they’ve been through in the past few months.

So which of the 3 Syria(s) is the real one? Who is demanding what and who is shooting at whom? Unfortunately, truth has been one of the early casualties of these events, followed by reason and the ability to talk across differences and because of that the future Syria was a Syria that does not exist in any form.

It will take years after the dust settles for the whole truth to be known, it may take longer but what we (you, I and every Syrian) should think of is that we are here now so what’s next?

The ”what next” is the reason for me writing this note, the what next is not what you and I want today but what kind of Syria do we want to leave for our children and their children.

Here are the facts:

-          There are people who started demonstrating in Syria wanting reforms

-          There are people who pushed the level of requests to wanting a change of regime

-          There have been attempts to restrain these people, heavy handed at times alongside political promises of reforms.

-          There are various movements abroad which seem to use the populous movement in Syria to further their causes (Old and new)

-          There has been an unprecedented abuse of media outlets to propagate one view or another in any means possible.

-          The Syrian economy is under immense pressure and whatever the outcome of the recent events, it will take several years to reverse the damage done to it.

So what options are available? Here is the part where you need to keep an open mind and not think with emotions:

-          A regime change: this will happen in 2 cases only, foreign intervention Libya style which is a scenario rejected by All Syrians I’ve talked to from both side of the fence. Or, and this is the option that most are betting on, the army to change sides or to split. The latter option means a prolonged civil war of which the possibility of Syria exiting from as a Syria that we can recognise is almost non-existent.

-          The protests continue on, there is no real momentum that would allow for a push to end the stalemate in one direction or the other (the regime won't choose the Ghaddafi choice and the opposition is not strong enough to force a change). The real loser of this scenario is the economy and the Syria people. The strain on the economy from the last 3 months is already leaving a deep mark on development, investment (foreign and local) and employment rates to say the least. The 2011 tourist season is already written off and this has wide reaching effect on the wellbeing of a significant number of people.

-          The regime and the opposition try to meet in the middle and draft an exit strategy that will save Syria and put it again on the path of growth and development.

You don’t have to think much to know which my option is, I, like a great deal of people who have remained silent since the beginning, will not remain silent when options 1 and 2 are on the table.  There is a significant mass of people who started this journey supporting both sides but have gradually gravitated towards a solution that maintains the integrity and unity of their country. That mass will look at the options available and will go for the third. Not because they’re benefiting from the current regime, not because they’re being paid or pushed by it nor because they are too coward to oppose it. Today, courage is to stand up to both sides and chose the middle path to follow.

Yesterday the President has laid out a program for reform and a timetable to follow it. Today, the ball is firmly in the court of the opposition and now the opposition will have to answer back.

I was amazed to see that the people I know and respect have decided to close their ears and not hear anything of what was said in that speech. The news channels were quick to relay the opposing protests and failed to relay the support demonstrations.  The news channels were filled with analysts dismissing the speech and what was put on offer as too little too late. Even before the speech finished, you could find reports disregarding its contents and almost encouraging people to dismiss it without proper thought.

Well this speech is the one that you cannot allow anyone else to interpret for you. You’re the Syrian you cannot be lazy and not do the thinking yourself, not when what you think and believe, or chose to believe, means what Syria will become over the next stage of its life.

Now the opposition is called upon to talk, not using the street, not hiding behind the people protesting but coming out from behind the facebook and the computer screen and put their thoughts and more importantly themselves forward to start this dialogue.

Claiming that the regime doesn’t want to dialogue is not enough when these people haven’t event tried to put their point across. With all the media attention that is being focused on Syria this opposition can, if they wish, stand up without fear to talk with purpose. The people who have been encouraged to go out to the street have been brave enough to reach Syria to a point where a real and open dialogue can start. It is now the turn of the opposition that has been egging them to the street to put itself forward to do its part for this country.

Now, bravery is in listening not in yelling, it’s in moving the dialogue from the street into the discussion table. To accept the other, to accept that there are genuine people on both sides who will both be living in Syria and be part of it when this whole thing is over. Brave is to admit that there were people killed on both sides by both sides and their lives should pay for a better Syria for all not for some.

Today the stage is set for a new day to dawn on Syria, a dawn of true freedom and democracy.  A democracy that has to be taught and extended to include country and home capturing the different shades of the Syrian society.

Our fathers and forefathers have gone through turmoil and instability before us. They have built a country that most of us are proud to belong to, far more than what other nationals feel towards their respective countries.

Our fathers hoped that they have seen the worst of times so that we can see the best of times; my hope is that we have learned from their mistakes and we will not push to pay a heavier price to buy a weaker more fractured country.

Today, Syria is at the tipping point when the masses in the middle should be the masse tipping the scale in the direction they want for Syria. These masses should be all of us, the people at home, abroad, on the street and in the barrack.  

A friend who lives on one of the ”hot spots” around Damascus told me that her family have decided to go out to the streets last night to declare their support to the reform program put forward yesterday. They are part of the silent masses that are starting to mobilise, the President has given them a strong case, it’s now up for the opposition to put its case forward for the people to decide. A case that can be presented in 1h 15m with the most frequent words used in It being “People” and “Syria”

God bless and protect Syria

God keep my country safe"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

President al-Assad to the ministers: Be humble

In his speech today to the new Syrian Cabinet, President Bashar al-Assad had this advice to give at the end of the speech:

النصيحة الأخيرة التي أنصحها لكل مسؤول ألتقي به وكل حكومة هي التواضع. تواضعوا مع الناس، لا مبرر للغرور. الغرور هو بداية الانحدار وبداية الفشل وبداية السقوط لأي إنسان، لأي دولة، لأي شعب، عندما يصاب بالغرور. عندما يصبح الإنسان مسؤول يجب أن يفقد شعوره بنفسه أو بقيمته الذاتية ويشعر بأن أي مواطن هو أعلى منه قيمةً. ولكنه يسترد هذه القيمة فقط من خلال رضى المواطن. عندما يرضى المواطن فعليك أن تشعر كمسؤول بقيمتك بأنك إنسان يستحق أن يحترم ولكن أيضاً من دون غرور.
The last advice which I give to every government official I meet with and to every government, is humility. Be humble with the people. There is no justification for arrogance. Arrogance is the begining of falling, the begining of failure, the begning of collapse, for any person, any state, any people, when they're afflicted by it. When anyone becomes an official, they should lose their sense of self or self-worth and feel that any citizen is of more value than them. They would then regain their value only through the satisfaction of the citizen. When the citizen is satified, you should as an official feel your value, and that you are a person who deserves to be respected, but then again without arrogance. 

You can watch the full speech here and below [AR]. The quote above is between 41:22 and 42:07.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American visitor to Syria says: "no sign of any protest wherever we went"

In a blog posting today on "Syria Comment", a blog on Syrian affairs by Dr. Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, a message that came to Dr. Landis from someone who has just returned from Syria was published:
Dear Joshua, We proceeded with our recent trip to Syria (March 25 – April 3) and had a wonderful time. There was no sign of any protest wherever we went (Bosra, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Crak de Chevaliers, Sergilla, Aleppo and Palmyra) and people were extremely friendly. The State Department’s advisory for all Americans to consider leaving Syria seemed paranoid – perhaps a Washington-Damascus power play.
Best regards, Olaf Andersen
Read the blog posting here.  

Monday, February 28, 2011

The ship "Souria" departs the port of Benghazi with 325 Syrian nationals on-board

This urgent report was published yesterday on the website of the Syrian Arabic-language biweekly magazine al-Iqtisadi. Here is a rush English translation of it.

Urgent: The ship "Souria" departs the port of Benghazi with 325 Syrian nationals on-board 


The Syrian Minister of Transport Yarob Badr announced that the Syrian ship "Souria" that is participating in the transportation of Syrian nationals from Libya has departed the port of Benghazi yesterday with 325 Syrian nationals on-board. It is scheduled to arrive to the Syrian port of Latakia on Tuesday morning. 

Minister Badr explained: Transporting the Syrians on-board the multipurpose ship "Souria" was done in all the available cabins and in the best possible conditions, especially given the fact that the route of the ship was changed out of necessity and urgency from the port of Algiers to Libya, to ensure the transportation of the Syrian nationals who would like to leave Libya. 

Badr added: The second ship "al-Assad", which was also sent to participate in evacuating the Syrian nationals, will arrive to the port of Benghazi on Sunday morning, while the leased ship "Europe Palace" will arrive in the afternoon to the same port to continue with the evacuation efforts. He also said that preparations are underway to mobilize other ships to the ports of Tripoli and Misurata, as per a request made by the Syrian Embassy in Tripoli with which coordination is being done in that regard. 

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Syrian Airlines announces new emergency flights to Libya

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported today that Syrian Air "will run 11 flights today and on Friday at different times to carry the Syrian nationals from Libya."

Read the full SANA report here

Syrian expats donate to lease planes to transport Syrians from Libya

This urgent report was published earlier today on the website of the Syrian Arabic-language biweekly magazine al-Iqtisadi. Here is a rush English translation of it.

Urgent: Syrian expats donate to lease planes to transport Syrians from Libya  
Right after Al Iqtisadi website published the report regarding the delay in evacuating Syrians stranded in Tripoli Airport, after having received several calls from their relatives, and in view of the unfavorable circumstances in the airport of the people stranded there, whose number reached 5000, including elderly, women and children, in addition to the steep rise in ticket prices, a group of Syrian expatriates decided to mobilize to help the community through contacts and coordination with other airline companies including the Syrian Cham Wings Airlines to donate money to purchase tickets for those stranded, in order to transport them as soon as possible.  
In a call with Al Iqtisadi website, a Syrian expatriate lady said: "Syrian TV reported yesterday that four Syrian planes are being operated daily to evacuate those stranded in Tripoli Airport. We were able with difficulty to call one of those Syrians stranded in Tripoli Airport. He told us the number of Syrians there is more than 2000, and only one plane has arrived in the morning. They treated the passengers very badly and resorted to extortion, raising the price of the ticket to $1500 USD per passenger" 
The Syrian expat added: "We contacted the Amman Air Services company and they welcomed our initiative and made contacts with other airlines to get good prices. But surprisingly and unfortunately, Damascus International Airport had given permission only to Syrian airlines arriving from Libya to land using its runways. Dealing with this issue is a very long routine process, and despite this we attempted to call some officials but did not get a response. Therefore, we are trying now to work with the Jordanian company that I mentioned to operate flights from Tripoli to Amman, from where passengers would then travel to Syria by bus".  
The Syrian expatriate also said they will wait today to verify the arrival of the ships that were sent from Syria to Libya, and if that did not happen, they will operate planes from the Jordanian company to transport all the Syrians stranded there. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Some Syrian nationals fleeing violence in Libya arrive in Tunisia

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a Press Briefing Note today reporting in it that thousands of migrants have started to arrive in Tunisia from Libya. Amongst those are some Syrian nationals.

"An IOM staffer says local Red Crescent officials reported to him and a UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] official on Tuesday that in addition to several thousand returning Tunisians, there were some Lebanese, Turkish, Syrian and three German nationals who had arrived asking for onward travel assistance.

The local authorities provided transport for the migrants to Djerba international airport from where they were reportedly able to depart to their home countries.

With further arrivals in the evening across the Ben Guerdane border post, IOM staff identified low-cost hotel accommodation for the migrants of various nationalities, including four Guineans asking for help to get home, until onward travel assistance could be organized.

Additional IOM staff will be deployed to the border area today to help migrants arriving from Libya."

Read the full note here.

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Relatives of the Syrian community in Libya deny to Al Iqtisadi the arrival of Syrian planes

This urgent report was published earlier today on the website of the Syrian Arabic-language biweekly magazine al-Iqtisadi. Here is a rush English translation of it.

Urgent: Relatives of the Syrian community in Libya deny to Al Iqtisadi the arrival of Syrian planes 
Syria's ambassador to Libya, Mr. Hilal al-Atrash affirmed that 3 Syrian planes were sent from Syria to Tripoli to transport those who desire to go back home. 
He added that consular staff from the Syrian Embassy in cooperation with the Syrian Airlines office have moved to the Tripoli Airport to facilitate the procedures of the departing members of the Syrian community. 
Ambassador al-Atrash revealed that a ship may arrive soon to the city of Benghazi in east Libya to facilitate the return of those who want to travel to Syria. He said he is in contact with the Syrian Consulate in Benghazi and is following news of the community there in cooperation with the Consul General. 
Syrian Air had announced operating four flights between Damascus Airport and Tripoli Airport in Libya, two on Tuesday evening (7 PM and 11 PM) and two today Wednesday (4:30 AM and 9 AM), to transport members of the Syrian community who would like to depart Tripoli Airport because of the current events in Libya. 
Meanwhile, relatives of Syrian community members have denied to Al Iqtisadi the arrival of the three planes. They said their relatives in Libya are still awaiting the arrival of Syrian planes to Tripoli airport for two days now. 
The al Iqtisadi website has published previously a report saying that 5000 Syrians are stranded and starving in Tripoli Airport with no planes to transport them, after having received calls to that effect from relatives of Syrian expatriates working in Libya. This lead to the formation of a Facebook group demanding from Syrian Arab Airlines to send planes to rescue the Syrians, just like the Jordanians and others whose governments are in followup with them and transporting them very quickly. Al Arabiya news channel reported that many Syrians have crossed the Libyan border to Egypt because there aren't enough planes. Of note, only one Syrian plane arrived to Tripoli Airport and transported a number of Syrians. It did not return despite the fact that it asked for much higher prices than before, and everyone was willing to pay. Some are also bargaining to sell Syrian Air tickets for a $1000 USD each pending the arrival of the planes.  

Ships head to Libya to rescue members of the Syrian community

This urgent report was published today on the website of the Syrian Arabic-language biweekly magazine al-Iqtisadi. Here is a rush English translation of it.

Urgent: Ships head to Libya to rescue members of the Syrian community 
Under directive from President of the Republic Bashar al-Assad, many ships are on their way to Libya, according to a report on the Syrian Satellite Channel, to rescue members of the Syrian community there.
Mr. Hilal al Atrash, Syria's Ambassador to Libya, has said it's possible that a ship will arrive soon to Benghazi in east Libya to facilitate the return of those who desire to go back home to Syria. He also said that he is in contact with the Syrian Consulate in Benghazi and following news of the Syrian community there in cooperation with the Consul General. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"5000 Syrians trapped and starving in the Tripoli Airport"

This urgent report was published today on the website of the Syrian Arabic-language biweekly magazine al-Iqtisadi. Here is a rush English translation of it.

Urgent: 5000 Syrians are trapped and starving in the Tripoli Airport. No planes to transport them.   
The Al Iqtisadi website has received many calls from relatives of the expatriate Syrians in Libya, saying that there are about 5000 Syrians now inside the Tripoli Airport in Libya. Some have been there for three days, while others have joined them yesterday. 

Yasin al-Hussain from Damascus told al-Iqtisiadi: "I called my brother Muhammad this morning when communications were temporarily restored in the Tripoli Airport at 6 AM, but communications were disconnected again."

al-Hussain also said: "The condition of the Syrians in the airport is horrible. One Syrian plane arrived and transported a number of Syrians. But it did not come back, despite the fact that it asked for much higher prices than before". 

al-Hussain adds: "Everyone expressed willingness to pay, but the plane did not return. The Syrian Embassy considers its job done as soon as the Syrians make it to the airport, where the Syrians now live trapped in conditions of scarce food and drinking water. This is already affecting children, women and ill people and it may result in a disaster soon." 

In the meantime, most other countries with large expatriate communities in Libya, have established air bridges to transport their nationals back home. First and foremost this includes Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia, while at the same time Syrians of the expatriate community in Libya still await the Syrian planes to come and transport them. 

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has been contacted for two days now by tens of relatives of the Syrian expatriate community in Libya inquiring about ways to save their siblings and kin, who relay back to them through communications confirmation that air strikes are on the rise in all areas of the Libyan capital. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Voice of Freedom, Loud and Clear From Egypt

The year 2011 was destined to be one fateful year in the modern history of the Arab world. Before the year started, the spark was ignited in Tunisia, and then the flag of freedom was raised high in Egypt. Millions of Arabs around the world were captivated and glued to their television sets holding their breath, hoping, wishing and praying for the outcome that everyone was dreaming about, to materialize. We all felt we were part of history, even if many of us did nothing really but to be alive at this time, to witness history being made before our own eyes. We were all Tunisians. Then we were all Egyptians. Then we are all Bahraini, Yemeni and Libyan. And we continue to be all of the above and more, all at the same time. Many of us are still trying to understand what all of this means. Many of us are still extremely anxious about the events as they continue to unfold in many areas of the Arab world. One thing is starting to come into focus, however, and that is, the voice of freedom has now become loud and clear in the Arab world. This is the message of this song from Egypt.

The revolution of Egypt taught the entire world what liberation means in Arabic: Tahrir. Some of the images you will see in the video appear to be from the renowned Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) of Cairo, which is one of the many places in Egypt where Egypt's heroes peacefully "fought their battle" for freedom. The song was recorded and filmed before former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. In the table below, you'll find the Arabic lyrics of the song (which are in the Egyptian dialect), along with a transliteration and an English translation. The credits for the song (as listed in the YouTube music video) are listed at the bottom of this page as well. The lyrics in bold below are verses from an Egyptian-dialect poem by Egyptian poet Abdurrahman Al-Abnoudi, and they appear in the song recited in the poet's own voice. They are from the poem titled "The Poem of The Square" (qasīdat al-mīdān قصيدة الميدان) (the square being of course, Tahrir Square).

Voice of Freedom
ṣot el-ḥorriyya
صوت الحرية
I went down and said I'm not coming back
nezelt w-ʼolt ʼana meš rāgeʿ
نزلت وقلت أنا مش راجع
I wrote with my blood in every street
we-katabt b-dammi f-kull šāreʿ
وكتبت بدمي في كل شارع 
We brought our voice to everyone who was not hearing ussammaʿna elli ma kanš sāmeʿ
سمعنا اللي ما كنش سامع
All barriers were shatteredw-takassaret kull el-mawaneʿ
وتكسرت كل الموانع
Our weapon was our dreams
silāḥna kān aḥlāmna
سلاحنا كان أحلامنا
Tomorrow was clear before us
we-bokra wāḍeḥ ʼoddāmna
وبكرا واضح قدامنا
We've been waiting for so long
men zamān be-nestanna
من زمان بنستنى
We were searching, unable to find our place
be-ndawwar meš lāʼyīn makannā
بندور مش لاقيين مكانا
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling
fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī
في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling
fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī
في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
We raised our head up high in the sky
rafaʿna rāsna fe s-samā
رفعنا راسنا في السما 
Hunger was no longer our concern
weg-gūʿ ma baʼāš bi-yhemmenā
والجوع ما بقاش بيهمنا
The most important thing was our right
ʼahamm ḥāga ḥaʼʼenā
أهم حاجة حقنا
And to write our history with our blood
we-nekteb tarīḫna b-dammenā
ونكتب تاريخنا بدمنا 
If you were one of us
law kont wāḥed mennenā
لو كنت واحد مننا 
Stop rambling and telling us
balāš terġi we-tʼollenā
بلاش ترغي وتقلنا 
To leave and abandon our dreamnemši we-nsīb ḥelmenāنمشي ونسيب حلمنا

And stop saying the word "I"
w-baṭṭal teʼūl kelmet anā
وبطل تقول كلمة أنا
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling
fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī
في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling
fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī
في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
Tan Egyptian hands of distinction ayādi maṣreyya samra .. līha fet-tamyīz أيادي مصرية سمرا ليها في التمييز
Extended out amidst the roar .. shattering the frames mamdūda weṣṭ ez-zaʼīr be-tkassar el-barawīz ممدودة وسط الزئير بتكسر البراويز
The marvelous youth went out .. and turned the automn [of Egypt] into spring ṭeleʿ eš-šabāb el-badīʿ .. ʼalabu ḫarīfha rabīʿ طلع الشباب البديع قلبوا خريفها ربيع
They brought about the miracle .. they brought the murdered back to life we-ḥaʼʼaʼu l-moʿgeza .. ṣaḥḥu l-ʼatīl me l-ʼatl وحققوا المعجزة صحوا القتيل من القتل
Kill me .. By killing me you won't get your regime back ʼeʼtelni .. ʼatli mā ḥayʿīd dawletak tāni اقتلني قتلي ما هيعيد دولتك تاني
With my blood, I destine my homelands to a second life bakteb be-dammi hayāh tanya le-awṭāni بكتب بدمي حياة تانية لأوطاني
Is this my blood or is it spring .. Both are green in color dammi da walla r-rabīʿ .. le-tnain be-lon aḫḍar دمي ده ولا الربيع الاتنين بلون أخضر
Do I smile of my happiness or my sorrows we-babtesem men saʿādti walla aḥzāni وببتسم من سعادتي ولا أحزاني
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي
In every street of my homeland .. the voice of freedom is calling fe kulle šāreʿ fe blādī .. ṣot el-ḥorriyya b-īnādī في كل شارع في بلادي .. صوت الحرية بينادي

A screen short from the video clip. Graffiti on the wall reads "The street is ours"
Credits: Sout Al Horeya - Hany Adel. Amir Eid; Guitar: Hawary; Keyboard: Sherif Mostafa; Composition & Lyrics: Amir Eid; Music Producer & Sound Engineer: Hany Adel