Humanitarianism: Keywords, edited by Antonio De Lauri (September 2020)

This is the first humanitarian dictionary for colleagues and practitioners in the field! And it’s open access for everyone.

I contributed with the entries ‘livelihoods’ and ’emergency’.

You can download the file by accessing this link:


Categories: Africa, Arab Gulf, Arabia Saudita, Asia, Australia, Bahrain, Central America, Egitto, Egypt, EmiratiArabiUniti, Europe, Giordania, Golfo Arabo, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Israele, Italy, Jordan, Kurdistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Levant, Libano, Medio Oriente, Middle East, Nord Africa, North Africa, Palestina, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Siria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom, United States, USA, Yemen | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

No one wants to be the “Global North”? On being a researcher across the North and South (May, 2019)

No one wants to be the “Global North”? On being a researcher across the North and South

In this blog post I would like to share my personal experiences of carrying out qualitative research in what contemporary scholars call the “Global South” (Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt) and the “Global North” (Australia and the United Kingdom). To convey my message clearly, I adopt the classical political geography of “South” and “North” with the intention of neither confirming these narrow categories nor of universalizing my personal experiences but in order to work towards an honest sociology of knowledge through such peculiar experiences.

In particular, I discuss what I think are some of the emerging behavioral and ethical tendencies in today’s research economy and its main methodologies. On the one hand, the reluctance in the “Southern” environments in recognizing their own tendency to embrace predominant ways of producing knowledge. On the other, the reluctance of “Northern” research entities to acknowledge their own positionality within the global scenario – that is, accepting the fact of conducting research as outsiders and, above all, the sociological harm of pretending localism. The result of these two tendencies is, from my perspective, a globalized impoverished attention to factual awareness, which depends on the personal involvement of researchers in the context they study and the cultivation of the capability to build and rebuild a continual relationship with the subjects and the places studied beyond the duration of fieldwork research.

The “Southern” tendency to perceive the practice of producing research as antithetical or substantially different to the North consistently builds on the universal romanticization of the research produced in the Global South, cutting across the North and the South. Indeed, while the research and academic institutions that I worked for in the Global South tended to believe that their fieldwork quality standards were inherently higher, the fact of being at the mercy of external – and unstable – sources of funding often endangered their existence and alternative ways of working. In these circumstances, fieldwork mostly took place in relatively small timeframes and, likewise, theories needed to be quickly wrapped up, making it difficult to identify any effective counter-culture of knowledge production. Studies on publishing locally and perishing globally have importantly highlighted the material constraints of localizing research. While “Southern” knowledge is barely known and mentioned by North-produced researchers (although it often marks significantly several fields of studies), it is also important to add that, in my own experiences across the Arab world, large segments of upper and middle classes tend to receive their postgraduate education and establish their scholarship in Northern institutions, thereby being trained according to Northern criteria while trying to preserve their reputation of being local researchers. In similar ways, Southern institutions often delegate fieldwork to research assistants who struggle to receive intellectual acknowledgment. (The same acknowledgment that many “Southern” research institutions have been looking for in the international arena, still dominated by Global North’s epistemologies and funding sources). In this regard, I have seen no co-authorships offered to research assistants, who undergo processes of alienation similar to those recently discussed in the context of the institutions of the Global North. Likewise, I have witnessed similarly exploitative relationships which seek to build knowledge upon the anonymity and the belittling of an underpaid workforce, whatever the latter’s passport is.

Despite acknowledging the partially ethnic character of some of these power dynamics – such as European academics versus local researchers in the Arab Levant, mostly when the former lack the necessary linguistic skills and in-depth knowledge of the research settings – I would like to emphasize some nuances. While the global archetype of neoliberal academia certainly does not stem from Southern institutions, largely due to colonial legacies, in my experience I have identified hierarchical and alienating structures of research-making across different cultural patterns of knowledge production.

Dauntingly, ethical research and decolonial methodologies are becoming tokenistic worldwide, turning into a further disenfranchisement of diversely vulnerable researched subjects, such as refugees. In this scenario, the Global North currently promotes itself as a pioneer advocate of ethical research – a phenomenon which has led to a proliferation of publications on the topic, rather than finally aiming for a radical transformation of research and for the uprooting of the vulnerabilities of the researched.

With no intention to bury unequal historical relationships, the intrinsic “non-ethicness” of such structural deficiencies needs to be observed across Norths and Souths. To ethnographers, if quality fieldwork means collecting relevant data, it also needs to mean collecting what matters at a local level and in an appropriate way. Contextual relevance and cultural appropriateness inevitably require generous timeframes. Doing less but long-term research and paying under-explored forms of respect to the researched may be the way to go.

Moreover, a pressing question may center on the tyranny of grants and funding, which is said to dictate the design of today’s projects. To what extent is this the cause of such an unacknowledged sociology of failure in academic research? The present tendency is to design methods that involve an extremely large number of interviews and what I would call the “participatory approach fever”. The result of a misinterpretation of what “participation” should mean is subcontracting scientific evidence to researched subjects overburdened with theoretical expectations and over-theorizations, a tendency which seldom turns out to provide sound empirical evidence. In this vein, Northern-led research not only tends to romanticize the South, which would not be new in postcolonial scholarship, but increasingly invites the South to actively participate in its own romanticization. Affected by “participatory approach fever”, many scholars in the Global North feel urged to depict their work as local, while also missing the fact that sharing their own conscious positionality vis-à-vis the researched would instead be an invaluable point of departure in the effort to avoid ethical and scientific failure. Indeed, such a self-acknowledgment would finally contribute to nuancing the multiple cultures in which research design, data collection, writing, and knowledge production are embedded – cultures that are hardly definable within the categories of “North” and “South”.

In light of these considerations, I ask myself how ethnographic studies can survive without being sociologically relevant and, at times, even culturally appropriate. Subcontracting the production of knowledge either to local researchers or to the researched themselves is certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer. Yet it looks unfeasible for many researchers across the globe to dispose of proper time and funding to conduct research over a longer timeframe and develop a localized understanding of the contexts they wish to study. I identified a similar issue when I realized that some researchers who have a poor command of the local language shy away from hiring an interpreter due to a lack of material means or because they are in an environment that frowns upon social science researchers who lack contextual skills. While peacefully sharing one’s own limits and assets would potentiate empirical analysis overall, everyone wants to be the “voice of the Global South”. Instead, no one wants to be the Global North, impeding a honest sociology of knowledge. Thus, how do we decolonize sociological and anthropological knowledge and, at the same time, the sociology of knowledge, if the drivers of epistemological coloniality, across Norths and Souths, have managed to make themselves invisible?

Categories: Africa, Arab Gulf, Asia, Australia, Bahrain, Central America, Egypt, Europe, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kurdistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Middle East, North Africa, Palestine, Play, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Siria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, United States, USA, Yemen | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toward an Alternative ‘Time of the Revolution’? Beyond State Contestation in the struggle for a new Syrian Everyday (May, 2018)

The Mabisir team has just published “Toward an Alternative ‘Time of the Revolution’? Beyond State Contestation in the Struggle for a New Syrian Everyday” on Middle East Critique:

The convoluted relationship between the state and citizens in conflict-ridden Syria often has been reduced to a binary of dissent and consent. Challenging these simplistic categorizations, this article analyzes how state mechanisms resonate in the everyday lives of Syrians since the beginning of the crisis. Drawing on ethnographic insights from Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria, this article shows how state, society and political opposition function as relational processes. Then, it identifies the limitations of contemporary strategies of everyday political contestation through the theory of Syrian intellectual ‘Omar ‘Aziz’s ‘time of the revolution.’

You can read the whole article on: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19436149.2018.1467306.

Categories: Kurdistan, Lebanon, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

La Siria sta a sud di Kobani? I media arabi reagiscono a una storia di resistenza curda

Analisi della reazione dei media arabi alla battaglia di Kobani (originariamente pubblicato su ArabMediaReport).

Dal 16 settembre scorso, è difficile che un telespettatore non sia al corrente dell’esistenza della cittadina curdo-siriana di Kobani (Ayn al-Arab in arabo) messa sotto assedio dai jihadisti dello Stato Islamico (noto in Occidente come ISIS), secondo il noto canovaccio adottato dalle piattaforme mediatiche per catalizzare l’attenzione del pubblico su un contesto a discapito degli altri: tra non molto, il destino di Kobani sarà probabilmente lo stesso delle altre città siriane sulle quali i riflettori si sono già spenti da tempo.

Il caso Kobani è stato innescato in primis dai media occidentali, che non si sono lasciati sfuggire l’occasione di ‘plasmare’ il paradigma della resistenza del mondo civilizzato (con tanto di donne combattenti) alla barbarie dell’ISIS. La copertura mediatica è stata senz’altro funzionale al successivo intervento NATO, come lo erano state, qualche mese addietro, le immagini dei curdi yazidi iracheni, costretti dai medesimi jihadisti ad asserragliarsi sul monte Sinjar.

Sempre di curdi si tratta in un contesto regionale dove i massacri di cui sono state vittime gli arabi non hanno suscitato la stessa indignazione occidentale né tantomeno sono riusciti a creare un casus belli per un intervento esterno ‘umanitario’ (si pensi al massacro perpetrato con degli armamenti chimici nei pressi di Damasco nell’agosto del 2013 o alle periodiche offensive israeliane su Gaza). La reazione dei media arabi al caso Kobani non si è fatta pertanto attendere e si è ramificata in tendenze alquanto diversificate: nel quadro geopolitico, la battaglia di Kobani è stata strumentalizzata per scagliarsi contro determinate potenze regionali, o analizzata alla luce delle sottese agende neo-colonialiste occidentali; in alcuni casi si è preferito ridurre le aspirazioni dei curdi al separatismo, in altri ci si è invece preoccupati di comprendere meglio la loro posizione nel conflitto siriano; altrove, si è cercato infine di attutire gli attriti esistenti proponendo delle storie di fratellanza arabo-curda, o si è contestata l’equazione mediatica tra ISIS e arabi, ma c’è anche chi ha optato per l’autocritica, riconoscendo ai curdi il diritto a prendere le distanze dalla ‘decadenza’ araba.

Kobani al centro degli scacchieri geopolitici

Su vari fronti, gli eventi di Kobani forniscono un’occasione d’oro per scagliarsi contro le politiche di Ankara, in un momento difficile in cui la posizione ambigua di Erdogan nei confronti dello Stato Islamico ha già incrinato i rapporti con Washington e destabilizzato il processo di pace in corso con i militanti curdi del Pkk.

Il quotidiano libanese Al-Safir, voce storica della sinistra panaraba vicina a Damasco, si affida alla penna di Mohammad Nureddin per castigare il “disorientamento (takhabbut)” delle politiche turche nei confronti della questione curda e del conflitto siriano.

Tuttavia, sono senza dubbio i media egiziani a toccare il fondo nelle invettive anti-Erdogan: alcuni tra i maggiori quotidiani e siti di informazione egiziani (tra cui Al-Shuruq e Al-Yawm al-Sabi’) dedicano infatti ampio spazio alla ‘bufala’ dei cori pro-Sisi, che sarebbero stati intonati dai curdi durante gli scontri con la polizia turca, nel corso di una manifestazione solidale con la resistenza di Kobani. Il caso nasce da un video pubblicato da un gruppo di sostenitori del presidente egiziano e dal loro fraintendimento della sigla ‘Isid‘ (Stato Islamico in turco) frettolosamente trasformata in ‘Sisi‘. A testimonianza della grossolanità in cui sono sprofondati i media egiziani in seguito all’ascesa al potere del feldmaresciallo, nessuno si è preoccupato di verificare la notizia e l’attenzione per Kobani è stata ispirata più dalla propaganda governativa che dalla reale intenzione di comprendere gli eventi in corso.

Alcune griglie di interpretazione della sinistra panaraba continuano poi a essere utilizzate per comprendere la strumentalizzazione mediatica dell’assedio di Kobani alla luce dei calcoli geopolitici dell’Occidente. Sul libanese Al-Safir si riconduce pertanto la resistenza curda alla resistenza del tessuto sociale e della conformazione geografica del territorio ai confini della Turchia moderna tracciati al tavolo degli accordi di Losanna (1923), o si discutono le nuove frammentazioni politiche ‘covate’ dalle potenze NATO, che si tratti di una “buffer zone” in Siria o di uno Stato curdo filo-occidentale.

La reale importanza strategica di Kobani e lo spauracchio dello Stato Islamico, che da mesi domina i media occidentali come una “bestia dalle capacità illimitate”, sono poi oggetto dello scetticismo di Abdullah Suleiman Ali (Al-Safir, 23 ottobre), che mette anche in guardia dall’esagerazione di media occidentali e curdi nel riportare il numero dei caduti tra le fila dei mujahidin. Si continua a propendere per la ‘cospirazione’ nascosta al grande pubblico, un piano a lungo termine di ristrutturazione del Medio Oriente di cui lo Stato Islamico continua a essere uno strumento fondamentale.

L’assenza totale di corrispondenti arabi e occidentali sul fronte dello Stato Islamico ha del resto legittimato un certo scetticismo nei confronti della copertura mediatica dell’assedio, in un campo di battaglia in cui l’unico contraltare alle fonti curde continuano a essere i video diffusi dalla formazione jihadista. Tra questi passerà sicuramente alla storia il reportage fatto realizzare all’ostaggio britannico John Cantlie il 28 ottobre, dove si sottolinea come i media si affidino ai comunicati della Casa Bianca e dei comandanti curdi, in assenza di reporter occidentali nelle aree controllate dallo Stato Islamico a Kobani. Detto ciò, è innegabile che i rapimenti e le decapitazioni dei reporter occidentali abbiano garantito allo Stato Islamico tale monopolio della copertura mediatica, il tutto a beneficio della già efficiente macchina propagandistica del ‘Califfato’.

La sproporzione tra l’attenzione mediatica e le dimensioni strategico-umanitarie dell’assedio di Kobani vengono anche criticate sui mezzi d’informazione più vicini all’opposizione siriana, seppur le conclusioni geopolitiche siano chiaramente diverse da quelle tratte dalle firme di Al-Safir.

Al-Jazeera riprende così l’ironia degli attivisti siriani e pubblica un articolo online dal titolo “La Siria si trova a Sud di Kobani?!” Si riporta quindi un’intervista rilasciata da Mohammad Amin, redattore del sito dell’opposizione Siraj Press, in cui viene ricordato come la conquista da parte dello Stato Islamico di territori ben più vasti di Kobani non abbia destato tale fermento mediatico. Le potenze occidentali mirano a estorcere denaro dalle capitali finanziarie del mondo arabo dietro il pretesto della minaccia jihadista e forse anche a distogliere l’attenzione dai massacri perpetrati dal regime siriano, secondo la lettura di Amin.

E se l’idea che Kobani abbia gettato nell’oblio i crimini di Damasco accomuna la maggioranza degli attivisti siriani, anche sul fronte opposto, quello del canale Al-Manar del partito sciita libanese Hezbollah, alleato fedele di Bashar al-Assad, si ritiene che l’assedio di Ayn al-Arab abbia favorito soprattutto gli interessi del regime baathista, che mantiene a distanza lo Stato Islamico e si prepara a raccogliere i frutti dei rapporti incrinatisi tra Ankara e Washington.

Comprendere le relazioni arabo-curde in Siria: verso una convivenza scevra da pregiudizi?

Al di là delle dinamiche geopolitiche, nei media arabi le azioni dei curdi continuano a essere talvolta inquadrate dalla lente pregiudiziale del separatismo.

Così un servizio prevalentemente equilibrato realizzato da Majid Abdul-Hadi per Al-Jazeerada Kobani viene intitolato dalla redazione qatarina “La battaglia di Kobani riporta in vita il sogno dei curdi di uno Stato che li unisca”, pur non presentando alcun’intervista a sostegno di tale tesi. Non manca poi la presa di distanza da “quella che alcuni curdi ritengono” l’oppressione storica derivata dalla condizione di etnìa priva di Stato nazione: una precisazione che non avrebbe di certo accompagnato un servizio sulle tribolazioni palestinesi.

Alcune icone di Al-Jazeera, come il conduttore del programma “La Direzione Opposta (Al-Ittijah al-Mu’akis)” Faisal al-Qasim, noto sostenitore dell’opposizione siriana, non hanno del resto mai nascosto le loro antipatie per le rivendicazioni curde. Anche la redazione della saudita Al-Arabiya, stando a quanto mi riportavano alcuni giornalisti curdi siriani che hanno avuto modo di collaborarci, non nasconde il suo scarso interesse per le aspirazioni nazionaliste quando commissiona dei servizi dalle regioni curde.

In alcuni casi, le emittenti più vicine all’opposizione siriana si sono però proposte di approfondire le posizioni dei curdi con l’intento di attenuare le tensioni con la comunità araba. In una puntata di “Seduta Libera (Jalsah Hurrah)” trasmessa dall’emiratina Alaan Tv, il conduttore si è preoccupato a buon diritto di confutare l’equazione, a volte piuttosto esplicita, tracciata da alcuni media, tra arabi e Stato Islamico, ricordando come diversi dei comandanti del ‘Califfato’ siano curdi e la maggioranza delle vittime mietute dalla formazione jihadista siano di fatto arabe.

L’equazione tra arabi e Stato Islamico è di fatti smentita dalla stessa propaganda dei seguaci di Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, se si osserva il video “La Risoluzione del Ribelle (‘Azm al-Abaat)” dedicato all’assedio di Kobani, in cui vengono enunciati i principi fondanti dell’ideologia del nemico, il Pkk, combattuto in quanto ateo, socialista, fautore della promiscuità e dedito alla fondazione di uno Stato (non islamico) curdo, ma non sulla base dell’etnia dei suoi militanti. Nel video vengono poi dati alle fiamme alcolici e sostanze stupefacenti rinvenute nelle case degli abitanti di Kobani: nell’ottica fondamentalista, i curdi sono ben accetti a patto che si sottomettano alle norme draconiane del ‘Califfato’, e di fatti Ayn al-Arab (L’Occhio degli Arabi) viene ribattezzata Ayn al-Islam, senza alcun riferimento etnico.

Detto ciò, l’assenza di un discrimine etnico-linguistico a livello ideologico sia sul fronte jihadista che su quello nazionalista curdo – lo stesso Pkk sottolinea il carattere multi-etnico della sue strutture di “autogoverno (al-idara al-dhatia)” in Siria – non significa che non esistano dei combattenti animati da pulsioni razziste, in considerazione delle numerose conversazioni avute durante il mio ultimo soggiorno siriano (Apr-Ott 2013).

Le presunte intenzioni riconciliatorie della puntata sopracitata del programma di Alaan Tvsono però tradite dall’impostazione del dibattito con gli ospiti curdi siriani in studio: si tratta di una vera e propria raffica di domande inquisitorie, ispirate dai sentimenti anti-curdi raccolti nelle ‘strade’ arabe, senza alcun accenno allo sciovinismo diffuso in alcune frange dell’opposizione araba o alla minore resistenza incontrata dalle formazioni jihadiste nelle regioni arabe in confronto a quelle curde.

D’altro canto, c’è chi preferisce analizzare la questione curda alla luce di un’autocritica della propria comunità di appartenenza, piuttosto che tentare una riconciliazione o illudersi che non ci sia alcun nesso tra le società arabe e l’ascesa dello Stato Islamico. Succede così che il giornalista di Al-Safir Rabi’ Barakat conceda ai curdi il diritto a mantenersi immuni alla “decadenza (inhitat)” e all’“ignoranza” (volutamente definita jahiliyyah, in riferimento all’era pre-islamica) degli arabi, di cui ISIS sarebbe la perfetta incarnazione.

A prescindere dalla vicinanza di Al-Jazeera ai Fratelli Musulmani, alcuni dei collaboratori dell’emittente si sono inoltre distinti per un’analisi più lucida delle circostanze che hanno apportato una nuova linfa vitale alle istanze nazionaliste dei curdi di Siria, ben prima dell’assedio di Kobani, come nel caso di un articolo del 2 aprile del giornalista siriano Imad Mufarrij Mustafa: si parla infatti di una comunità curdo-siriana in bilico tra un’identità siriana da sempre negatale da Damasco e un’identità curda rafforzata di recente dalla militarizzazione e sfruttata dai maggiori partiti nazionalisti curdi iracheni e turchi (il Pdk di Barzani e il Pkk di Ocalan).

Persino Al-Arabiya ha più volte fatto ricorso ai risvolti sentimentali di alcune storie raccolte sul fronte di Kobani per limare le spigolose relazioni arabo-curde: è il caso del serviziodedicato a Bervin, combattente delle YPJ (l’ala femminile dei militanti del Pkk siriano) che rincontra suo padre in trincea dopo una lunga separazione. Nello stesso filone si inserice un’inchiesta ripresa dall’emittente algerina Al-Khabr (KBC), dove l’inviato si reca sulle tracce di Linda Chalabi, combattente algerina nelle fila delle YPJ di Kobani, che si sente in dovere di difendere la sua seconda patria, dove si era trasferita sette anni fa al seguito del marito curdo siriano e dove “il popolo curdo non l’ha mai fatta sentire un’estranea”.

In conclusione, risulta difficile individuare un approccio omogeneo nella copertura mediatica araba degli eventi di Kobani. Le rivendicazioni curde sono senz’altro diventate oggetto di dibattito su una serie di piattaforme influenzate da svariate correnti politiche, un dato in sè positivo alla luce della reticenza del secolo scorso, soprattutto se lo si unisce alla maggiore propensione all’autocritica della comunità di appartenenza, all’accento posto sulle esperienze condivise tra le due comunità e all’analisi scevra da pregiudizi delle dinamiche socio-politiche alla radice delle istanze nazionaliste curde.

Per quanto riguarda nello specifico l’assedio di Kobani, va inoltre riconosciuto ai media arabi di essersi astenuti dalla spettacolarizzazione propria della copertura occidentale: ci si è continuati a occupare dei massacri in corso nelle altre città siriane, dove la stragrande maggioranza delle vittime non hanno la ‘fortuna’ di appartenere a una minoranza, e non si è trasformata la cittadina curda in un’icona nemmeno troppo implicitamente xenofoba della resistenza contro la barbarie arabo-islamica.

Categories: Kurdistan, media arabi, Medio Oriente, Siria | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“الدكتور تيم اندرسون المحاضر في جامعة سيدني يدافع عن نظام الاسد بحجة الفكر “المضاد للامبرالية


بقلم اندريا ليوتي


 الدكتور تيم اندرسون محاضر قديم في الاقتصاد السياسي في جامعة سيدني وهو ترأس وفداً رسمياً مكوناً من حزب «ويكيليكس» الاسترالي والجمعية المؤيدة للنظام السوري «هاندس أوف سيريا» الى دمشق حيث التقى الوفد بالرئيس السوري بشار الاسد و بعض مسؤولي حكومته في كانون الاول ديسمبر 2013.
الدكتور تيم اندرسون من اشد مؤيدي الاسد ولكن يدعي انه يدعم «الشعب السوري واستقلال تقرير مصيره على الرغم من الضغوط الامريكية-الصيهونية» وما زال ينظم محاضرات في جامعة سيدني ويتحدث امام وسائل الاعلام لتشويه حقائق الثورة السورية.
لسوء الحظ حضرت احدى من محاضراته يوم 6 اذار مارس 2014 ولدي الكثير من التحفظات على دعاية الدكتور تيم اندرسون والمفكرين الكثيرين من اليسار الغربي الذين اصطفوا مع نظام الاسد بمبرر الفكر «المضاد للامبريالية» كصحافي شاهد الوضع الميداني على الاراضي السورية واللبنانية والتركية منذ اندلاع الثورة في عام 2011.

اولاً: على الرغم من الاجندات المعروفة وراء بعض وسائل الاعلام الغربية والخليجية (وليس فقط في تغطية الشؤون السورية)، لا يمكن عدم ذكر الاسباب الرئيسية لارتباك تصوير الوضع السوري على كافة وسائل الاعلام و هي تُعزى الى المضايقات التي عانى الاعلاميون منها في سوريا. عندما كنت اعمل في سوريا في عام 2011 اضطررت الى اخفاء مهنتي ولتفادي الرقابة الحكومية على تحركاتي فاُعتقل زميلي البرازيلي بدون اي تهمة إلا عمله في الصحافة الحرة هو قضى خمسة ايام في الزنزانة المنفردة. وانا مُنعتُ كذلك شخصياً من الدخول الى سوريا في عام 2012 بسبب لقاءاتي الصحافية مع المعارضة السورية و حضوري للمظاهرات السلمية في عام 2011. بالاضافة الى ذلك، هناك عدد غير قابل للتخيُل من الصحافيين السوريين (وهم من معارفي الشخصية) الذين تعرضوا الى الاعتقالات والتعذيب والقتل من قبل الاجهزة الامنية بسبب جهودهم في تغطية الثورة.
لذلك يجب على كل منتقد تغطية الاحداث في سوريا مثل الدكتور تيم اندرسون ان يأخد بعين الاعتبار هذه التضييقات ولا ينكر حدوث المظاهرات الشعبية في الفترة الاولى والمجازر المرتكبة من قبل النظام لاحقاً. و لا تبرر «المقاومة» ضد انحياز الاعلام الغربي الغاء وقائع الحراك الشعبي و وحشية نظام الاسد المجذرة في تاريخه من خلال الاستفادة من مصادر اغلبها مؤيدة للنظام السوري (مثل قناة «روسيا اليوم» و قناة «بريس تي في» الايرانية والراهبة اغنيس مريم الصليب) و في غياب خبرة ميدانية خالية من الرقابة الحكومية داخل سوريا.

ثانياً: النظام السوري، يا دكتور اندرسون، ليس «شاملاً اجتماعياً» كما ليس متعاطفاً مع القضية الفلسطينية خارج مساحة مصالحه المضيقة. ويلفت انظار الكل وقوع قطاع شاسع من المناطق الريفية السورية تحت سيطرة المعارضة وهذا ليس صدفة ولكن نتيجة تهميش شرائح واسعة من سكان الريف على خلفية السياسات الاقتصادية النيوليبرالية لنظام بشار الاسد وكان ينتمي الكثيرون من المتظاهرين الذين التقيت بهم خلال تواجدي في دمشق و تركيا ولبنان الى هذه الطبقات المهمشة سواء الريفية أو المدنية، ناهيك عن مشاركة الاكراد في الثورة السورة التي لا يمكن فصلها عن تهميش الاكراد الاقتصادي ضمن سياسات النظام البعثي.
وعلى الرغم من الصورة النمطية عند بعض دوائر اليسار الغربي، تاريخ النظام السوري لا يتطابق مع «رواية المقاومة ضد الكيان الصهيوني» جراء تورط الحكومة البعثية في ذبح الفلسطينين في مخيم تل زعتر اللبناني في عام 1976 بتنسيق مع المليشيات المسيحية. والقى النظام السوري القبض على كل ناشط فلسطيني معارض له ويكفي ذكر باسماء سلامة كيلة، الفلسطيني الماركسي الذي الجأ الى المنفى في الاردن بعد احتجازه في عام 2012، والناشط الفلسطيني من مخيم اليرموك خالد البكراوي الذي استشهد تحت التعذيب في سجون الاسد في عام 2013. ومن جدير الذكر ان خالد البكراوي عارض دعاية النظام الاسدي في ذكرى النكسة الفلسطينية في عام 2011 عندما دفعت الحكومة شباب المخيم الى خط النار الاسرائيلي عند حدود الجولان المحتل في محاولة صرف الانتباه عن الحراك الثوري السوري. وعلى رغم من اصابته بالرصاصة الاسرائيلية في هذه «المسرحية»، لم يقتنع البكراوي بعفوية نظام الاسد في دعمه للقضية الفلسطينية. واتذكر تماماً استياء الفلسطينين الذين شاركوا في المظاهرات اللاحقة ضد «تجارة الدم الفلسطيني» في مخيم اليرموك.
ناهيك عن الحصار المستمر المفروض من قبل النظام على مخيم اليرموك و تطبيق تكتيك «الموت جوعاً اما الاستسلام» على غرار حمص والغوطة الشرقية. وبالنسبة للمصلحة الاسرائيلية، كان كلام رامي مخلوف واضحاً عند اندلاع الثورة السورية عندما قال ان الامن الاسرائيلي مرتهن ببقاء نظام الاسد ،كما اكد المقكر الفوضوي الامريكي نوام تشومسكي، وهو معروف بمعارضته للدولة الصهيونية، ان كان بامكان إسرائيل التدخل عبر الجبهة الجنوبية لو كان من مصلحتها ان تدعم المعارضة السورية وتضعف النظام المشغول على الجبهات الشمالية ولكن لم يحدث اي تدخل. وفي حقيقة الامر، عبر مسؤولو إسرائيل في عدة المرات عن تفضيلهم ل»العدو المعروف» (بشار الاسد) على «العدو المجهول» (الفصائل المتعددة من المعارضة السورية). وعلى رغم من كل هذه الادلة ما زال يصر الدكتور الندرسون على انتماء النظام السوري الى خط «ممانعة المشروع الصهيوني».

ثالثاُ: صورة النظام السوري كمناهض الاسلاميين وعمود الفكر العلماني في الشرق الاوسط صورة بعيدة عن الواقع تماماً. لو كان النظام السوري علمانياً، فلماذا يمنع الدستور المسيحيين من الحصول على رئاسة الجمهورية ولم يقُم النظام بالمجازرالطائفية بحق اهل السنة في بانياس والبيضا في ايار مايو 2013 كما لم يعتمد على مساندة الميليشيات الشيعية العراقية والايرانية واللبنانية. بالاضافة الى ذلك، ليس هناك اي دليل في تاريخ على جودة الانظمة العلمانية (مثل نظام «الارهاب» عقب الثورة الفرنسية والاتحاد السوفياتي ونظام مصطفى كمال اتاتورك) مقارنة الانظمة الدينية بما يتعلق باحترام حرية التعبير.
وحتى اذا نفترض ان الخيار العلماني افضل من الاسلاميين (وانا لا اختلف مع ذلك بشرط وجود التعددية السياسية الى جانب العلمانية)، لماذا لا يشير الدكتور اندرسون الى العلاقات السابقة بين نظام الاسد وبعض الفصائل الاسلامية المسلحة السنية بما فيها كتائب غرباء الشام التي انخرطت لاحقاً الى صفوف المعارضة السورية؟ لماذا لا يقول اندرسون كلمة وحدة حول الافراج عن اهم المعتقلين الاسلاميين بما فيه زهران علوش من جيش الاسلام في ايار مايو 2011؟ لماذا لا يتحدث عن مقرات تنظيم «داعش» المتطرف التي لم يتم استهدافها من قبل الطيران الحربي السوري الا في بعض الحالات النادرة؟ لماذا لا يذكر اندرسون ان تنظيم «داعش» الذي ارتكب باسوأ جرائم بحق الاقليات العرقية والدينية لم يعُد يقاتل الى جانب المعارضة بل ضدها ولصالح النظام؟ لماذا لا يلمح الى التقارير الكثيرة المتوفرة حول اختراق هذا التنظيم من قبل الاجهزة الامنية السورية؟ لاي سبب لا يعلم اندرسون عن احتجاجات اهالي مدينة الرقة على انتهاكات التنظيم «داعش» المسيطر عليها وعدم مناشدتهم لعودة النظام الاسدي على رغم من كل شيء؟ اذ هناك الكثير من الاسئلة غير المطروحة واهمّها التالي: من المستفيد الاول من رسم المعارضة بلون اسلامي ومتطرف بدون فروق منذ بداية الحراك الثوري وحتى عندما لم يُعرف بعد معنى كلمة «داعش» في سوريا؟

رابعاً: ينضم اندرسون الى سلسلة طويلة من الباحثين والصحافيين الغربيين الذين يلجؤون الى مفهوم حماية الاقليات والمسيحين بصورة خاصة لغايات سياسية فتستّرهذه التوجسات قابلية للعنصورية لا تستحق اي صفة اخرى وتنتج من الافتراض ان كل المسيحين مضطهدين لاسباب دينية وليس هناك اي احتمال ان يتم استهدافهم على خلفية سياسية او اقتصادية. وعلى سبيل مثال، تم اختطاف الكثير من السيريانين في مدينتي القامشلي والحسكة لاغراء ثرواتهم الجهة الخاطفة بالحصول على فدية ضخمة. بالاضافة الى ذلك، لا توجد اي خلفية تاريخية دموية تبرر هذه المخاوف من مصير المسيحين السوريين في غياب حزب البعث، كما يتناقض هذا الاعتقاد مع مبادئ «اليسار» الحقيقية بينما يتشابه مبدأ «حماية الاقليات» الذي روجتها السلطات المستعمرية الفرنسية لتبرير وجودها في سوريا. اذن واجب حماية الاقليات خدعة الجأ اليها النظام السوري و ادت الى التردد الغربي في دعم المعارضة السورية، كما قللت اهمية الغارات الجوية اليومية طالماً ان تجري في المناطق السنية مع ان اغلبية الشعب السوري من هذه الطائفة وطبعاً اغلبية الضحايا من نفس الطائفة.
واذا ننظر الى تاريخ تطور هيكال الجماعات الاسلامية، فيتميز فكر الدكتور تيم اندرسون بالاحكام المسبقة عليها: ما هو الفرق بين اصول حزب الله و المقاومة العراقية ضد الاحتلال الامريكي و بعض الفصائل من المعارضة السورية؟ ألم يشارك حزب الله في الانتخابات البرلمانية اللبنانية في عام 1992 على رغم من برنامجه الاول لتطبيق نظرية ولاية الفقيه في لبنان بعد ان اصبحت خلايا الحزب الاولى معروفةً بالتفجيرات والاختطافات خلال الحرب الاهلية ؟ ألم يتبني معظم المقاومة العراقية المدعومة من حيث المبدأ من قبل اليسار الغربي (سواء الشعية او السنية) العقيدة الاسلامية ولم يتحول بعض الفصائل منها الى احزاب مقبولة في الانتخابات العراقية مثل الصدريون؟ اذن لماذا الاسلاميون السوريون يستأهلون  صفة «الارهابيين» غير قابل للتغيير فقط و ليس هناك اي طريق للتعامل معهم الا على سبيل المجازر في حماة والجزائر؟
وبكل صراحة، ننصح للدكتور اندرسون ولكل محلل يدعي انه «مضاد للامبريالية» ولذلك يدعم النظام السوري ان يراجع المبادئ الاساسية للعقائد اليسارية وبالخصوص واجب التضامن بين الشعوب وليس بين الحكومات.

Categories: Al-Jazeera, Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dr. Tim “Asad” Anderson: the abuse of academia to spread out propaganda



Part I


My name is Andrea Glioti, I’m the journalist who intervened at Dr. Tim Anderson’s talk at Sydney UNI “Why I went to Syria” on March 6 (2014), an event promoting a blatant apology of the Syrian regime under the pretext of “counter-information”. A professor of political economy, Tim Anderson (https://www.facebook.com/timand2037?fref=ts) has been part of a delegation led by the Wikileaks Party and the Asadist activist group “Hands Off Syria”, which paid its homage to the Syrian regime during a visit of solidarity in December 2013. This is a response to some of the absurdities I heard about the Syrian conflict and, apart from the single case of Anderson, it addresses several points continuously raised by the so-called “anti-imperialist left”. It would be actually fair to rename this ideological stubbornness on Syria as a Stalinist-Soviet approach, if we were between the 1950s the 1960s, Anderson and his likes would be probably denying the Hungarian and Czech revolts ever took place. If we were in the Spanish Civil War, they would probably defend the Soviet decision to crush the anarchists. As long as a government sits in the anti-American camp (no matter the hypocrisy of Syrian foreign policies in this regard), it doesn’t really matter if it tortures leftists in its own prisons. Dr Anderson and his likes claim to hold the truth on what’s going on in Syria, this truth could be sum up in a Western-backed plot denying any sort of agency to the Syrians who took the streets in 2011. In their eyes, they’re only puppets, they would have never risen up after more 40 years of authoritarianism , they needed the Zionist-Salafi-American trust to give them a green light.
I’m an Arabic speaking Middle Eastern politics graduate, who has been covering Syria from inside the country for 10 months between 2011 and 2013 and I spent the rest of the time between Turkey and Lebanon, mainly in the border regions, where most of the Syrian refugees are located. I’ve worked with a wide range of media including “corporate” and “leftist” magazines (The New Internationalist, the German TAZ, the Swiss-German WOZ fall in the second category), being a freelancer, therefore I don’t even fit into the category of mainstream corporate media. Having said this, the sources Dr Anderson relied upon during his presentation could hardly be considered “independent” sources of information, despite his efforts to present them as such: Russia Today, in the words of Putin, reflects the views of the Kremlin, just like the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reflects the views of the pro-Syrian (regime) 8 March coalition. Among the sources quoted there was also Mother Agnès de la Croix, a Palestinian-Lebanese nun closely related to the Asad regime (http://pulsemedia.org/2012/08/21/dead-journalists-and-sister-agnes-mariam/) and the French far-right (http://vicinoriente.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/la-monaca-di-assad/). Anderson’s talk was covered by the Iranian Press TV: if the station’s anti-US biases were combined with a minimum degree of professionalism, then my intervention wouldn’t have been censored, after I raised several critical points Anderson intentionally ignored.
Notwithstanding the political biases of Western and Gulf media [the focus on Syria in contrast with how Bahrain has been overlooked and the role played by certain American media in advocating war on Iraq in 2003, despite the lack of any evidence on its chemical arsenal, just to quote two examples], the solution is not to take at face value the version of events provided by pro-Syrian regime sources to come up with a credible alternative narrative. Journalism is about verifying facts, a strong ground-driven knowledge of the context you’re talking about, a reliable network of local contacts and, ideally, some fluency in the local language (Arabic): all these aspects were totally absent in Dr Anderson’s conference.

While retaining the right to be skeptical about the Western media’s coverage of Syria, everyone should bear in mind that the main reason of the conflicting news reports coming from this country is the restrictive context journalists are forced to operate in: while based in Damascus in 2011, I had to pretend being a student to avoid being monitored 24/h by security forces, my Brazilian colleague Germano Assad has been detained in confinement for five days under the only accusation of being a journalist. I have been denied access to Syria in 2012 and told I was not welcome there anymore on the grounds of the interviews I conducted with local political dissidents. I’m sure this was the reason, because of the content of the questions posed to my colleague Assad under interrogation. This is just an idea of what you have to endure as a Western journalist, if you’re not there on an official parade organized through government press visas. It goes without saying that Syrian journalists “enjoy” a much worse treatment: one of my personal acquaintances had to leave Syria recently, after having been tortured and put on trial for “working without a license” and “spreading lies”. Let us not forget WHY it is so difficult to work in Syria and inform about the ongoing events.

Going back to Anderson’s talk, first of all, you don’t claim to show support for one “nation”, if you only sat for pastries with Asad, that’s not showing solidarity with the “Syrian people”, that’s an official delegation voicing its support for a Government.
During my stay in Syria I had the chance to walk around without any escort, both in Damascus in 2011 and in the province of Hasakah in 2013: this clearly makes the difference from an official visit to Damascus (actually, to a certain extent, it makes the difference even in comparison to some other journalists, who have only been escorted into Syria by rebel brigades). As a matter of fact, Anderson didn’t meet with anyone from the opposition, neither from the armed factions nor from the civil peaceful movements (and there are lots of peaceful activists still active in Syria… http://www.syriauntold.com/en) .

There was a lot of talk on US imperialism and Zionism: could Anderson provide any actual evidence that the US have been willing to overthrow Asad? All the red lines have been crossed (including the use of chemical weapons), three years have passed and I haven’t seen any intervention. If they really wanted, they could have done it much earlier. This picture of Asad as a staunch anti-American also stands in contradiction with the rapprochement between Washington and Damascus in 2010, marked by the appointment of ambassador Robert Ford. The position of the US on the Syrian events has been largely stumbling, due also to the fact that they didn’t receive any green light from the Israelis. Did Anderson bother to listen to Rami Makhluf- Bashar al-Asad’s cousin and one of the most influential business figures in Syria- when the revolt started in 2011? He said clearly that the Israeli security was dependent on the permanence of the Asad regime.
If you brand the Asad regime as an anti-Zionist vanguard, then you probably disregard some historical facts: no offensive was launched against Israel since the October war in 1973; Hafez al-Asad’s Syria was willing to reach a peace agreement with the Israelis in 2000, on condition of the return of the occupied Golan Heights and a renewed access to the Sea of Galilee, hence a pragmatic approach concerned about national sovereignty rather than the Palestinian cause; Palestinians were slaughtered by far-right Lebanese Christian militias in cooperation with Syrian troops in the massacre of Tel Zaatar during the Lebanese civil war; the PLO has been at odds with the Syrian regime for a long time, since the latter was not willing to jeopardize its national interests for the sake of the Palestinian cause (See what the socialists have to say about this http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2000/06/assa-j16.html). I would also suggest Anderson and his likes read more on the so-called Red Line agreement between Israel and Syria during the Lebanese civil war, a deal brokered by Kissinger to share regions of influence (http://www.merip.org/mer/mer236/syria-lebanon-brotherhood-transformed#_5_).
The Israeli officials maintained an extremely low profile position on Syria during the events and why on earth should they have pushed for the removal of Asad, if he kept the Syrian-Israeli border quiet for forty years? They look more worried about a new unknown diverse galaxy of rebel groups controlling the border, whereas they know exactly what to expect from Asad. Have a look at what Noam Chomsky had to say about the Israeli stance on Syria (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MQeGHoiPj4&feature=youtu.be Is he too part of the corporate media?): he clearly points at the fact that, if the Israelis wanted to support the opposition, they could have just opened another front on the Golan. Such a move would have weakened the Syrian army by opening a new front in the South: a much less costly option to support the armed opposition than an open scale offensive on Damascus. But nothing like this happened and Anderson still define it as a regime from the “Resistance” axis.

Until now, the Syrian regime is enforcing a devastating siege on the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, because part of its inhabitants joined the rows of the opposition. I have been collecting evidence of the first anti-regime demonstrations in Yarmuk on my blog since June 2011 (in Italian https://mabisir.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/2-blogging-five-months-of-revolution-inside-syria-5-6-june-2011-golan-to-yarmuk-palestinians-joining-the-syrian-uprising/), when Palestinian protesters were shot at for chanting against the exploitation of the Naksa day at the hands of Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC: in that case, the demonstrators voiced their indignation, after several residents of the camp were literally “thrown” in front of the Israeli rifles at the border in order to divert the attention from the Syrian uprising. Khaled Bakrawi, a Palestinian activist from Yarmuk, was killed under torture in the Syrian prisons in September 2013: he took part in the Naksa march and was outspoken about the way the Syrian regime had exploited the fervor of the Palestinian youth, despite having been himself wounded by the Israelis at the border (http://budourhassan.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/death-under-torture-in-syria-the-horrors-ignored-by-pacifists/).
I personally know several Palestinian leftist dissidents unknown to the media who had to leave Syria or ended up in its jails, but I cannot name them, as it might affect their upcoming trials or their return to Syria in the future. One of the most famous ones, Salameh Kaileh, a marxist Palestinian (http://links.org.au/node/2841), had to flee to Jordan after having been arrested and detained in 2012. Was he an Islamist too? Perhaps a Zionist?
Has Anderson ever read how the Palestinian anarchist Budour Hassan has totally debunked the claims of those who portrait Damascus as a champion of the Palestinian cause (http://budourhassan.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/analysis-the-myth-of-palestinian-neutrality-in-syria/)? What about the experience of Omar ‘Aziz, a Syrian anarchist who returned to his country upon the outbreak of the uprising to help organizing the first local revolutionary committees in Barzeh, which are considered “some of the most promising and lasting examples of non-hierarchical self organization” (http://tahriricn.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/syria-the-life-and-work-of-anarchist-omar-aziz-and-his-impact-on-self-organization-in-the-syrian-revolution/)? He died because of a heart attack in February 2013, after having been detained for three months in the Adra prison. During his talk, Anderson mentioned a visit to Adra, blaming the “radical Islamists” for the constant shelling, but I doubt he ever asked about whom is detained in the local prison, didn’t he?

A comparison with Afghanistan and its pre-Taliban empowerment of rural classes was made in the introduction and Anderson repeatedly labeled the Syrian regime a “socially inclusive” Government. This means he didn’t even bother to check the map of the areas controlled by the opposition: basically a wide portion of the countryside is in the hands of the rebels. Why? Because the uprising was more popular among the rural outcasts, namely those who have been impoverished by Bashar al-Asad’s shift towards neoliberalism and those who have been always marginalized under the Ba’th, like the Kurds living in the Northern countryside (See another Syrian socialist perspective on the “inclusiveness” of the regime’s economic policies http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article3380). Although it wouldn’t be objective to argue that the social gap in Syria was as wide as the Egyptian one, for example, the Syrian case is remote from “social inclusiveness”, it looks more like an economy controlled by a gang of affiliates and tycoons like Rami Makhluf, who are the antithesis of social justice.
Anderson depicted the uprising in Aleppo as led by religious fundamentalists, but he didn’t mention at all that a vast segment of the urban classes who sided with the regime are actually part of the Syrian bourgeoisie, epitomized by Aleppo’s traders. Did the so-called “anti-imperialist left” embrace a moral struggle to defend the urban upper classes against peasants, on the basis of the length of the beards of some of these peasants, who are homogeneously branded as “Islamists”? In July 2011, I visited a group of metalworkers in their workshop in Qadam (Southern Damascus), they were all taking part to the protests, one of them was a Syrian in his twenties with a degree in computer science he was never able to use: his father passed away and he had to seal shawarma machines to cover the expenses of his young brother living with him. This young graduate was also a hip hop singer from the group Refugees of Rap and we recorded a track together called “The Age of Silence” (Zaman as-Samt) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umQ3xGj4E2Y), which deals with the drive behind the protests. Is the “anti-imperialist left” supposed to empathize with the demands of this kind of marginalized urban youth or to side with the ruling classes?

Was the regime “socially inclusive” towards 2 to 4 million Kurds, who are mostly secular minded? Not at all. In 2013, I’ve spent five months in the province of Hasakah, a region affected by chronic poverty, despite its natural resources. The history written by the Ba’th is made up of racist Arab settlement policies confiscating wide shares of Kurdish lands in Hasakah (the so-called al-Hizam al-Arabi, the Arab Belt policy). The regime has also abided by a census conducted in 1962, who stripped off the Syrian citizenship thousands of Syrian Kurds. Even though the Kurdish regions are rich of oil, all the refineries were built in Homs and Banyas to impede the economic empowerment of rural peripheries.
During Anderson’s talk, I heard him praising “elections” and “pluralism” under the Ba’th and I confront this with the story of one of my close acquaintances in Hasakah, whose nails have been removed under torture on the grounds of its affiliation to the Yekiti Kurdi Parti. Is this the pluralism he’s talking about? Or is this pluralism about the Minister of Reconciliation Ali Haidar, the secretary general of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), that Anderson mentioned in the ridiculous attempt to provide evidence that other political forces are tolerated inside the Ba’thist government? Is Anderson aware that from 2005 until 2012, despite the dissident history of Antoun Saadeh’s party, its Damascene branch has been part of the National Progressive Front established by the Ba’th to create an umbrella of loyal parties behind the facade of pluralism? Is he aware that Ali Haidar has recently endorsed the candidacy of Bashar al-Asad for the upcoming presidential elections? I personally know some SSNP members, who quit the party, after they realized to which extent it had become involved in the recruitment of pro-government militias (shabbiha) in 2011.

As I said during my intervention at the talk, I attended several demonstrations both in Damascus and in the suburbs of the capital in 2011: I heard no sectarian slogans, saw children and women taking part to the uprising and witnessed live fire opened on demonstrators by security forces. Peaceful protesters were even beaten up in front of my eyes as soon as July 2011 in the Old City (in Italian https://mabisir.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/6-blogging-five-months-of-revolution-inside-syria-in-italiano-proteste-nel-centro-di-damasco-se-rimaniamo-fino-a-domattina-saremo-mezzo-milione-27-luglio-2011/), in the center of Damascus. My colleague Germano Assad has been prevented by government supporters from filming this demonstration, he had to escape after they started shouting at him: “This is not Syria!”. This is just an example of the state of denial some regime supporters live in, when it comes to recognizing the occurrence of peaceful protests: one of the attendants of Anderson’s talk, a Syrian who claimed to have lived in the Old City, insisted he never saw any protest in that part of Damascus. The aim is to deny protests ever took place, then to deny massacres occurred (as this was what Anderson’s conference was all about): it reminds me of the attitude of Holocaust’s deniers, or that of those Lebanese Phalangists who assert their party never slaughtered Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila. No matter the extent of evidence and accounts you gather, they will keep denying. In the end, their angle of view is identical to the one adopted by the Syrian State television: I remember very well the cameramen of al-Ikhbariyya filming the empty streets of Barzeh (Damascus) patrolled by security forces, while they were perfectly aware that a demonstration was going on a few blocks away.

I used to know personally one of the peaceful protesters who were chased by regime supporters in that occasion in the Old City: he died in 2013, after taking up weapons to fight the regime in Aleppo. Should we consider him as a terrorist as well? On which moral ground are we denying protesters the right to take up arms? One of the points raised during Anderson’s talk was that protesters were indeed armed since the beginning of the revolt. This was definitely the case in some regions, like Idlib, where demonstrators from Jisr ash-Shughur took up weapons to defend themselves as early as June 2011: I wrote about it and I criticized the way some Western media denied the presence of armed elements (http://www.majalla.com/eng/2012/04/article55230561), but I don’t understand why Syrians should be condemned for having resorted to violence against a brutal security apparatus.


Part II


The main argument used by Anderson to advocate support for the Syrian regime was the stereotypical juxtaposition between an allegedly secular government and a radical Islamist opposition. When I stressed the genuine roots of the Syrian uprising, the only answer Anderson could provide was: “Well, I don’t deny there have been mistakes committed by the police (what a nice euphemism for forty years of “mistakes”), but could you name one secular/non Islamist brigade in the opposition?” The premise of such response is that, as long as they’re Islamists, it’s perfectly fine to kill them. Islamists have been on the Middle Eastern “stage” for almost one century, they’re still there despite what happened in Hama, but Anderson (and numerous other Islamophobic “analysts”) still perceive them as a cancer implanted by Western agendas to be uprooted with violence. I wonder whether Anderson has ever argued the same about Hamas and Hezbollah on their resistance against Israel, weren’t they to be condemned on the grounds of being Islamist forces? If the West was to keep looking at Hezbollah through the lens of its original plan for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon and the abductions of foreign civilians carried out in the ’80s by the party’s first embryos, no one would have imagined to see the Shi’a militia accepting its current role in the Lebanese electoral system. The same goes for the recent prospects for US negotiations with the Talibans in Afghanistan, which were completely unforeseeable after 9-11. Then, why are we to rule out the possibility that some of the jihadist groups fighting in Syria today might change their position and accept to engage in parliamentarian politics later on?
What about the Iraqi resistance under American occupation? Has Anderson paid attention to the fact that most of the insurgents were actually jihadists and many of them are currently fighting against the Syrian regime? Are they to be considered “fallen heroes of anti-imperialists” suddenly turned into “NATO-backed mercenaries”, even though nothing changed in their ideological background?

Furthermore, Anderson made no reference whatsoever to what has been written on the ties between Damascus and a wide range of Islamist Sunni militant groups previously active in Lebanon and Iraq, now fighting on the side of the Syrian opposition, including Fatah al-Islam (http://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/214642_analysis-for-edit-syria-throws-fatah-al-islam-under-the-bus-.html) and Ghuraba’ ash-Sham (http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/radicals-are-assads-best-friends). It was also completely omitted the fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the militia responsible of the worst atrocities committed in Syria in the name of jihadism, has actually spent more time fighting other rebel factions than the regime and its headquarters are rarely targeted by air raids. There has been plenty of accusations from different political and military factions with regards to the ties between Damascus and ISIS ( https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=508278592619820&set=a.473931262721220.1073741828.473917376055942&type=1&theater, https://twitter.com/JadBantha/status/421263028978343936/photo/1, http://hawarnews.com/index.php/component/content/article/43-2013-02-24-21-16-12/7835-2013-11-13-12-04-59, http://claysbeach.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/bashar-al-jihad-is-isis-child-of-regime.html), whose rise perfectly suits the Syrian State media’s relentless efforts to portray the uprising as an Islamist one since its early phases. During my stay in Syria in 2013, I gathered local witness accounts on Ahmad Muhammad “Abu Rami”, the former Syrian military intelligence chief in Rmaylan (North-Eastern Syria), who allegedly joined the rows of the al-qa’idist Jabhat an-Nusra in November 2012. I also spoke with a former Syrian security official in Ras al-‘Ayn, who confirmed me how easily certain rebel brigades were infiltrated by figures known for their ties with the regime.
In addition to this, Anderson failed to mention how the regime granted amnesty to some of the top-leaders of the Islamist opposition back in May 2011 (including for example the Islamic Army’s Zahran ‘Allush), a few months after the outbreak of the uprising, in a move which could hardly be seen as “coincidental”, as it contributed to the sectarian drift of the revolt.

This is not meant to say that the Syrian regime and the Islamist hardliners share the same agenda and the latter ones do not aim at overthrowing the government; it also remains challenging to evaluate the truthfulness of certain reports, even when they’re built on intelligence sources, but we should bear in mind that they are often as credible as the reports putting the blame exclusively on the Gulf for the rise of radical Sunni groups. What is unquestionable, in my opinion, is the completely misleading portrait of Damascus as a champion in the struggle against Islamism in the light of its historical connections with Islamist networks.
These historical connections include the Syrian support for Hamas, Hizbullah, the Amal Movement (a group established with the explicit purpose to crush Lebanese communists), the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and several other Islamist groups. If the Syrian regime was a promoter of secularism in the region, then it should have restricted its support to secular anti-Zionist militant groups. If the Syrian regime were secular, then it shouldn’t allow Lebanese and Iraqi Shi’a militants to fight on its side against Sunnis, or did Islamism suddenly become an exclusively Sunni phenomenon? If the Syrian regime were secular, it wouldn’t have supported the ethnic “cleansing” (tathir, in the words recorded on video of one of the perpetrators, https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nownews/pro-regime-militant-speaks-of-cleansing-banias) of Sunnis in Bayda and Baniyas in May 2013. If the Syrian regime were secular, the Constitution wouldn’t prevent a Christian from becoming the president of the republic until now just like it wouldn’t state that “Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) is a fundamental source of legislation.” (http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/syria/syria_draft_constitution_2012.htm). If the Syrian regime were secular, Alawis wouldn’t dominate the intelligence branches to the extent that their coastal dialect is mocked in every single joke on the security forces.
Having said that, I honestly don’t understand the point of defending a regime on the ground of its alleged secularism, if we take a look at how history is rich of examples of authoritarian secular rule such as the Reign of Terror in post-revolutionary France, Kemalist Turkey and the Soviet Union.

Another aspect of the rise of Islamist factions in the opposition Anderson and his likes fail to grasp is where “money and guns” come from or, to put it clearly, they know where they come from, but they consider this an outcome of the Islamist ideology of all the insurgents. They seem to ignore the reality of those fighters who had to turn to an outward version of Islamism to catalyse financial and military support: this was the case of the Farouq Brigades from Homs, that quickly became the equivalent of a franchise capable of attracting Qatari funds and, for this reason, it started to attract a wide range of groups under its name (http://www.arab-reform.net/sites/default/files/empowering%20the%20democratic%20resistance.pdf). This didn’t mean there was an Islamist unified vision among all the groups gathered under the Farouq brand, whose Islamist outlook might well have been as pragmatic as the Salafi-looking beard grown by the Farouq’s young commander Abdul-Razzaq Tlass, upon his rise to fame. During Anderson’s talk, when I mentioned the Farouq Brigades as an example of a non-Islamist group, I probably failed to make clear that this was not meant to claim that they are secular, but that their Islamist facade has been pragmatically motivated rather than related to an uncompromising commitment to the establishment of an Islamic state. It is the same pragmatism which led Hezbollah to accept funds from Qatar – a State with whom the party could hardly share any political and religious identity – for the reconstruction of war-ravaged Lebanon following the Israeli aggression in 2006. It is the same pragmatism which saw Hamas, on the other hand, receiving Iranian funds, regardless of their political and religious affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
As the Syrian conflict kept growing in intensity, securing funds became a crucial factor behind the mushrooming of Islamist hardline factions, in comparison with the initial “low cost” peaceful phase almost void of sectarian drifts. In 2013, I spoke with a Syrian journalist who visited the Eastern Ghuta (Damascus) between March and April and he reported to me how Free Syrian Army soldiers had a daily limit of around 30 bullets (the figure might be higher, but the point was that their ammunition was limited), whereas the Islamic Front could count on unlimited ammunition. This obviously led to an increased number of fighters joining the ranks of the Islamist factions. In June 2013, I travelled towards al-Hul (Southern al-Hasakah) on a truck driven by a Kurdish rebel fighting on the side of ISIS and Ahrar ash-Sham: he kept joking about his beard and how he had to grow it to be accepted among jihadists, while promising to go back drinking arak as soon as the war was over. The umpteenth confirmation of how pragmatism was often a priority at the expense of the ideological drive.

As a matter of fact, there are few groups with a distinct leftist stance within the rows of the opposition: one of these exceptions are the recently formed Factions of the People’s Liberation (Fasa’il Taharrur ash-Sha’b https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sR5wcCzLyzo), set up in Duma in March 2014. These groups saw the light in the explicit attempt to counter both the regime and the most obscurantist forces of the opposition, but their capabilities are clearly limited due to lack of funds.
Anderson thinks he can wave the banner of anti-imperialism from the pulpit of his lectures in Australia, but he doesn’t seem to care about the fate of those real Syrian anti-imperialists, who are perishing on the ground without receiving a single cent from the Gulf monarchies. It would have been enough to use the funds wasted on the Wikileaks delegation’s trip to Damascus to relief the budget of the Factions of the People’s Liberation, if the aim was to support popular resistance, but Anderson’s farce is more about “copy pasting” Hugo Chavez’s quotes on Asad to feel the revolutionary vibes on Facebook.

Another paradox of Anderson’s unconditional support for secularism against Islamism is that he resorts to the good-for-all-purposes scaremonger of Christian persecutions to back the Asad regime, so that when I mentioned the Farouq Brigades, I got reminded the way “they expelled Christians from their neighbourhoods in Homs”. First of all, to argue that Christians were evicted on the basis of their faith and not as a result of the conflict is an assumption even contested by Catholic sources (www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=13804). Secondly, Anderson and other “minorities-obsessed” scholars take for granted that Christians are always persecuted because of their religion, while dismissing the possibility for some of them to have been targeted as collaborators of the regime or because of their affluence (for example, the wealth of some urbanized Syriacs was behind their kidnappings in Hasakah and Qamishli in 2013): the implicit premise to this discourse is that Christians are all innocent, they never took sides (not a single word is spent on the loyalist stance of most Syrian clerical institutions throughout the uprising) and they are suddenly in need of Western assistance to escape Islamic zealots. When the idea that Middle Eastern Christians are in need of protection was part of the French Mandate’s search for legitimacy, it was despised by “anti-imperialists” as colonialist propaganda, whereas now it is at the core of the concerns they happen to share with pro-Asad Western fascist and Catholic circles (with whom they also share sources like Mother Agnès de la Croix). As the French scholar Thomas Pierret wrote on his Facebook page, after the hypocritical indignation aroused by the displacement of Armenians from Kassab at the hands of Syrian rebels among the same people who turn a blind eye on the regime’s daily use of barrel bombs on the neighbourhoods of Aleppo controlled by the opposition, “whoever cares more for an Armenian from Kassab than for a Sunni from eastern Aleppo is a racist”.

During his visit to Syria, Anderson claims he had the chance to witness the coexistence between Christians and Muslims under the shelter of the regime, thus envisaging a future of religious persecutions, if the opposition will ever take over the country. First of all, this is a distortion of Syrian history, where there is absolutely nothing proving a higher rate of anti-Christian violence before the Ba’thist coup in 1963. Anderson went on specifying that most of the rebels are actually foreigners, an allegation common among Asadists returning from government-sponsored tours of Syria, where they never met with one single opposition fighter, just like Anderson did. I personally met with combatants from a wide range of anti-government factions in Lebanon, Turkey and Syria, and the overwhelming majority of them were Syrians, including the hardliners from Ahrar ash-Sham , Ghuraba’ ash-Sham and Ansar ash-Shari’a. Most foreigners fight within the rows of ISIS and they advocate a brutal form of Islamic autocracy Syrians are unfamiliar with: when the militants of this group vandalized a church in Raqqa, its Syrian residents took the streets to protest against religious intolerance, but they didn’t certainly call for the return of the regime. Of course, all of this was not mentioned in Anderson’s talk, where the message needed to remain “foreign Islamists make up most of the opposition and they pose a threat to the Ba’thist religious tolerance.” This was actually the same message conveyed by a Syrian woman who stood up to intervene during Anderson’s talk, when she accused the opposition of organizing protests from inside the mosques, thus suggesting the movement was already an Islamist one since its outbreak. As usual, it went completely ignored the fact that mosques were used by all protesters, regardless of their political and religious beliefs, because of the ban on unauthorized public gatherings. Over these years I spent covering the Syrian uprising, I never met someone who obtained a government license to organize a rally against the regime.

During the conference, there was also room for some racist remarks on the Bedouin roots of the Gulf sponsors of the opposition, as Anderson reported, laughing at the comments of a Syrian government official on their status of camel riders/shepherds (I cannot recall the exact words, but it was definitely a stereotypical racist joke on Arab Gulf tribes). As if it wasn’t enough to resort to Islamophobia under the guise of secularism and religious tolerance, Anderson turned to blanketing the (Sunni) Arab tribes as a bunch of rural barbarians, probably ignoring the fact that millions of Syrians are clan members with kinship links in Gulf countries.

Lastly, Anderson attempted to prove Syria never witnessed an uprising by asserting that “no revolution has ever targeted schools and hospitals and prevented kids from education.” Such assertion implies the absurd claim that the government forces have never targeted schools and hospitals. In addition to this, Anderson ignores all the initiatives launched in opposition-held areas to support education, civil society and local projects, despite the continuous bloodshed (http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/04/education-aleppo-syria-war.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=23ea4fcada-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-23ea4fcada-93102377). In 2013, I visited several times the city of Ras al-Ayn (North-Eastern Syria), when it was still under joint Arab-Kurdish control without any presence of the regime: no one told me of kids prevented from going to school and the hospitals and the small clinics were actually struggling to function, thanks to the voluntary efforts of the doctors affiliated to the rebel militias. Unfortunately, most of these armed groups were prioritizing the arms trade over the availability of medicines and I wrote about this issue (https://mabisir.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/free-syrian-army-neglects-health-sector-in-ras-al-ayn-sere-kanye/), but I was also aware that the same hospitals could not be used to heal wounded protesters when they were controlled by the regime. The reality is much more complicated, if you verify it on the ground, but what you get from Anderson is just that the rebels are medieval bogeymen targeting schools and hospitals.

In conclusion, if some of you had the patience to read through all of this, my personal advice is to remain sceptic of those scholars who abuse their academic positions to spread out ideological propaganda on issues they are completely unfamiliar with. If I happen to spend two weeks during a phase of political turmoil in Cuba, a country Anderson is probably more knowledgeable than me about on the basis of his experience, I would remain aware of my ignorance on Cuba and wary about claiming to hold the truth on the unfolding events. I would expect Anderson and his likes to do the same. Thanks.

I also welcome every Syrian who lived through the uprising to express his/her indignation at Anderson’s denial of his/her efforts to depose the current regime.

Categories: Arab Gulf, Israel, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Kurdish YPG recruiting Arab loyalists to fight jihadists in Syria

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) has reportedly established Arab brigades made up of regime loyalists…

In the original draft of the below mentioned article there was also this passage which is still worth of interest: 

“Politically, the space given to Arabs is criticized by the PYD’s Kurdish rivals as a mere facade concocted by the regime. “The representation of Arabs in the new government remains a ‘decor’ featured by figures like [the head of the agricultural committee] Saleh al-Zuba’i, who was the secretary of the Hasakah’s branch of the Movement of Arab Socialists, a member of the regime-backed National Progressive Front,” member of the political bureau of the Barzani-backed Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (PDKS), Muhammad Isma’il, told Al-Monitor in a Skype interview from Qamishli”

Another prominent pro-regime figure which has been coopted by the PYD is Shaykh Humaydi Daham al-Jarba, who is now the president of the al-Jazirah canton in the government of Rojava (he is known for leading the Jaysh al-Karama, a pro-government Arab militia, and recognizing Bashar al-Asad as the only legitimate Syrian president in spite of the establishment of Rojava). 

(in the photo: Hawas Jammo and Osama Jasim al-Karot, two well-known pro-regime Arabs who joined the YPG in Ras al-‘Ayn)

Syrian Kurds recruit regime loyalists to fight jihadists

two Arab shabbiha join YPG source kurdistanabinxete

According to local Arab and Kurdish sources, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has been enlisting Arab loyalists in its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in a bid to boost its credibility among Arabs and join efforts with the Syrian regime on the battleground against the opposition. This military strategy was reportedly accompanied by some intense consultations held in Qamishli between the regime and its Arab allies immediately before the formation of the PYD-led autonomous government on Jan. 21.

On Nov. 2, Rihab News reported that the Arab Brigade of the Free Patriots joined the YPG in Ras al-Ain, northwest of Hassakeh. The brigade’s commander Hawas Jammo and another of its fighters, Osama Jasim al-Karot, are known to be regime collaborators who attacked anti-regime demonstrators in 2012, according to the Rihab News report and local Kurdish activists and journalists who spoke with Al-Monitor.


Errata corrige (29/04/2018): The text is now available here http://www.mesop.de/syrian-kurds-recruit-regime-loyalists-to-fight-jihadists/ as Al-Monitor’s archives are undergoing a reconstruction. I’ve asked today to amend the following passage.

“A pro-YPG Kurdish activist from Ras al-Ain, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor via phone that it is possible that “there was not enough popular support for the regime to set up an NDA branch in Ras al-Ain, [so] it chose a limited option under the banner of the YPG.”

I don’t think it’s completely accurate to refer to this source as “pro-YPG”. He was in favor of the YPG presence in Ras al-Ayn, against the presence of most Arab Islamist opposition factions there, but he was also actively involved with the Azadi party (part of the anti-PYD bloc, which was closer to Barzani). Probably more accurate to describe him as a Kurdish activist only.

Categories: Kurdistan, Syria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kurdish to be taught in Syria

The Syrian regime has offered another carrot to the Kurdish minority: the Kurdish language as a university course…

(In the photo: a recently opened center for the learning of Kurmanji in Amuda)

Syrian government introduces Kurdish in universities


The Kurdish regions of Syria are increasingly isolated from the rest of the war-ravaged country. While the regime keeps shelling strongholds of the mostly Arab rebels, it allowed the Kurds to form a transitional autonomous administration in November 2013. After more than 50 years of Baathist discrimination, the Kurds achieved what was completely inconceivable a year ago: the introduction of their language in state-run universities, announced Dec. 18. In November 2012, the Ministry of Education had ordered the temporary closure of all schools where the Kurdish language had been introduced upon an initiative of the Kurdish parties in the northeastern province of Hasakah.

Kurdish instruction in Syria is still an imperfect practice, limited to universities and using the Arabic alphabet, while Syrian Kurds use Latin letters. It is also widely perceived as a tactical move to win the support of the Kurds and the international community ahead of the Geneva II conference. Nonetheless, this academic reform is a positive indication of the capability of the Kurds to reverse the hostility of the regime toward their cultural and political demands. Kurdish nationalist aspirations have been omnipresent throughout the uprising, and the Kurdish public has largely come to accept an entente with the government for the sake of Kurdish interests.


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I media dell’opposizione siriana tra vecchie e nuove conoscenze

Un’analisi che scrissi per Arab Media Report sul panorama mediatico dell’opposizione siriana…(ai tempi (inizi 2014) Orient TV mi sembrava un’esperimento mediatico interessante scevro da derive confessionali…oggi è diventato un bollettino di propaganda jihadista sunnita)

(Photo: Syrian opposition’s radio. Source: Al Jazeera)

La sfida dei media dell’opposizione siriana

syrian opp radio

Dall’inizio della rivoluzione nel marzo del 2011, la Siria è stata testimone di una fioritura senza precedenti di media collegati all’opposizione. A prescindere dalla nascita di numerose testate, il mezzo di comunicazione più popolare all’interno del paese continua a essere la televisione, anche perché le parabole satellitari rimangono disponibili a buon mercato per tutti, compresi gli analfabeti. Le emittenti televisive – satellitari e basate all’estero, rimanendo un miraggio la concessione di licenze governative – sono inoltre in grado di raggiungere la diaspora siriana e gli oltre 2 milioni di profughi rifugiatisi nei Paesi confinanti

Si tratta ancora di uno scenario embrionale, composto da alcune realtà giovani, che hanno appena superato il rodaggio dei loro programmi. Ciononostante, è possibile iniziare a valutarne le aspirazioni, soprattutto per quanto riguarda la capacità di presentarsi come antitesi costruttiva della propaganda di regime. Dall’analisi del contenuto dei palinsesti emerge un alternarsi di approcci più o meno etici all’informazione: in alcuni casi si lascia spazio all’autocritica nei confronti dell’opposizione stessa e si promuove un’identità siriana multiconfessionale e multietnica, in altri, si sostiene ogni forma di opposizione, anche quelle più fondamentaliste. Si tratta di pregi e limiti fondamentali per qualsiasi piattaforma ambisca a confermarsi come mezzo d’informazione contrapposto a un sistema, che ha imposto per mezzo secolo un consenso assoluto, strumentalizzando le divisioni etnico-confessionali al servizio dei propri interessi.

Canali dei disertori

Tra i pochi canali satellitari vicini all’opposizione fondati prima dello scoppio della rivoluzione, ve ne sono alcuni la cui credibilità è pressoché nulla, facendo capo ad alcune figure di primo rilievo del regime, passate sul fronte opposto solo dopo essere state marginalizzate dagli Asad. È il caso di Barada TV, fondata a Londra nel 2009 e di proprietà di Abdul-Halim Khaddam, l’ex-vice presidente siriano divenuto dissidente solamente nel 2005, dopo 35 anni ai vertici.

Lo stesso discorso vale per Arab News Network (A.N.N.), emittente antecedente all’insurrezione, controllata da Rifaat al-Asad, lo zio dell’attuale presidente siriano, allontanato dal potere per volere del fratello Hafez nel 1984, dopo essere stato tra i principali artefici del massacro di Hama (1982). Seppur ricevano periodicamente l’attenzione dei media, questi due “disertori” di lusso non godono di alcun sostegno in patria, ad eccezione di una cerchia ristretta di fedelissimi.

Nonostante sia animata da intenti più genuini delle due emittenti sopracitate, pesa sulla reputazione della neonata 18 Adhar (il cui nome deriva dalla data di fondazione, il 18 marzo 2013) il fatto che la direttrice dell’emittente sia Samira al-Musalima, ex-caporedattrice del quotidiano governativo Tishreen, attualmente membro della maggiore coalizione dell’opposizione (la Coalizione Nazionale Siriana delle Forze dell’Opposizione e della Rivoluzione, Cnsfor) [1]. A prescindere dalle ambizioni della direttrice, i documentari trasmessi dal canale sono stati realizzati da una troupe di giornalisti animati dal loro supporto per la causa rivoluzionaria, che lavorano su base volontaria, per via delle ristrettezze economiche.

Islamisti e laici

Considerata l’ideologia politica delle principali linfe di sostegno finanziario della leadership politica dell’opposizione siriana, ovvero le monarchie del Golfo e la Turchia di Erdogan, non mancano i canali riconducibili all’islamismo politico più o meno moderato. L’ala più radicale è quella di Shaykh ‘Adnan al-’Ar’ur, predicatore salafita originario di Hama e basato in Arabia Saudita, i cui pulpiti mediatici sono le emittenti saudite Wisal, al-Safa e il canale creato ad hoc per la Siria, Shada al-Hurria (Il Canto di libertà). Il contenuto dei sermoni di al-’Ar’ur è sempre stato anti-sciita e in linea con la deriva confessionale di parte dell’opposizione siriana[2].

A “sinistra” di ‘Ar’ur troviamo le emittenti di orientamento islamico moderato: Suria al-Shaab(La Siria del popolo) e Suria al-Ghad (La Siria del domani). Il primo canale, vicino ai Fratelli Musulmani e basato ad Amman, è stato inaugurato a margine della “Conferenza degli Ulema Musulmani in Supporto del Popolo Siriano”, tenutasi a Istanbul nel luglio del 2011 [3]. Il secondo, basato in Egitto, è nato nel 2012 come canale dedicato alla Siria appartenente all’emittente “madre” Al-Ghad, finanziata da imprenditori egiziani e del Golfo [4].

La prima della lista per professionalità e seguito è però sicuramente Orient TV. Di orientamento laico, fondata nel 2009 da Ghassan ‘Abboud, un imprenditore siriano che afferma di essere stato costretto a trasferire gli uffici da Damasco a Dubai pochi mesi dopo l’apertura, per aver rifiutato la partecipazione del cugino di Bashar al-Asad, Rami Makhluf, come azionista all’interno del canale.

L’occhio critico riservato all’opposizione politica e militare

Orient ha dimostrato di saper mantenere le distanze dalle sfere politico-militari dell’opposizione, dedicando spazio a inchieste sulla corruzione diffusasi all’interno della Cnsfor [5] e condannando le frange più radicali dei ribelli, colpevoli di aver tradito la causa rivoluzionaria. Per quanto riguarda in particolare lo Stato Islamico dell’Iraq e della Siria (Siis, anche conosciuta nella sua sigla inglese come Isis), la formazione al-qaidista nata in Iraq, l’emittente di ‘Abboud la distingue nettamente da tutte le altre brigate islamiche: in questoservizio del 14 settembre 2013, il reporter Mohammad al-Dughaim sottolinea come il comportamento del Siis, resosi protagonista di rapimenti ed esecuzioni di attivisti, giornalisti e operatori umanitari, rifletta l’oppressione della libertà caratteristica del regime. Il Siis è condannato anche dai servizi di Suria al-Ghad: una scelta che marca le distanze tra i canali dell’opposizione e l’approccio monolitico delle emittenti governative nei confronti dei ribelli armati, qualificati indistintamente come terroristi.

Risulta invece più tollerante il quadro che Orient e Al-Ghad dipingono di Jabhat al-Nusra (Il Fronte del supporto), l’altra principale formazione al-qa’idista siriana. In questo servizio del 16 dicembre 2012, in seguito all’inclusione di Jabhat al-Nusra nella lista delle organizzazioni terroristiche redatta dal governo americano, Orient sottolinea la base di sostegno popolare di cui gode il gruppo armato in Siria, a dispetto della “sentenza” statunitense. Su Al-Ghad, nel corso dell’episodio dell’11 ottobre 2012 di Suria al-Yawm (Siria oggi), risulta ben più esplicitala “filippica” del conduttore Mousa al-’Omar contro i detrattori di Jabhat al-Nusra, a dimostrazione delle simpatie islamiche dell’emittente: la tesi sostenuta con convinzione è che il fatto che i miliziani di Jabhat al-Nusra combattano il regime senza esclusione di colpi sarebbe una garanzia sulla sua autenticità come forza dell’opposizione, a prescindere dalla visione politica sul dopo Asad. Stando alle parole del presentatore, il conflitto che contrappone Jabhat al-Nusra alle truppe governative sarebbe inoltre una prova dell’impermeabilità dell’organizzazione alle infiltrazioni del regime, a dispetto delle relazioni intessute da Damasco con i gruppi al-qaidisti fin dai tempi dall’occupazione statunitense in Iraq. Jabhat al-Nusra non ha inoltre mai annunciato alcun sostegno per gli ideali rivoluzionari, al punto da non esibire la bandiera simbolo dell’insurrezione. In questo caso, la scelta editoriale di Al-Ghad rientra nella sfera della partigianeria ideologizzata, piuttosto che in quella dell’obiettività giornalistica.

Minoranze etniche e confessionali

Un’altra cartina tornasole della credibilità dei media dell’opposizione come alternativa alla propaganda governativa è il loro atteggiamento nei confronti delle minoranze etnico-confessionali: riusciranno questi canali a voltare la pagina del totalitarismo culturale panarabo baathista e promuovere un approccio maturo al pluralismo confessionale della Siria, senza istigare rappresaglie nei confronti di quelle minoranze strumentalizzate in difesa degli interessi del regime (in primis gli alauiti, la setta sciita di appartenenza della famiglia Asad)?

A questo proposito, va sottolineata la scelta di Orient e Suria al-Shaab di concedere spazio al kurmanji, il dialetto parlato dalla comunità curda siriana. Orient, in particolare, è stata la prima emittente del mondo arabo a inaugurare un notiziario quotidiano in kurmanji. A tutt’oggi, non esistono programmi in lingua curda trasmessi dalle emittenti statali e filo-governative, a conferma della repressione dei diritti fondamentali di questo popolo, attuata dal partito Baath negli ultimi 50 anni.

All’interno di Orient, convivono diverse posizioni sulla questione curda, senza che l’emittente sia stata trasformata in una piattaforma d’intolleranza. Nel corso della puntata del 19 gennaio 2013 del programma Qadia al-Mashreq (La questione del Levante), dedicata agli scontri di Ras al-’Ayn tra arabi e curdi, il conduttore prende chiaramente le parti di Shaykh Nawaf Bashir, leader del clan arabo al-Baggara e principale promotore dell’irruzione dei ribelli arabi (l’Esercito Siriano Libero, Esl) nelle regioni a maggioranza curda: Nawaf Khalil, il portavoce del Partito dell’Unione Democratica (Pyd), la frangia siriana del Partito dei Lavoratori del Kurdistan (Pkk) attivo in Turchia, viene infatti zittito dopo poche parole e la replica di Bashir viene definita “bella, più diplomatica”. Al contrario, il proprietario di Orient Ghassan ‘Abboud ha suscitato scalpore esprimendo il suo supporto per l’autonomia curdo-siriana in un post pubblicato sulla sua pagina di Facebook il 16 settembre 2013.

Decisamente più schierata la posizione di al-Ghad, come emerge da questo servizio di Ahmad Abdul-Majid del 16 novembre 2013, dedicato alla creazione del governo autonomo curdo-siriano di transizione: il focus è interamente sulle reazioni negative della comunità internazionale, senza menzionare le cause interne e l’incapacità dell’opposizione araba di rappresentare le istanze curde. Abdul-Majid conclude augurandosi che il Pyd- principale promotore dell’autonomia- anteponga “l’interesse pubblico a quello partitico”, ignorando le radici dell’attuale popolarità del programma del partito tra i curdi.

Per quanto concerne invece gli alauiti, pur evitando il tono incendiario di al-’Ar’ur, i riferimenti anti-sciiti di Al-Ghad sono altrettanto intollerabili. Si pensi per esempio alla puntata dell’8 dicembre 2013 del programma “Ta’rikh Suria ma’ Tamam” (La storia della Siria con Tamam), condotto dallo scrittore siriano Tamam Barazi, dove quest’ultimo ricostruisce la storia del Medio Oriente tessendo le lodi della resistenza anti-sionista di Saddam Hussein, eroe del panarabismo sunnita, al confronto della propaganda anti-sionista dell’Iran, definito “dawlah al-rafidah” (“lo Stato dei disertori”, di coloro che non accettano la Sunna (tradizione), secondo la terminologia più cara all’apologetica sunnita.

Più bilanciata Suria al-Shaab che, nel corso della copertura speciale delle elezioni iraniane del giugno 2013, decide di ascoltare l’opinione equilibrata e competente dell’analista Mustafa Fahs, il quale fornisce un quadro ottimista dell’imminente vittoria del presidente riformista Hassan Rouhani.

Non vi è però ombra di dubbio che la produzione televisiva che meglio rispecchia i valori originariamente aconfessionali della rivoluzione sia quella di Orient, esemplificata dal documentario Min Qatala Husayn (Aprile 2013) (“Chi ha ucciso Hussein”, con riferimento al martire sciita per eccellenza Husayn Ibn ‘Ali). Il progetto approfondisce le ottime relazioni esistenti prima dello scoppio della rivoluzione tra il villaggio sunnita di Binnish e quello sciita di al-Fu’a, nella provincia di Idlib: ciò che emerge è come l’incrinatura dei rapporti sia stata causata non da attriti confessionali, ma dalla scelta del regime di armare e istigare gli abitanti di al-Fu’a contro quelli di Binnish. Il primo e ultimo responsabile della divisione intercomunitaria viene identificato nelle istituzioni, senza cedere alla tentazione di creare facili capri espiatori su base religiosa.

In conclusione, il panorama è ancora quello transitorio di un paese dilaniato da un conflitto, come si deduce dai palinsesti dominati dagli eventi in corso a scapito dell’intrattenimento, ma esiste almeno una realtà promettente, votata al pluralismo politico, etnico e confessionale:Orient TV sembra infatti in grado di presentarsi come modello di rinascita etico-professionale dei media siriani e non come megafono di un’opposizione a maggioranza araba e sunnita.


[1] Sulla polemica generata dall’assegnazione della direzione di 18 Adhar a Samira al-Musalima si veda http://goo.gl/c2pJfS

[2] Per un’idea della retorica confessionale adoperata da al-’Ar’ur, si veda “Al-Shaykh al-‘Ar’ur yuwajjihu al-risalah al-akhirah lit-ta’ifah al-‘alawiyyah (“Shaykh ‘Ar’ur invia l’ultimo messaggio diretto alla setta alauita”), caricato 12 marzo 2012.

[3] Riguardo al lancio del canale si veda http://goo.gl/H6tPWj

[4] Sul lancio di Al-Ghad si veda http://goo.gl/QEXAoN

[5] Si veda questo episodio del programma Huna Suria (Qui Siria) del 10 ottobre 2013.

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Syrian Kurdish creative resistance in times of war

Syrian artists in the mainly Kurdish northeast are indulging in their newfound freedom to explore their art without regime restrictions. (In the photo: artist Amr Ferso poses next to his works in Amuda)

Syrian Artists Remain Creative on Margins of War


AMUDA, Syria — Living in Syria is not only about survival. For many Syrian artists, it means keeping creativity alive despite hardships and exploiting unprecedented freedom of expression. According to some artists, the revolution should not be limited to the removal of censorship, but by raising awareness on the most rooted social habits and taboos. Nevertheless, for the time being, most artists who wish to remain in Syria lack any form of institutional and economic support.

Walking around the streets of Amuda — 80 km (50 miles) from the front line between jihadists and Kurdish militias in Ras al-Ain — what goes hardly unnoticed is the large proportion of polyhedral artists, devoting their free time to a wide range of activities. It is common to meet a shopkeeper who is eager to read one of his poems or invite you to listen to him play the tambur (a Kurdish string instrument). This is partly because of the lack of specialization, but it is also the symptom of a thriving cultural scene. “Pablo Picasso used to say, ‘We are all born artists, but what’s important is how we preserve this art,'” Rishan Ali Yusef, a sculptor, told Al-Monitor. His day job is cutting marble plates in a factory.


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