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“My father was bleeding from his heart” – the 14-year-old Aram Tomasyan’s tragic story

2 Jul

“My father was bleeding from his heart” – the 14-year-old Aram Tomasyan’s tragic story

Agop Tomasyon, an Armenian from Kobane close to the Turkish border, who fled his hometown for Turkey around nine months ago when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched an attack, said the last eight Armenian families had left Syria for good and would not return.

“There were only eight families left before the ISIL attack [in October 2014]. All of these families left Kobane after the attack,” said Tomasyon.

Syrian Kurdish forces expelled ISIL fighters from Kobane on June 27 and retook full control after three days under siege, after a group of ISIL militants stormed into the border town. ISIL had also failed to capture Kobane at the start of 2015 after four months of deadly clashes.

Three Armenian families are currently living at the Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) refugee camp in the Suruç district of Sanliurfa province.

Tomasyan, who belongs to one of the three families in the Suruç refugee camp, said they had to leave their hometown after ISIL’s attack because they knew that the jihadists would kill them once they learned that they were Christians.

“We understood that it was time for us to go. We decided to come to Turkey after a discussion between the last Armenians left. Eventually we came to Suruç,” he said. From Suruç, the eight families had spread to various other places.

“One family settled in Sanliurfa, another in Hatay, and another in Aleppo. Two of the families who had passports went to Armenia. The remaining three families were placed in refugee camps in Suruç,” Tomasyan said.

He added that they had at one point decided to return to Kobane but changed their minds after his brother was killed by jihadists in front of his son’s eyes during ISIL’s latest attack.

“Before the recent ISIL assault, my brother wanted to return to Kobane to see how his house and store was. He took his 14-year-old son with him, but later he was killed by ISIL in front of his son,” Tomasyan said.

“Kobane is not our homeland anymore.”

The 14-year-old Aram Tomasyan, who is Agop Tomasyan’s nephew, said four ISIL members wearing uniforms of the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) had shot his father on the morning of June 24.

“My father was bleeding from his heart when he fell on the ground. Despite this he still raised his hand and said, ‘Son, run, they are ISIL.’ I ran. If I hadn’t run, I would have been shot too,” the boy said.

The elder Tomasyon said the ancestral roots of Kobane’s Armenians could be traced back to Southern and Central Anatolia, but his ancestors were exiled during the massacre and deportation of Ottoman Armenians in 1915-16. They fled to Kobane and settled there to start a new life.

“We had said that we would never leave Kobane, no matter what,” said Tomasyan, adding that they had two churches in the town and lived in harmony with everyone around them.

During the YPG’s battles against ISIL last year over Kobane, tens of people died in street unrest launched in a number of Turkish cities on Oct. 6 and 7, 2014, amid calls from Turkish Kurds for Ankara to do more to prevent the town from falling to ISIL.

1/7/2015

Original source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/last-armenian-families-from-kobane-fleeing-syria-do-not-intend-to-return-.aspx?PageID=238&NID=84776&NewsCatID=341

Meet Salim. He’ll tell you what it means to be a Syrian-Palestinian refugee (By Aya Chebbi)

21 Jun

Meet Salim. He’ll tell you what it means to be a Syrian-Palestinian refugee
Tunisian blogger Aya Chebbi has caught up with Salim Salamah, a Syrian refugee who found safety in the nordic welfare state of Sweden. As spokesman of the Human Rights Palestinian League, Salim speaks with Aya about life as a Syrian-Palestinian refugee, and why he is still searching for an identity.
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More than 2.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave their country so far. The vast majority of them remaining in neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They are often living in dire conditions because countries like Lebanon and Jordan are already under extreme economic and political strain. A few others sought refuge in Europe. However, Europe has only granted asylum to 89,000 people. Though Europe is failing refugees from Syria , Sweden is one of the few European countries to offer permanent residence to Syrians arriving at its borders.

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Secularism: A Solution for Syria (By Kevork Elmassian)

18 Apr

Secularism: A Solution for Syria

The war in/on Syria brought back the question of the Syrian identity and the role of religion in the political future. During the era of the Ottoman Empire, Syria was geographically divided into sectarian, tribal and ethnic bases. However, the Syrian elites agreed in the Syrian Congress in 1916 to unify the Syrian spectrum and reinforce the national identity, despite the fact that the French Mandate did actually divide Syria according to ethnic and sectarian basis (1).

After 68 years to the independence, the three years old conflict has brought back the ghost of the past. In general, Sectarianism has experienced a boost in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring,” following the fall of old regimes, ideological rifts has been provoked between Islamists and secularists, and between conservatives and liberals, as well as by religious divisions between Sunnis and Shias, Muslims and Christians. There is a regional strategic dimension to the growth of sectarian strife between the Shias and Sunnis in the MENA region. Naturally, the “Arab Spring” opened new opportunities of regional influence, thus tensions between Iran and the Gulf countries mounted. Syria has become an area for regional struggle of power, sectarian in its shape, but purely political in its content (2).

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Rojava and Kurdish Political Parties in Syria (By Nader Atassi)

3 Mar

Rojava and Kurdish Political Parties in Syria

The Syrian uprising has presented Syrian Kurds with an opportunity to assert self-determination in a variety of ways, despite divisions within the community. Some Kurdish political parties have been able to exploit the evolving nature of the crisis and reap considerable gains. Despite many obstacles and much suffering, they have been able to achieve de facto autonomy in much of the territories where they comprise a majority of the population. Historically hostile to the Ba‘thist regime, yet lukewarm about the current Syrian opposition, attempts to decipher “which side” the Kurds are on in Syria are not productive, for the political realities do not lend themselves to blanket claims.

What exactly is happening in the Kurdish-majority areas of Syria—or what the Kurds refer to as “Rojava,” short for “Western Kurdistan”—and what role are Syria’s Kurds playing in the current civil war? In this essay I will begin to provide some provisional answers.

[Kurdish female members of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) stand guard at a check point near the northeastern city of Qamishli, Syria.]

[Kurdish female members of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) stand guard at a check point near the northeastern city of Qamishli, Syria.]

Background

Syrian Kurds are mostly concentrated in the province of al-Hasake, where the cities of Qamishli and al-Hasake constitute the major urban centers. They also form a majority of the population in other cities and villages in al-Raqqa province (the village of Tal Abyad) and Aleppo province (notably the district of Ayn al-Arab, or Kobanê in Kurdish, and the district of Afrin). Although these territories are not contiguous, together they make up what is referred to as “Rojava.”

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The War in Syria: Manifestation of Regional and Global Transformations (By Madeleine Mezagopian)

22 Jan

The War in Syria: Manifestation of Regional and Global Transformations

 

To detect the regional and global implications of the more than two years of violent developments in Syria warrants an accurate definition of these developments. Borrowing the classifications of conflicts by relevant scholars (Harbom, 2004; Stewart & Brow, 2007; Pettersson & Themner, 2009), a definition of the war in Syria can be formulated as follows:

 

With number of deaths exceeding 1000 and involving arms on both sides, the armed conflict in Syria represents a war between parties with incompatibility over the political system. Further the war is

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Fear and Loathing In the Middle East – From Cairo to Damascus (By Marcus Henry Weber)

9 Jan

Fear and Loathing In the Middle East – From Cairo to Damascus

The police and security services were beaten and fire-bombed into submission at some point early in the revolution in Egypt. First they shed their uniforms, blending in with the protesters, gathering like vultures and waiting till the crowds were distracted, and then striking at the vulnerable backs of the young revolutionaries, or tazering, zap-strapping-and-black-hooding opposition leaders, whose faces they’d memorized from social media, mugshots, and confirmed with huge, high-res images of earlier protests (a trick pioneered by Iran’s masters of repressive brutality).

“Peaceful.”

“Peaceful.”

The “security services” knew who to grab. But once the street had filled with angry Egyptians, the leaders were only enjoying, rather than shepherding or controlling the massive crowds surging down the streets of Suez and Alexandria and Cairo and Port Said. And the other protesters included young people who were expecting a fight. Protesters smashed through the police barricade on the Qasr al-Nil Bridge on January, 25.(WATCH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5iIU9HHOMQ) They routed the hundreds of police sent to hold the bridge and prevent the massive, angry crowds from reaching Tahrir Square. Protesters overcame the tear-gas and club-swinging riot police and flooded into the Square, and would fight to defend it with bare hands, rocks, fists, chunks of concrete smashed out of the roads, turning the police barricades into defensive fortifications, along with the walls and roofs of small shop-stalls.

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‘Revolution within the revolution’: The battle against ISIS (By Leila Shrooms)

8 Jan

‘Revolution within the revolution’: The battle against ISIS

From: Syrian Anarchists أناركيون سوريون Facebook page

From: Syrian Anarchists أناركيون سوريون Facebook page

Those that have bought into regime narratives that it is engaged in an existential battle against Al Qaeda terrorists must be feeling a little confused this week.

Revolutionary activists have long been protesting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), known locally as Daesh, the main Al Qaeda affiliated group in Syria.[1] Comprised mainly of foreign militant jihadi fighters, ISIS has focused on consolidating its control over large parts of territory primarily in the north of the country rather than fighting on the front lines or coordinating with armed opposition groups. It has established Islamic emirates in areas under its control implementing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, alien to the vast majority of the local population, and assaulting the rights of women and minorities including dictating women’s dress and attacking churches.[2] The group has also been responsible for carrying out brutal attacks against civilians, public executions and sectarian killings.[3] Over recent months ISIS has carried out assaults on Free Syrian Army (FSA) positions and kidnapped and executed FSA commanders. It has also targeted civil opposition activists, particularly media activists, leading to raids of offices and arrests in Raqqa, Aleppo and most recently the heart of the revolution; Kafranbel.[4] In ISIS detention centers torture, floggings and summary executions are common.[5] Rejecting this group, its ideology and practices, protesters regularly chant slogans at demonstrations saying “ISIS and the regime are one” or “Daesh leave”.[6] Women have played an important role in these protests, such as the stand against ISIS in Al Raqqa by brave revolutionary Suad Nofal which inspired other women to protest across the country.[7]

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Adra: Where death was defeated (By Aliaa Mahfouz Ali)

2 Jan

Adra: Where death was defeated

Maybe “cold” was the only thing she remebered from that catastrophe more than stories about kids holding clovers or monsters slaughtering people or shoving them into oven.

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We gathered in that small cozy room . Everyone of us belonged to a different city that was repeatedly classified by the crisis media as either the birthplace of the so-called revolution or a place that should be punished for not supporting that madness called “Arab Spring”. There, she came along like a four-year old angel. I asked about her name, she whispered “Mariam”. That whispering was not a sign of politeness. It was rather a style of talking imposed over them during days of besiege so hyenas will not find out their hiding place. With a bashful smile ,she sat next to her injured mum who has recently escaped from a hell known as “Adra”. The mother started to document the saga they went through ” they had lists of inhabitants’ names, they asked about people’s religious sect and their political stance.They were foreigners speaking formal Arabic “

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The Mysterious Fall of Raqqa, Syria’s Kandahar (by Firas al-Hakkar)

9 Nov

The Mysterious Fall of Raqqa, Syria’s Kandahar

The Euphrates overflows with blood, and the crows caw over the corpses that the Syrian city of Raqqa sacrifices every day to the princes of death in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al-Nusra Front, ever since the two al-Qaeda affiliates turned the city into the first official province of their Islamic emirate. The tyranny that people rose up against has now returned, more morbid than before. Today, Raqqa is Syria’s answer to Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban.

A child looks at child look at stand selling military fatigue in the northern rebel-held Syrian city of Raqqa on October 1, 2013 as violence continues to rage in flashpoints around the country. (Photo: AFP - Mohamed Abdul Aziz)

A child looks at child look at stand selling military fatigue in the northern rebel-held Syrian city of Raqqa on October 1, 2013 as violence continues to rage in flashpoints around the country. (Photo: AFP – Mohamed Abdul Aziz)

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has no presence in Raqqa. All mainstream opposition forces left the city months ago because of clashes between the various brigades of the armed opposition. Raqqa is today without a state, and its people grapple with death every day, with no hope in sight for a normal life.

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The Rise of the Army of Islam – Liwa al-Islam and the Salafi Movement in Syria

26 Oct

The Rise of the Army of Islam – Liwa al-Islam and the Salafi Movement in Syria

 

By joining with 50 brigades across Syria and forming the umbrella army “Jaish al-Islam” (the Army of Islam), Liwaa al-Islam (LAI) have become a force to be reckoned with, as powerful or more-so than heavy-hitters like Harakat Ahrar al-Sham or al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-NusraLiwaa al-Islam’s character is conservative Salafi, but they are also one of the most willing to express the desire to reconcile with the Syrian population at large, even those serving in the Assad regime (those who “do not have blood on their hands”). This should serve (is likely designed to serve) to reassure anyone in fear of an uprooting of the Syrian state in the eventuality of the Assad regime’s overthrow, and the chaos that will result.

Although many of these supposed new-comers were already fighting with Liwaa al-Islam, and some of the brigades seem to have been created (or invented) on the spot, the declaration of an “army of Islam” has significant implications on its own; it shows that the consistently frayed web of Syrian rebel groups has been stretched between three poles; the Salafis supported by Gulf Arab donors (primarily, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait), the secular Free Syrian Army with supplies coming from the Saudi and Qatari governments themselves (and, in much smaller part, from the USA and France), and the Jihadi-Salafis of al Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, whose supporters remain mostly anonymous, the most likely candidate being wealthy donors from Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. But with ISIS making new enemies every week, the “moderate” Salafis have seized the opportunity to co-opt the Salafi-friendly demographics.

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