Nine years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II.
Amid all the recent talk about how the war in Syria is approaching an imminent end, it suddenly looks like it is set for international escalation. With Turkish forces resisting the Assadist advance into Idlib province, the last rebel-held territory, there is the clear potential for direct combat between a NATO member and the Damascus regime or its Russian backers. Turkey's military shot down two regime warplanes over northwest Idlib on March 1, hours after Assadist forces brought down a Turkish drone over the region. The Damascus regime said the pilots parachuted to safety. At least 34 Turkish troops were killed in air-strikes in Idlib n the previous days. (Al Jazeera, Reuters)
Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune held an official commemoration of the "February 22 Revolution," marking the first day of the nationwide protests last year that finally ousted his long-ruling predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Tebboune, who came to power in a December special election, declared the day a special holiday to honor what is being called the "Smile Revolution" to emphasize its nonviolent ethic. But the day before the official commemoration, protesters mobilized in their thousands for the 53rd straight week of Friday marches, dismissing the December elections as controlled and saying that the old regime still remains in place. They are calling the movement by its original name of the "Hirak," or "people's mobilization." Adopting a new slogan in response to the official commemoration, protesters vowed to "disqualify the system's agenda of self-renewal, and to lay the foundations for a new republic." A popular slogan was "We're not going to stop." (AfricaNews, France24, NYT)
Reviving Friday demonstrations that were a tradition of the Syrian revolution, activists in besieged Idlib province in the north filled the Idlib city center on Jan. 10, flying the Free Syria flag, chanting slogans against the Assad regime and Russia, and demanding international action against the ongoing bombardment of the province. The demonstrators especially expressed their sympathy and support for the displaced persons from Maarat al-Nuaman, a town which has come under especially intense bombardment in recent weeks. The Assad regime and Russia launched their bombing campaign in April, largely violating the de-escalation zone deal reached between Russia and Turkey. (OrientNet)
In Episode 46 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the racist imperial narcissism in coverage of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani—nearly all of which (left, right and center) is solely concerned with whether he was responsible for the deaths of "hundreds of Americans." Safely invisible is the reality that Soleimani and his militia networks were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians. Iranian forces in Syria have been carrying out a campaign of sectarian cleansing, with Shi'ite militia leaders usurping the lands of displaced Sunnis. Soleimani's militias in Iraq have meanwhile been serially massacring protesters. Over this same period, hundreds of protesters have been killed in state repression in Iran itself. Anti-war forces in the West must not be confused by Trump's cynical pretense of support for the Iranian protesters. Our opposition to Trump's war moves must be in explicit solidarity with Iran—meaning the people of Iran, not the state. And that includes solidarity with the struggle of the Iranian people against an oppressive regime. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination on Jan. 3, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. And, in fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a "dirty war" in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad over the past months. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani also provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. As overall commander of Iranian forces in Syria backing up Assad's genocidal counter-insurgency campaign (and by no means just against ISIS and jihadists, but the secular opposition as well) Soleimani is probably responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Syrian lives.
At least 40 people were killed and some 30 injured in a new outbreak of inter-communal violence in Sudan's Darfur region. The fighting erupted Dec. 31 east of El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, reportedly sparked by the killing of an Arab man near Crendingue, a camp for displaced persons from the Masslit tribe. Most of the dead appear to be Masslit. Thousands more have fled across the border into Chad, fearing attack. Reports from the area say gunmen have prevented families of the victims from collecting the bodies. and continue to fire in the air. In the pro-democracy revolution that has been ongoing in Sudan for months, many Massalit youth formed Resistance Committees, and established security patrols around the camp and neighboring villages. Many local Arabs, however, supported the former regime, fueling the current conflict. (Sudan Tribune)
The state prosecutor of Sudan, Tagelsir al-Heber, on Dec. 22 announced the launch of an investigation into the crimes committed in the Darfur region under former President Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir has already been arrested by the Sudanese government for corruption and is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and grave rights violations committed in the Darfur region of Sudan as early as 2002.