On Syria

Syria and the West are intimate friends. For years Western leaders courted Bashar Assad, arguing he was a moderate and a vehicle of change. Vogue even produced a propaganda edition on the Assad family. Elsewhere, Russia and China continued to support and supplied buckets of armaments to the Syrian dictatorship or shuffle their feet at the UN.

queenAssad1a With a few notable exceptions, many Western activists simply coughed and looked the other way when the various Assads committed atrocities, as Galloway argued in June 2011:

“The BBC, Galloway complained, is denouncing Syria for using Apache helicopters to attack its own people. “I’ve never understood,” said Galloway, “why it is worse to kill your own people than other people’s people.” The BBC had cheered a week or 10 days earlier for Apache helicopters used by Britain to kill Libyans. The problem with Syria, Galloway said, is not that it’s run by the latest Adolf Hitler of the month, but that it harbors Palestinian leadership, supports Lebanese national resistance, and refused to participate in the attack on Iraq.” [My emphasis.]

That was good enough for them, deliberately forgetting Assad’s unsavoury allies.

Yet there is a foul stench that pervades any discussion on Syria, the inability to stop a dictator from openly murdering civilians for 2½ years. The West in terms of political leaders and supposed “activists” have given this smiling dictator an easy time. Complacency has rules from March 2011 onwards, with Westerners largely hoping that the slaughter in Syria would go away, all by itself.  MIDAEST SYRIA UK

Syria is not far from Europe. A mere 300 miles from Cyprus. A relatively quick trip from Italy, under three hours in a plane. Just over 4½ hours from London but it could as well be a world away, whilst the Assad regime carried on torture and murder, under Russia and China’s protection and it slipped down the media priorities.

Leaving aside the question of intervention for the moment, the inability of Westerners to inform themselves on the nature of the Assad dictatorship is exceedingly troubling. From 1963 coup d’etat to the later one in 1970 when Hafez Assad took power, civil rights were never on the agenda. However, Western Human Rights organisations have covered abuses over the years and those with access to the Internet have no excuse.

Human Rights Watch reports on Syria: 1997, 2000,2002,2010,2013.

Amnesty International reports on Syria: 1995, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2012.

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Laurie Penny, Chagos Islanders And Mormon women

Jake Wallis Simons is better than the average Tory, certainly the Daily Telegraph could do with better writers and a wider intellectual pool of ideas.

Nevertheless I was somewhat shocked and pleased to read his In defence of Laurie Penny:

“Call me contrarian, but I quite like being friends with people who come at life from markedly different perspectives. Not only does it broaden one’s own point of view, but it prevents one from plumping for one’s political preconceptions, and instead consider each issue on its own merits. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I feel an Adorno quote coming on: “Thought that does not capitulate before wretched existence comes to nought before its criteria, truth becomes untruth, philosophy becomes folly”. Indeed. Facebook is nothing if not a stream of “wretched existence”, and sometimes it is wise to allow thought to capitulate before it – or at least allow for that possibility.

Here’s the thing. In recent weeks and months, it has been impossible to read Laurie’s status updates without being shocked at the sheer volume and viciousness of the hatred she is subjected to online. If you have the stomach for it, google something like “Laurie Penny hate”. The results are appalling. People have threatened and insulted her in the very worst terms, and have even gone so far as to post cartoons of her being abused and beaten up.

Now, Laurie Penny is a provocative and controversial figure, and a lot of people find her intensely irritating. It is only to be expected that she will attract a fair amount of friction. Even David Starkey took leave of his manners and tried to intimidate her in the most atrocious way. But look: call me old-fashioned, but didn’t there use to be such a thing as a civilised disagreement? “

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Assad Regime Systematically Killing Civilians

Reuters’ report AI’s opinion on Syria:

“(Reuters) – Syrian government forces are killing civilians in organized attacks on towns and villages that amount to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said on Thursday, citing evidence from over 20 locations in the country’s northwest.

The rights group repeated its call for the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and to impose an arms embargo.

Amnesty’s findings, detailed in a 70-page report, add to reports of massacres elsewhere in Syria as a 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad moves closer to a civil war.

Its researchers visited 23 towns and villages in the Aleppo and Idlib provinces between April and May, conducting interviews with more than 200 people, including many whose relatives had been killed or whose homes had been destroyed.

Amnesty adviser Donatella Rovera told Reuters TV she had found repeated examples of brutality against civilians during two months of unauthorized visits to northwest Syria.

“Wherever I went, in every town, in every village, there was a very similar pattern – soldiers who went in, in very large numbers, for very short but very brutal incursions where they extra-judicially executed young men, burned down their homes. Those who they arrested were then tortured in detention,” she said.

“And that was really repeated in every town and every village that I visited … The bulk, the overwhelming majority of the violations are being committed by the government security forces and their paramilitary militia against the civilian population,” she added. “

The Plight of Saeed Malekpour

Saeed Malekpour’s situation is terrible:

“Last week, the Iranian Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence for computer programmer Saeed Malekpour, whose photography program was used without his knowledge, to upload pornography to the internet.

Canadian resident Mr Malekpour was arrested while visiting his dying father in Iran during October 2008. He was held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Prison for a year without charge, according to Amnesty.

He made confessions, which were later televised, to his charges, which according to the EFF include “acting against national security through propaganda” and “production and publication of obscene materials through computer systems”.

However, in a letter sent from the prison in March 2010, Mr Malekpour states, he retracted these confessions, stating they had been given under duress after prolonged interrogation and torture by the “Revolutionary Guards Cyber Counterattack” team. He also wrote that he still not been allowed to visit his lawyer.”