Syria
Syrian refugee children

From revolution to genocide: Syria’s grim anniversary

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. (Photo of refugee children on Jordanian border: Peter Biro/ECHO via The New Humanitarian)

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Idlib displaced

Syria: ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Idlib

Over half a million people are on the move in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province as Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed forces follow up their long aerial campaign with a ground offensive. The front line is closing on the provincial capital, the Turkish border is sealed to people trying to flee, and health services are collapsing. Aid agencies have issued a statement saying that Idlib is already a winter “humanitarian catastrophe,” with camps for the displaced overflowing. As rebel defenses collapse, displaced civilians are destroying their own homes before they flee to deny looters property they expect never to see again. (Photo: UNHCR)

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Idlib

Idlib demonstrators revive Syrian revolution

Reviving Friday demonstrations that were a tradition of the Syrian revolution, activists in besieged Idlib province in the north filled the Idlib city center, 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 sympathy and support for the displaced from Maarat al-Nuaman, a town which has come under especially intense bombardment. The Assad regime and Russia launched their bombing campaign in April, violating the “de-escalation” zone deal reached between Russia and Turkey. Since then, some 700,000 people have been forced to flee. (Photo: OrientNet)

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troops return to Syria

Trump makes grab for Syrian oil-fields

A US military convoy was spotted headed back into Syria from Iraqi territory—just days after the US withdrawal from northern Syria, which precipitated the Turkish aggression there, had been completed. The convoy was traveling toward the Deir ez-Zor area, presumably to “guard” the oil-fields there, now under the precarious control of Kurdish forces. Following up on President Trump’s pledge to secure the oil-fields, Defense Secretary Mark Esper now says that the troops being mobilized to Deir ez-Zor “will include some mechanized forces.” Despite the talk of protecting the fields from ISIS, it is Russian-backed Assadist forces that are actually now also advancing on Deir ez-Zor from the other direction. So a show-down appears imminent—with the Kurds caught in the middle. (Photo: Rudaw)

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Trump joins Putin in bombardment of Idlib

US warplanes struck a position outside the capital of Syria’s northern Idlib province, targeting a faction named as Huras al-Din and reportedly killing some 40 militants. Huras al-Din split from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the leading insurgent front in much of Idlib, after HTS broke ties with al-Qaeda in 2016. The US air-strikes come amid an ongoing massive aerial assault on Idlib by Russia and the Assad regime. Two days earlier, at least 13 civilians were killed in Russian and regime air-strikes on the town of Marat al-Numan. Hundreds of Syrians meanwhile attempted to storm a border crossing with Turkey in Idlib, demanding refuge from the relentless bombardment. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Idlib bombardment resumes after brief respite

Russia and the Assad regime resumed attacks on opposition-held northwest Syria, breaking a four-day pause declared by Damascus. Russian and regime forces, whose spring offensive shattered a “demilitarized zone” announced last September by Moscow and Turkey, again began bombing and shelling both rebel positions and civilian areas. The regime’s military said last week that it was halting operations, which have killed more than 700 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 since late April, while giving an ultimatum to anti-Assad forces to withdraw from the 20-kilometer “demilitarized zone” through Idlib and northern Hama province. As the new air-strikes were launched, an army statement said: “The agreement to a truce was conditional… This did not happen… We resume our military operations against terrorist organizations.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Assad, Russia launch Idlib offensive

The Assad regime and allied militias, backed by Russian air-strikes, this week launched the long-feared offensive on Idlib, the northwest Syrian province that is the last under rebel and opposition control. The offensive places at risk the lives of more than 4.5 million civilians. Just this month, a further 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Idlib, joining the ranks the displaced. The UN has previously warned that an assault on Idlib could cause “the worst humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen in the 21st century.” At particular risk are 350,000 people living in displacement camps, who have no protection from the bombs. The more recently displaced are now without any shelter on lands near the Turkish border, which Ankara has shut to prevent a refugee influx. (Photo: EA Worldview)

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Syria’s Idlib still under bombardment

Syria’s last opposition-controlled province of Idlib has receded from the headlines since a joint Russian-Turkish deal was announced last September, forestalling an Assad regime offensive on the province and establishing a “demilitarized zone” policed by the two foreign powers. But shelling and bombardment of the province by Assadist and Russian forces has escalated over the past month—and much of the shells and missiles are falling within the “demilitarized zone.” UN Senior Humanitarian Advisor for Syria Najat Rochdi reports that over 100,000 Idlib residents have fled their homes since February as a result of increased fighting. More than 90 civilians, half of them children, were killed in the province in March. As ever, medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Anarcho-fascist convergence at State of Union?

We’ve already noted the strange bedfellows in the Rojava Kurds’ political push to forestalll a US withdrawal from northern Syria, which would be a green light for Turkey to attack their autonomous zone. Well, they just got stranger with the arrival in Washington of Ilham Ahmed, co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council, civilian wing of the Kurdish-led US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. She and her delegation met with Trump at the Trump International Hotel, where the prez reportedly told the group “I love the Kurds,” and promised that they are “not going to be killed” by Turkish forces. Making it even more surreal, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, best friend of fascist dictator Bashar Assad on Capitol Hill, brought Ahmed to the State of the Union address as her special guest. The Turkish newspaper Takvim ran a photo of Ahmed standing beside Trump at the SOTU. We wonder if Ahmed, who represents a radical-left Kurdish revolutionary movement that is influenced by anarchism, is aware that the presidential bid of her host Gabbard has been endorsed by David Duke—who shares Tulsi’s fondness for Assad.

Syria

Idlib still threatened as Assad escalates genocide

Assad regime artillery struck areas of Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province after militants allegedly tried to infiltrate regime-held areas. The shelling was reportedly focused on the town of Tamanaa, which was seized from Turkish-backed rebels by jihadist forces earlier in the week. The was apparently part of a ceasefire agreement ending an internal conflict between rival opposition forces in Idlib, which saw jihadists taking over much of the province. These ominous developments may spell an end to Idlib’s reprieve from the threatened Assad offensiive on the province since establishment of a joint Turkish-Russian buffer zone there. To make this all more sobering still, the Assad regime appears to be escalating its campaign of genocide in the areas of Syria it has re-conquered, stepping up its mass extermination of detainees. The Syrian Network For Human Rights said in a year-end report that nearly a thousand died, presumably under torture, in regime prisons in 2018.  (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

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Podcast: Solidarity with Idlib and Rojava

In Episode 23 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the assassination of Raed Fares, a courageous voice of the civil resistance in besieged Idlib province, last remaining stronghold of the Syrian Revolution. The resistance in Idlib, which liberated the territory from the Bashar Assad regime in popular uprisings seven years ago, is now also resisting the jihadist forces in the province, expelling them from their self-governing towns and villages. Their hard-won zones of popular democracy face extermination if this last stronghold is invaded by Assad and his Russian backers. As Assad and Putin threaten Idlib, Trump’s announced withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops embedded with Kurdish forces in Syria’s northeast is a “green light” to Turkey to attack Rojava, the anarchist-inspired Kurdish autonomous zone. The two last zones of democratic self-rule in Syria are each now gravely threatened. Yet with Turkey posing as protector of Idlib, the Arab revolutionary forces there have been pitted against the Kurds. The Free Syrian Army and Rojava Kurds were briefly allied against ISIS and Assad alike four years ago, before they were played against each other by imperial intrigues. Can this alliance be rebuilt, in repudiation of the foreign powers now seeking to carve up Syria? Or will the US withdrawal merely spark an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria? Weinberg calls for activists in the West to repudiate the imperial divide-and-rule stratagems, and demand survival of liberated Idlib and Rojava alike. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: NYC Syria Peace Vigil Group)

Syria

Syria: UN urges information on disappeared

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stressed the need for greater information and accountability to be provided to the families of missing persons and detainees. The report charges that the Syrian regime is still carrying out mass public arrests and detentions, many leading to torture and eventual death, while families are induced to pay bribes to learn the whereabouts of their loved ones. Many families did not learn of their relatives’ whereabouts at all until May, when information was provided in bulk by the Interior Ministry. The Commission notes that even after this information was disclosed it was obfuscated, with causes of death being listed as “heart attack” or “stroke”—while many individuals died on the same day. The Commission infers that mass executions may have occurred in some of these facilities, many of them on military bases. (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)