Archive | September 22nd, 2012


Interview with a Free Syrian

by editor in Uncategorized 

Giant posters, remind people of who is / was in charge

Ruth Riegler has interviewed an activist in Syria to understand about the life that he leads in revolutionary Syria. He uses a pseudonom.

RR: How would you describe life before the revolution? And what do you believe were the root causes of the revolution?

FS: My name is Free Syrian.  I want to tell the world about why we made the revolution against Bashar Al-Assad and his regime.  Everyone in the world knows that this is a great revolution, but in fact no one knows what the real reason behind it is. I will tell you.  I want the whole world to know how we lived before the revolution and to know the real reasons for it. We were living in a world in which we had to listen and obey like slaves – whatever the master says, you must obey him and do it, and if you disobey him he will punish or kill you.

We lived in a security state, which meant we were ruled by one president and his military, intelligence apparatus, army officers, military police, police, informants and shabiha [armed gangs].  When you wanted to do something, you had to first obtain their permission and see if their laws allow you to do it or not, which meant you had no right to do anything independently and would face obstacles if you tried.  Only the regime personnel lived freely and without being governed by laws; they could do what they wanted without asking, by controlling every area, including the political system , oil and gas , the economy, banks, trade,  military, agriculture and education.  In effect, they consider themselves gods.

Hafez (and then Bashar) Assad allowed Israel to militarily occupy the Golan Heights.

We lived under this regime, which claims to be anti-zionist, but in fact this is just another lie because for 47 years it never fired one single bullet at Israel, and maintained calm in the occupied Golan Heights, banning any Syrian from even shooting a gun at Israel or reclaiming this stolen land. Anyone who did so would be thrown into prison, punished and possibly killed.

We lived like slaves, without rights in anything. We were forbidden from choosing a candidate for president, holding free elections, establishing political parties or selecting our representatives for parliament.  Only Assad and his intelligence network were allowed to select MPs and they chose the most corrupt people without morality or conscience to do their bidding. If you opposed anything they did, they would put you in jail and do what they wanted to you there because you are nothing to them.

People were afraid to oppose or disagree with the regime or anyone close to the intelligence services: Syrians learned to keep our heads down and not say anything. Even if you just cursed Bashar, they would come and pick you up wherever you were and take you to the local intelligence services branch, with nobody knowing where you had gone or daring to ask about you or even mention your name.  If you wanted to start a political movement they would do the same because in Syria we had  only one party and all Syrian people were forced to join it.  If you avoided the compulsory military service and didn’t want to serve, they would imprison you for three or more months then force you to do the military service anyway.  If you died in the intelligence services’ custody, nobody would ask how  or why you died and no-one would be held accountable for your death because the constitution gives the president, his intelligence services and his military and other allies complete immunity. The Syrian people are treated as insects to be squashed underfoot with no attention paid to our deaths.

Oppression can’t be photographed, but it can be felt

The system allowed the president, his military and intelligence services to arrest, torture or kill anybody, to do as they want to us, with nobody in the outside world knowing what was going on.  Corruption, nepotism and favoritism are the norm in all state institutions and people have learnt to just exist and look out for their own interests, not asking about or helping anyone but themselves, with only Assad and his regime loyalists allowed to do what they want; Syria is his farm and Syrians are the animals.

I’d also like to mention Syria’s economy. Despite the discovery of oil and gas reserves in the northeast of the country and huge reserves of oil and gas offshore, we wondered why these commodities were so expensive for us and why we got gas and oil from Iran, Iraq and Egypt instead. We found that this was because Bashar and his family were stealing Syria’s gas and oil and selling it to Russia and to European countries for low prices, keeping the profits for themselves, while we Syrians had no choice but to buy gas and oil from state outlets at high prices – if we could find any at all.  The government constantly artificially increased the price of oil and gas and as a result the prices of every other commodity – bread, rice, sugar,  clothes, electronic goods, houses, everything – rose and continued to rise and never fell. Given our country’s great wealth in oil and gas, this is the most ridiculous situation.

Our economy is a farce. Even if the government got aid from other countries, any questions from us about where those funds went would be unanswered. When we wanted to develop the country’s education, health, agriculture, industrial sectors or its power grid, the government said that it would need to impose more taxes to do that and needed help from other nations because Syria did not have the resources.

If a Syrian trying to live a dignified life wanted to start a  manufacturing business making our own goods or to import goods  to sell, like cars or clothes or electrical equipment, the regime would not allow us unless the regime got a cut of the profits and regular bribes [above the usual taxes].  If you agreed to this, they would allow you an operating license, but if you refused they would reject your application and create obstacles for you.

Intelligence agencies, spying, total control of the lives of people. This is life under the Assad regime.

Anyone who wants to open any sort of shop, whether  a small corner shop selling groceries or a bookstore,  supermarket,  internet  café or anything else had to first get  permission from the intelligence services before applying for a license from the relevant state bodies and paying bribes to the officials.  For example, if I wished  to open an internet café I would first have to get the permission of the intelligence services, then go to the communication ministry and pay a bribe to the officials there in order to get the application processed before going to the local governorate offices, then the state financial institution, and carry on with this bureaucratic  tangle for months before actually getting anywhere at all.  Even if you wanted to get married and hold a wedding party, you needed to first obtain official state permission to do so; I’m sorry to use crude language, but it is a running joke among  Syrians that if you want to f*ck your wife you needed to get written permission from the government first.

We also have compulsory military service for every man of a certain age. Many flee abroad to work or study when they reach 18 or pay bribes in order to avoid military service.  If you couldn’t afford to travel and work or study abroad and had no other way to escape conscription, you might have been able to work as a servant to them instead or as a driver or guard. If you could afford to pay a weekly bribe to senior officers you might be excused service and allowed to go and get a job or remain unemployed instead. If you can afford to offer bigger bribes like buying a senior officer a TV set or paying his phone bills, repairing his car or performing any other useful service, you may be able to avoid military service for the next two years, but after this you would have to start your life all over once again from zero.

Syrians want freedom

These are some of the things that drove us to rise up against Assad’s regime. We want freedom. We want to choose our own lives for ourselves. We want to organize and strengthen our country with our own hands.  We want to build and manufacture our own goods in our own factories. We want to improve Syria’s education, health, agriculture and all other sectors, which Assad has ignored, to be innovators, to build the first Arab cars and trains.  Yes, we are people like any others in the world who want dignity.  For all these reasons we will continue fighting and will not back down; we will live with dignity or die as martyrs. We want freedom.

RR: Can you briefly describe a typical day, to give readers an idea of what you and other Syrians are living with?

FS: Imagine yourself waking up on a beautiful sunny morning, washing your face, drinking your coffee, smiling at the thought of what you will achieve today, even if you have to overcome obstacles put in your path by the government.  That was life before the revolution.

Now we cannot sleep at normal hours and wake up early – if we can sleep at all. Everything about our lives has changed since our blessed revolution began on May 15th, 2011 in Deraa.  Anyway, let me tell you what has changed in my schedule and life in general.  First I’ve started either sleeping late or barely sleeping at all and waking up always to hear bombing, shelling, gunfire or demonstrations, morning or night.  My habits have changed as well.  I used to go to a local English language institute to practice translation skills and develop my abilities after graduation, as well as meeting with a friend and working on finding the best place to obtain an MA in Translation Studies.  I found a place on a course in Preston, UK, but unfortunately I was unable to take up the offer because I don’t have a passport and the TOEFL courses at the American Language Centre in my city had been suspended. Although I also contacted the British Council to try to persuade them to offer a TOEFL or ILTES course in the UK, I don’t think I’ll be able to begin my MA course this year and I’ve lost my chance anyway.  This was not the only problem I faced since, after looking for a job for some time, I had been promised one with a private communications company last year. This also fell through, however, since the situation here had become steadily worse.  The fact that I did not do my military service meant that I could not work or travel, since failure to do military service prevents you from doing either, another obstacle to leaving the country to do my MA.   This left me feeling hopeless – no job, no hope of an MA, I was losing my appetite for life and everything else.   Then the regime began killing our people, at first in Deraa, where Assad’s troops used live ammunition against unarmed protesters, then tanks in cities.  We young Syrians did not like this and began holding demonstrations against it.  Then the regime began using plainclothes lowlifes and thugs , known as shabiha to terrorize us, and since then it has used everything against us.

Before the revolution I used to eat three meals a day, now I eat one. Before this I would sleep eight hours, now I might manage five at most and often stay awake until morning.  I have been working to do what I can to help other Syrians who need assistance, hiding them and helping whoever needs help in translating news and videos sent by other activists. I receive lots of news, and translate and share whatever I can, talking with friends and exchanging opinions on what we should do. Much of our conversation revolves around how every other nation in the world is supporting Bashar to remain in power because they don’t want to lose their pet pig that protects Israel and maintains its security in the region.

The regime has now put checkpoints in every town and city on all main roads and closed all the streets that lead to his palace in Damascus, as well as positioning snipers everywhere, especially in rebel areas.  If you want to go shopping or visit the gym, see friends or go anywhere else, regime troops will stop you  at the checkpoints and check your name against a long list to see if you’re wanted, identified as an activist or have avoided military service. If your name’s on the list, they will arrest you or just shoot you dead on the spot.  We have to pass through these checkpoints every day. One day recently I went to visit friends to help with revolution-related work. I was stopped for half an hour at one checkpoint and was beginning to get worried.  When a regime soldier called my name, I went and asked him what the problem was: he looked at me and said, “Take your ID and go; you’re wasting our time looking for nothing.” After that, I decided that whenever I go out, I’ll use a short cut that avoids checkpoints.  On another occasion recently, I went to Barzeh to visit the parents of a friend called Salim who had been shot dead by a sniper, to offer my condolences. At the time there were fierce clashes taking place in the area between regime troops and the FSA.  While I was on my way into the family’s apartment block, a sniper shot at and narrowly missed me. I only realised this when a stranger pulled me into the entrance and said, “Are you crazy? Do you want to die so badly?”

Life under the snipers

The pig Bashar has ordered snipers to be placed everywhere and given them instructions to shoot whoever they want. Many of my friends have been shot dead by snipers, while others have been shot but survived. One friend called Anwar, who was fearless and attended every anti-regime demonstration, was shot in the head. Despite being in the Intensive Care Unit for six months, Allah evidently wanted him to live, with the bullet passing through his skull. Although he survived, however, he is now partially paralyzed with very limited mobility in his right arm and leg.  Other friends are among those who have disappeared after being arrested by regime forces; nobody knows where they are or if they are still alive. One of them, a close friend called Bilal, always used to come along to every demonstration to support the fall of the regime.  I also hear daily about friends being kidnapped for ransom, with some friends being abducted on the street or at checkpoints. Some will call their parents to ask for money to be paid to the kidnappers; unless the ransom is paid they not be told where their child is.

It is impossible to describe the hell we are living through, without any order or stability, while the world looks on and does nothing.  Many young men flee abroad just to survive; others join the FSA, many of them after defecting from regime forces where they are forced to serve.  This is my life in Syria at present. I’ve considered joining the FSA. To be honest, I often want to escape as fast as possible. I thought previously of running away, going abroad, but as I mentioned I don’t have a passport and although I’ve asked many friends and acquaintances to help  me get out of here it’s very hard to do so without a passport.

In the end, I want to say that I hate Bashar Al Assad and his father since they came to rule Syria.  We know all his family’s history and what they have done. We know their murderous destruction,  and we know that Hafez Al Assad had  support  for and a cover-up of his crimes in Hama, Aleppo and Deir El Zour from the USA, Russia, Iran and Israel and that the same countries are  now doing the same thing for his son, Bashar.

Aftermath of the destruction from tanks that rolled into the Palestinian camp Yarmouk near Damascus

RR:  How do you respond to those who continue to insist that Assad is an anti-Zionist icon?

We all know that Hafez  Al Assad (may God Curse him and his son) sold the Golan Heights to Israel and that he was responsible for killing many Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria to maintain Israel’s security in Lebanon.  Now his son, Bashar, is doing the same thing in a different way. He has attacked many Palestinian areas in Syria, most notably the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, which I saw with my own eyes.  If you believe that he supports Hezbollah to fight and defeat Israel, that is a lie.  We all know that he gave Hezbollah the green light to kill the Sunni leader Rafiq Al Hariri in Lebanon,  as well as giving Nasrallah  approval to improve his  [Nasrallah’s]  image and make him look like a war hero, but the war against Israel in 2007 was another lie, simply a ploy to allow Hezbollah’s expansion in Lebanon and let the Shiites have greater power in the country to allow Iran to have control there and achieve Tehran’s plan for a Shiite Middle East stretching from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.   Bashar Al Assad always insists that he opposes Israel, that he leads the resistance to it. To which I would respond, then why do you jail, torture and kill my friends and tens of thousands of other people in Syria?  Why do you kill my Palestinian and Iraqi brothers?  Why did you do nothing when Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace?   Don’t try lying to the Syrian people, we know you better than anybody; we all know that your job is to kill us and protect Israel; may God curse you, you son of adultery.

Image of Homs during some of the worst violence

RR:  How do you cope with the stress of living in what is in effect a warzone?

It is very hard for us to secure our needs under these circumstances; we live prudently and we only eat and buy whatever is essential.  For me, it makes it harder knowing that I am jobless and my father is still helping me financially.  I live with my parents and help them; in the current situation most extended families in Syria are now crowded into one house, with anything from three to ten separate families in every home.  The situation is very bad – most of Syria, 65 or 75 percent, is destroyed.  We try to buy and store whatever food we can, but some areas are without anything.  In areas like Homs they cannot find any food or anything to protect them and keep them warm.  Winter will come soon, after two months, and we want to end this as soon as possible.  Most Syrian cities have nothing left – Assad has burnt most of the crops and destroyed homes.  I can eat most days, but others cannot and I am worried about them.  We send them aid, but the regime is besieging those areas, although the FSA does its best and works hard to deliver aid and medicine.

Nobody really has any idea of the tragedy we are living, but our spirits remain high and we all know that we will win because Allah is with us and we will kill Bashar, inshallah. We will continue to support each other with food, medicine or anything needed in order to win. I want to stress that our country’s real army is the Free Syrian Army, the FSA, and we are very proud of them. We are all Syrian people and we will stay as one hand: as we shout at our demonstrations, ‘One, one, one – the Syrian people are one.’

Many months later, the world is still just watching the genocide.

RR: How do you feel about the apathy from much of the world towards the Syrian revolution and has it changed your views of the ‘international community’? If so, how?

Why did the whole world bless the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and support them while nobody has helped or supported our revolution in Syria or tried to tell the truth about the righteousness of our cause?  Why have Russia, Iran, China and Iraq been allowed to continue helping Bashar and his regime with weapons, money, oil, gas and political initiatives?  Why haven’t the Western powers tried to help us by creating a no-fly zone, providing us with the necessary weapons or secure safe zones for civilians?

All of these questions may appear to have no answer to them, but we Syrians know why:  they [the Western powers] want to impose their solution on us in their way, and that is what we will not accept.  But I will tell you what options or solutions they offer us. They want us to accept their terms by allowing Bashar to remain in power, giving us cosmetic freedom and surface changes by making a national unity government.  They don’t want noble people or true, honorable patriots and they don’t want the FSA; they want to kill them all and impose their wishes on us. Most importantly they want Israel left in peace with no danger of anyone even approaching it and, as history proves, Bashar is the best candidate for that. So they let Iran, Russia and Iraq support him by sending him more weapons and troops to help him after he had no Syrians left following mass defections since Syrians don’t want him. They allow those nations to send him money and troops from Hezbollah, the Mahdi Army and the Al Quds force.  Their pretext for allowing this is that the issue is difficult and complex, but in fact it is very simple:  we want freedom. Give us the heavy weaponry needed to destroy his warplanes, tanks and rocket launchers and we can win. They know that Bashar is extremely weak, so they also use the excuse that if they give us weapons the FSA will not be able to control the access to them and Al Qaeda will gain power. But Syrians are all well aware that there is no Al Qaeda in Syria or in any Arab nations, so the Western powers came up with another excuse: that our opposition is not united. But in fact the opposition which overthrew regimes in other nations has not been united either.

The Western powers have also done nothing for Syrian refugees in  Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq; they have sent no real aid to them or allowed them to do any work. They have not even registered them with the UN, just left them in camps situated in dead zones in Iraq and Jordan because they want  Syrians to obey their orders by accepting Bashar Al Assad and returning to living under his rule  and will punish us with no food, water or basic amenities if we refuse. They will not help us to kill him; nobody will help us. We have only ourselves and God to depend on, and that is what we are doing now.

Funeral for slain FSA combatants

RR:  How do you see the situation in Syria developing in the short and long term, and do you feel optimistic that there will be peace after Assad falls?

The situation will be bloody and slow-moving if  we do not work hard to resolve it.  If we can move fast to liberate ourselves that will be the best way in order to not lose more Syrians and to save what we still can of our people, properties, infrastructure, economy and everything else.  If we let him do what he and his allies and the Western powers want, we will lose more people and there will be far more bloodshed.  If that happens, the bloodbath will continue, it will be a genocide, with thousands more killed, the country plundered and looted by his forces, buildings and infrastructure destroyed, the economy devastated, thousands more living in exile and a brain drain of the best people who are essential to rebuild the country, which will just be left in chaos.   We Syrians don’t want or accept that, so we work hard with each other to plan and unify our lives to kill him and end this terrible situation soon.  We  Syrian people  are optimistic because Allah is with us and we are one hand, so we believe there will be peace soon. If he stays there will be no peace, just more chaos and bloodshed and we will live in darkness as slaves forever.  We refuse to accept that, so we prefer to live in dignity or die as martyrs. That is our preferred option – death rather than further humiliation.

RR:  How do you view claims that this is a ‘sectarian civil war’ which have been repeated in many news media?

There is no sectarian civil war:  this is just propaganda used and promoted by the regime and other countries. They claim that if the regime goes there will be civil war and people killing each other, but if it stays he will keep Syrian society united. This is a barefaced lie; what they and the regime are working to do is to carve Syria up into autonomous regions like Iraq, with the Kurds having a state in the northeast, the Druze in the south and the Alawites on the Syrian coast while the Sunnis get the rest.  That is their plan, and Bashar is working hard to attain his ambition of an Alawite-Shiite state.   They forget though that since the beginning of our revolution our motto has been ‘One, one, one – the Syrian people are one.’

The regime flames sectarianism as a counterpart of the revolution. The people think differently!

This country is for all people:  whatever your religion, sect or group you are Syrian and belong to Syria. Syrian people of all sects refuse this plan to divide our nation and all have called for unity. I have met and talked with Alawite, Shiite, Christian, Druze and Sunni Syrians during our revolution and all have rejected these plans to divide us. We all call for unity – one people, one country, although the regime has tried many times to arm different sects and turn them against each other, to create division between us.  However hard he tries though, we will not allow ourselves to be used like this, to fight and kill one another – we are all brothers and sisters.

Finally, I want to say one more thing about this: before our revolution began we lived together in peace and harmony. I personally lived in an apartment block with Shiite, Jewish and Christian neighbors. My friends are from all sects and we love one another and live together.

RR:  Do you feel that this experience has changed you as a person? If so, in what ways?

Yes, it has changed me and it has increased my awareness of the global conspiracy to ensure the failure of our revolution.  I discovered too that the whole world looks only to their own interests and don’t care about anyone else but themselves.   I don’t believe any longer in the rhetoric from UN bodies or non-governmental organizations, whether it’s Human Rights Watch, UNICEF, UNICO, the ICC, CJI or anything else.  The whole world has not managed to create one program to help Syrians in Syria or refugees in neighboring countries or even hold a meeting of donors.  Even the ‘Friends of Syria’ conference achieved nothing; they just watch us and let him kill us with Russian and Iranian support.

The revolution has given me hope in one way though: do you want to know how?  It taught me that when you face any problems or obstacles in your life, nobody else but maybe even a handful of true friends will care about or help you or your family, you must do it yourself and help others in the same situation however you can. It has made me more aware and proud of my people and my country and what we need to do to end this. We are peaceful people and we have resources. We can rebuild ourselves and our country, develop our existing  skills and learn new skills.  I am now more responsible than I was: I want to build myself up, develop my skills, acquire more knowledge and share it with my people. I want to teach the next generations that we fought and sacrificed our lives to win our freedom and we should never again accept anyone who believes they are a god and have a divine right to rule over us forever, but should elect only selfless leaders who care about the Syrian people and nation rather than self-enrichment.

I want to emphasize that the revolution is in our hands.  I think that the world needs to change and to realize that all the people on the planet are equals and must be allowed to have freedom. I have also discovered that those who call themselves Arab leaders and rule Arab countries are actually either treacherous agents for external powers or simply don’t care about Arabs at all.

RR: How much longer do you personally believe the revolution will continue and what do you think is likely to happen in the post-revolution period?

When we began this revolution, we knew that we would never go back  and we still know that:  after all we have been through and sacrificed, we would be doomed if we even considered  returning to how things were; this is our final answer.  All that Bashar has done to us and continued to do without pause he has done with increasing support from Israel, Russia, Iran and China; we have proved to the world  which continues to deny their involvement  that Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian troops have been caught in every Syrian city, with every one of them carrying documents proving this. We have also obtained official regime documents proving that Bashar has brought more and more Shiite troops from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, including members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, with Russia and the other nations sending him weapons, as well as troops.  Despite all this, however, his regime is losing the battle, but his allies and the Western powers want him to stay and keep covering up for him in every way they can. Unfortunately for them, we will defeat him and them and kill him soon, inshallah.

The army of the regime has razed to the ground more than half of Syria. In this photo, the FSA walk through a neighbourhood in Damascus.

So, if you ask me how long the revolution will continue, I  say we will continue until we kill him and kick Russia, Iran and Hezbollah out of our country.  Nobody in Syria will accept ending it now because every household I every Syrian village town and city has at least one martyr, detainee, victim of abduction by regime forces or family member driven into exile.  Do you know that he annihilated many families? Do you know that he destroyed most cities and has detained over 250,000 people?  Do you know that he is now collectively punishing every person in every area opposed to him (most of Syria) and his forces are poisoning the water supply and foodstuffs, even targeting bakeries so that the people will starve? Do you know that his forces are withholding medicines and medical treatment, bombing hospitals and targeting medical staff  in the hope that this will force the Syrian people to obey him?    We say to him, go to hell.

The whole world sees this and does nothing, excusing itself by saying, “It’s difficult and complicated,” but in fact it is very simple – Syrians want freedom from dictatorship – and they could help if they wanted to.  Syrians know all this. We will continue and support one another and support and fight for the FSA. Whatever Bashar does, we will not stop; every man, woman and child will fight to our last breath. We will not accept what the world wants for us, we will not back down or accept what they want to impose on us.  We began this and we will end it.  Above all, we have said from the start, Allah is with us, and Allah and nobody but Allah is with us.  We have nobody but Allah.

You are asking me,  “what will you do after the revolution?”  We are working undercover, to prepare everything and cooperate with each other. We have plans in place, but the problem is that we cannot reveal them  for fear of the wrong  people finding out what we are planning.  All I can say is that we are coordinating between the FSA, the military councils, the opposition and various  parties to ensure that normality and the rule of law will be restored once the regime falls so that the Syrian people can go back to leading normal lives . We will create a transitional government which will remain in place until a new constitution is created and a new president, government and parliament are established.

RR:  What are your plans for the post-revolution period, and have your experiences in living through the revolution changed these in any way? If so, how?

Actually, I would like to gain experience and be actively involved in political issues.  I want to play an active role in rebuilding and developing my country, and to help provide what’s needed like food and medicines.  I’d like to be involved in humanitarian aid and relief work because, as you know, we now have many adult and children amputees who have lost limbs in regime attacks and need artificial limbs, as well as people needing urgent surgical operations.  All this is going to cost billions to do, so we need to obtain funds for it or get help from hospitals overseas.

I’d also like to be involved in the education system. As you know, I’m a translator and I’d like to help teach children and young people in schools, colleges and other education institutions. The regime has killed educators in many fields, so we have a massive shortage in this area and need to work hard to fill these vacancies and oversee the implementation of  a real education plan to introduce an accelerated learning program in order to avoid future problems for those kids who’ve  missed two years of learning because regime bombardment  and chaos means they could not continue with their education.

We want to catch everyone involved in killing, torture, rape and looting, to give them trials and imprison them and to execute the worst culprits. We are not going to allow anyone to escape punishment because of their sect. We have all been exposed without discrimination to persecution, terror and intimidation, and too many have been tortured and/or killed, so we want justice and dignity for all equally.

Finally, I want to participate actively in the political process to help and represent my country and my people.  I still have my ambition to get an MA in Translation and Interpreting, even though the regime has deprived me of that opportunity so far and wasted two years of my life with a brutal war against all Syria’s people.  That is what has been imposed on us, but we still reject the regime.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on ANTI-SYRIA ZIONIST PROPAGANDA

مصادر الغضب الاسلامي – صحف عبرية

Posted by: Siba Bizri

Arabic Shoah Editor in Chief 

كانت الموجة الاخيرة للاحتجاج المعادي لامريكا، قد ثارت في الشرق الاوسط وبلغت الى سدني في استراليا مصحوبة بطوفان آخر من المقالات في الصحف الدولية، التي تحاول ان تُبين مصادر الغضب الاسلامي. نشأ الغضب نحو الخارج على أثر الفيلم المعادي للاسلام عن محمد ‘براءة المسلمين’ الذي أُنتج في الولايات المتحدة وبُث في اليو تيوب في نهاية شهر حزيران/يونيو.

بعد الهجوم الارهابي في الحادي عشر من ايلول/سبتمبر حاول محللون مختلفون ان يتبينوا بصورة مشابهة بواعث مختطفي الطائرات الذين جعلوها تصدم مباني في نيويورك وواشنطن. وكان السؤال الذي أُعيد طرحه هو: ما الذي يقف وراء الغضب في هذه العملية؟ كان السبب المباشر لنشوب العنف هو الفيلم في هذه الحال، ومن المؤكد انه قد توجد بواعث اخرى أعمق.

هذه قضية جوهرية. وقد قدّر أحد المحللين العرب الرواد وهو عُريب الرنتاوي في مقالة في صحيفة ‘الدستور’ الاردنية، ان الحاجة الى تفسير موجودة لأن واشنطن ‘ركبت حصان الربيع العربي’ و’حولته الى حصان امريكي’، وعلى رغم ذلك وكما ذكر الرنتاوي ثارت في تلك الدول التي تمتعت بالربيع العربيالموجة الجديدة المعادية لامريكا.

يقول الرنتاوي ان المفاجأة في الولايات المتحدة تنبع في جزء منها من حقيقة انه كانت في الدول التي جربت الربيع العربي تعبيرات معادية لامريكا عنيفة، وهو يبالغ كثيرا في وصف الرد في الولايات المتحدة على هذه الأحداث بل يُسميها ’11 سبتمبر الجديد’.
يجدر ان نفحص وبين أيدينا هذا الكلام هل أسهمت عناصر الربيع العربي في قوة الانفجار العنيف في الاسابيع الاخيرة وقد عُرف لعدد من العناصر الرئيسة تأثير في هذا السياق:

أذرع ‘القاعدة’ التي تعمل في العالم العربي كان الهجوم على القنصلية الامريكية في بنغازي في ليبيا وقتل السفير كريستوفر ستيفنز هما التعبيران الأكثر عنفا عن أحداث الاسبوع الاخير. لكن هذه الحادثة غير ذات صلة بالاحتجاج العام، بل الحديث عن عملية مخطط لها من قبل برعاية ‘القاعدة’. وقد بدأت أذرع القاعدة في السنة الاخيرة تعمل بصورة أكثر حرية وانشأت معسكرات تدريب في مناطق مثل كرنييكا حيث توجد للسلطة المركزية في ليبيا سيطرة محدودة فقط عليها. ونشأ وضع مشابه في شبه جزيرة سيناء في مصر وفي مناطق في جنوب اليمن. وهذا هو السيناريو المحتمل ايضا في سورية في فترة ما بعد الاسد.

قدرة نظم الحكم المحدودة على صد العنف كشفت نظم الحكم الجديدة عن عدم رغبة في العمل بحزم لمواجهة المظاهرات العنيفة، وقد يكون لهذا الشأن الذي صاغ صورة المظاهرات تأثير في صورتها في المستقبل ايضا. ان الجمهور العربي قد فقد في السنتين الاخيرتين من الربيع العربي الخوف من اجهزةالامن، وهذا يُمكّن حادثة هامشية من ان تتصاعد فورا لتصبح احتجاجا جماعيا يستطيع ان يضعضع استقرار النظم الجديدة ايضا.

الهدف المشترك بين المتظاهرين ونظم الحكم وهو الحد من التأثير الامريكي في الشرق الاوسط أُنشئت في تونس ومصر واليمن نظم اسلامية تتصل من حبلها السري بالاخوان المسلمين. ويُرى رئيس الوزراء في ليبيا في نظر كثيرين أنه سياسي له علاقات مع الاخوان المسلمين. وجميع أذرع الاخوان المسلمين هذه شريكة في السعي الى الحد من التأثير الامريكي في الشرق الاوسط الذي سيفضي في نهاية الامر الى طرد الولايات المتحدة من المنطقة.
انشأ الربيع العربي بلا شك ظروفا جديدة في العالم العربي تُغذي التوجه المعادي لامريكا. وفي الصعيد الاقتصادي لم يُفض الربيع العربي الى تحول ذي مغزى والى الازدهار المنشود. وعلى أي حال، فان احتمال الاستثمارات الامريكية في الدول التي يسيطر عليها الاخوان المسلمون ليس كبيرا على نحو خاص. اذا كان الشارع العربي يعتقد بأن ‘حصان الربيع العربي’ هو ‘حصان امريكي’ فان بانتظاره ان يتهم واشنطن بالازمة الاقتصادية التي ستحتدم في السنوات القريبة القادمة.

دوري غولد
اسرائيل اليوم 21/9/2012

Posted in Middle East, ArabicComments Off on مصادر الغضب الاسلامي – صحف عبرية

لم يتبق لنصرالله الا ان يخرج من القبو صحف عبرية

Posted by: Siba Bizri

Arabic Shoah Editor in Chief

يوم الاثنين الماضي شذ الامين العام لـ’حزب الله’ حسن نصرالله عن عادته وظهر في المهرجان الجماهيري الاحتجاجي في بيروت، ضد الفيلم الذي سخر من النبي محمد وأثار عاصفة في العالم. الاقوال التي ألقاها أمام الجمهور لم تكن مفاجئة على نحو خاص: فقد اتهم اسرائيل والولايات المتحدة بالمسؤولية عننشر الفيلم، وحذر الامريكيين من ان المظاهرات ضدهم ستستمر بقوة أكبر اذا لم يعملوا ضده.

‘على العالم ان يعرف ان غضبنا لن يهدأ، وان هذه مجرد بداية الاحتجاج العالمي لكل الشعوب الاسلامية، التي ستواصل الدفاع عن اسم محمد’، قال نصرالله للجماهير التي سارت في الضاحية الجنوبية من بيروت، والتي تخضع لسيطرة ‘حزب الله’، ‘عليهم ان يفهموا بأننا مستعدون لأن نضحي بدمائنا من اجلمحمد’.

بطريقة رمزية ما، اختار الامين العام لـ’حزب الله’ التظاهر باستعداده للتضحية بنفسه من اجل النبي بمجرد ظهوره الحي في المهرجان الجماهيري. ففي السنوات الاخيرة امتنع عن الظهور على الملأ خوفا من اغتياله. وبقدر ما، ما ان قرر عقد مظاهرة الاحتجاج هذه وطرح ‘التزامه بالنبي’، لم يتبق لنصرالله غير ان يخرج من القبو. وهو يعرف بأنه اذا قال أمورا كهذه وهو في مخبئه، فسيكون موضع سخرية من منتقديه في لبنان.
هذه هي احدى المشاكل الكبرى التي يتعين على نصرالله ان يتصدى لها في السنة القريبة القادمة: حملة نزع الشرعية التي شهدها ‘حزب الله’ في لبنان، لأول مرة منذ تسلمه مهام منصبه في العام1992.

لقد بدأ نصرالله يؤدي منصبه كأمين عام حين كان ابن 32 عاما. الزعيم الأعلى لايران، علي خامنئي، فضله على مرشحين آخرين في ‘حزب الله’، كخليفة لعباس موسوي الذي صفته اسرائيل، ولكن في الاسابيع الاخيرة واجه امين عام المنظمة الشيعية انتقادا لم يسبق ان وجه له حتى الآن في لبنان، يُشككبمكانة المنظمة السياسية ورئيسها.

لقد أصبح ‘حزب الله’ منذ العام 1992 عنصر القوة المركزي والأكثر أهمية في الدولة. فقد نجح نصرالله في ان يجعل المنظمة برئاسته جزءا لا يتجزأ من مؤسسات الدولة، وليس مجرد منظمة تمثل الطائفة المستضعفة ـ الشيعة. وتوجد المنظمة الشيعية اليوم في البرلمان وفي الحكومة، تسيطر على التعييناتالأساسية في الجيش وتقرر هوية رئيس الوزراء.

مشكلة نصرالله هي ان الحليف والسيد الثاني في أهميته لـ’حزب الله’، الرئيس الاسد، كفيل بأن يفقد حكمه قريبا. آثار الثورة في سورية وإن كانت غير واضحة بعد، إلا أنه يبدو منذ الآن ان الخوف اللبناني من سورية ومن ‘حزب الله’ قل. يحتمل ان يختفي بعد سقوط الاسد.
المؤشرات على ذلك تبدو واضحة في لبنان منذ هذه الايام: معسكر 14 آذار مثلا يحث كل المحافل السياسية في الدولة على طلب نزع سلاح ‘حزب الله’. كما يسعى 14 آذار في نفس الوقت الى العمل لدى الرئيس ميشيل سليمان كي يتوجه الى مجلس الامن في الامم المتحدة بطلب ارسال قوات حفظ سلام الىالحدود الشرقية والشمالية من لبنان لاغلاقها.

وسيكون لمثل هذه المبادرة تأثير دراماتيكي على ‘حزب الله’، الذي يتلقى معظم وسائله القتالية عبر هذه الحدود.
مشاكل نصرالله لا ترتبط كلها بنظام الاسد، فالامين العام لـ’حزب الله’ تُعد هذه سنة حرجة وذلك ايضا بسبب تعلقه بايران وبزعيمها خامنئي. وسارع مسؤولون ايرانيون كبار الى التطوع بـ’حزب الله’ للحرب ضد اسرائيل، اذا ما تعرضت ايران للهجوم، وشددوا على ان المنظمة الشيعية ستطلق نحوها صواريخها. وفي نفس الوقت اعترف قائد الحرس الثوري في ايران، محمد علي الجعفري، بأن رجال جيش القدس يعملون على الاراضي اللبنانية. هكذا يجد نفسه نصرالله، الذي حاول في العشرين سنة الاخيرة اضفاء صورة لبنانية مستقلة على منظمته، مطوقا من جانب ايران. مع 50 ألف صاروخ جاهزةللاطلاق، نصرالله هو الذي سيقرر كيف ستبدو المواجهة بين اسرائيل وايران.

صحيح ان هجوم اسرائيلي قد يوقع خرابا على ‘حزب الله’ وزعيمه، ولكن بعد الامور الواضحة التي تنطلق من ايران وفي ضوء تعلقه الاقتصادي المطلق بطهران، لن يكون لنصرالله مفر، فهو سيضطر الى مهاجمة اسرائيل اذا ما هاجمت هذه ايران، الخطوة التي ستعرض للخطر مجرد وجود المنظمة وتجرلبنان الى حرب قاسية وطويلة قد تدفعه الى الانهيار.

في هذه الاثناء يبدو واضحا ان الضغط على نصرالله يفعل فعله: فهو يُكثر من الخطابة، الظهور، التهديد، الاختفاء وكل هذا كي يؤكد أهميته كـ’حامٍ للدولة’ للجمهور اللبناني (غير الشيعي) الذي بات منذ زمن بعيد يرى فيه مبعوثا لايران. وستكون خطابات اخرى كهذه في الفترة القريبة القادمة، وسيخرج نصر الله فيها ‘للدفاع عن النبي محمد’ أو ‘لحماية لبنان’، فقط كي يبرر وجود المنظمة. ولكن في المدى البعيد ستزداد العدائية اللفظية لمعارضي المنظمة وقدتؤدي الى مواجهة مسلحة مع قوات من السنة المتطرفين.

في الماضي، أحد حلول نصرالله لمصاعبه داخل لبنان كان خلق توتر مع اسرائيل، بخطابات حماسية أو بعمليات عسكرية (مثل اختطاف الجنديين اهود غولد فاسر والداد ريغف في تموز/يوليو2006). 

هذه السنة ايضا قد يحاول نصرالله، مع أو بدون صلة بايران، توجيه العداء العام الموجه لمنظمته في لبنان نحو ‘الكيان الصهيوني’. وسيكون نصرالله الرجل الذي يقرر هذه السنة ايضا مصير لبنان نحو الحرب أم نحو الهدوء.

آفي يسسخروف 
هآرتس 21/9/2012

Posted in Arabic, LebanonComments Off on لم يتبق لنصرالله الا ان يخرج من القبو صحف عبرية

اعتبر دليلا على فشل الحملة العسكرية ضد المتشددين في سيناء مقتل جندي اسرائيلي و3 مسلحين بهجوم جديد من الاراضي المصرية

Posted by: Siba Bizri

Arabic Shoah Editor in Chief

القاهرة ـ غزة ـ ‘القدس العربي’ رويترز: قال الجيش الإسرائيلي إن ثلاثة مسلحين تسللوا عبر الحدود مع مصر الجمعة وقتلوا جنديا إسرائيليا وأصابوا آخر قبل أن يلاقوا حتفهم.
وهذا هو الهجوم الرابع على الأقل ضد إسرائيل من قبل مسلحين منذ سقوط الرئيس السابق حسني مبارك في انتفاضة شعبية مطلع العام الماضي. ولم تفلح حملة تشنها قوات مصرية مشتركة من الجيش والشرطة منذ الشهر الماضي ضد متشددين في شمالي سيناء في وقف العنف ضد إسرائيل انطلاقا منسيناء.

ويبرز الهجوم الذي وقع امس المخاوف الإسرائيلية العميقة تجاه الأمن المتداعي في سيناء منذ سقوط مبارك في 11 فبراير شباط 2011. وتقيم إسرائيل الآن سياجا أمنيا على الحدود لتحسين أمنها.
وقالت اللفتنانت كولونيل افيتال ليبوفيتش المتحدثة باسم الجيش ‘تم احباط هجوم إرهابي كبير. عبر ثلاثة إرهابيين مسلحين الحدود إلى إسرائيل وفتحواالنار على جنود قوات الدفاع الإسرائيلية التي تحرس الحدود’.

وأضافت ‘الإرهابيون كانوا مسلحين جيدا ويرتدون أحزمة ناسفة’.
وقال الجنرال طال روسو قائد القوات الإسرائيلية في المنطقة إن المسلحين نصبوا كمينا للجنود الإسرائيليين الذين كانوا أحبطوا للتو تسلل مهاجرين افارقةعبر الحدود.

ومضى روسو قائلا للصحافيين بالقرب من مكان الهجوم ‘في الجولة الأولى من إطلاق النار قتل أحد جنودنا’. وأضاف أن جنديا آخر أصيب من شظايا انفجار حزام ناسف كان يرتديه متشدد.

وقال روسو إنه لا معلومات لديه عن انتماء المسلحين ووعد برد إسرائيلي على الهجوم بمجرد معرفة هويات المهاجمين.
وألقي اللوم في الهجمات السابقة على متشددين فلسطينيين ومؤيدين لهم يتمركزون في سيناء.
وقال مصدر أمني مصري إن أحد المسلحين قتل حين انفجرت قنبلة كان يحملها وإن الاثنين الآخرين قتلا في تبادل لإطلاق النار مع القوات الإسرائيلية،مضيفا أن جنسيات المسلحين لم تتضح على الفور.

وتقيم اسرائيل السياج الحدودي لمنع تدفق المهاجرين الأفارقة وتحسين الإجراءات الأمنية وتأمل أن تستكمله بحلول نهاية العام.
وسيمتد السياج على امتداد قطاع كبير من الحدود البالغ طولها 266 كيلومترا من ايلات على البحر الأحمر الى قطاع غزة.
وقالت ليبوفيتش إن الهجوم وقع قرب منطقة تعرف باسم جبل حريف حيث يجري بناء السياج.
وفي حزيران/ يونيو عبر مسلحون الى اسرائيل من سيناء واطلقوا النار على إسرائيليين يبنون حاجزا على الحدود مما أسفر عن مقتل عامل ثم قتل الجنود اثنين من المهاجمين.

وفي آب/ أغسطس قتل إسلاميون 16 من حرس الحدود المصري وخطفوا عربة مدرعة اتجهوا بها صوب الحدود وصدموا بها السياج قبل ان تقتلهمالقوات الإسرائيلية.

وبعد أيام من الهجوم نشرت مصر مئات المجندين تساندهم الدبــــابات والعربات المدرعة وطائرات الهليكوبتر في المنطقة في عملية مشتركة مع الشرطة لمداهمة مخابىء المتشددين والقبض على المشتبه بهم وضبط أسلحة.

Posted in Arabic, EgyptComments Off on اعتبر دليلا على فشل الحملة العسكرية ضد المتشددين في سيناء مقتل جندي اسرائيلي و3 مسلحين بهجوم جديد من الاراضي المصرية

الجيش الحر يعلن نقل قيادته من تركيا الى سوريا

Posted by: Siba Bizri

Arabic Shoah Editor in Chief

اعلن الجيش السوري الحر المعارض للنظام السوري السبت نقل قيادته المركزية من تركيا التي استقر فيها منذ اكثر من عام، الى “المناطق المحررة” داخل سوريا.

وقال قائد مجموعة “الجيش السوري الحر” رياض الاسعد في شريط فيديو بث على الانترنت في رسالة موجهة الى الشعب السوري “نزف لكم خبر دخول قيادة الجيش الحر الى المناطق المحررة بعد ان نجحت الترتيبات (..) في تامين المناطق المحررة لبدء خطة تحرير دمشق قريبا”.

واشار الاسعد الى ضغوطات تعرضت لها مجموعته التي اكد انها لا تريد ان تكون بديلا للنظام.

واوضح “لقد تعرضنا منذ خروجنا من ارض الوطن كقيادة للجيش الحر لكل انواع الضغوط الدولية والاقليمية والحصار المادي والاعلامي (…) لنكون بديلا عن النظام”.

واضاف “ليس هدفنا ان نكون البديل عن النظام الاجرامي الذي يلفظ انفاسه وانما هدفنا ان يكون الشعب السوري بكل مكوناته هو البديل ونحن لسنا الا جزء منه”.

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تركيا تنشر مدافع وصواريخ مضادة للطائرات على الحدود السورية

Posted by: Siba Bizri

Arabic Shoah Editor in Chief

اسطنبول- ا ف ب – ذكرت وسائل اعلام تركية ان الجيش التركي نشر السبت مدافع وصواريخ مضادة للطائرات في جوار مركز حدودي مع سورية يشهد مواجهات بين المقاتلين المعارضين والقوات النظامية.
وقالت قناة ان تي في الاخبارية ان الجيش قام بنشر هذه الاسلحة في شكل وقائي اثر مواجهات عنيفة في سورية للسيطرة على موقع تل الابيض الحدودي.
وتأتي هذه الخطوة اثر قيام القوات النظامية السورية الخميس بقصف مدينة سانليورفا الواقعة على الحدود جنوب شرق البلاد ما أسفر عن اصابة تركيينفيما كانت تحاول استعادة المركز الحدودي من المقاتلين المعارضين.

وأصيب المدنيان التركيان بشظايا قذائف انفجرت في الجانب السوري من الحدود. وتم تعطيل قذيفة اخرى لم تنفجر عثر عليها في الجوار.
وسيطر المتمردون على المركز الحدودي الواقع على الطريق بين مدينة الرقة في شمال شرق سورية ومدينة سانليورفا التركية، حيث تتواصل المواجهاتالعنيفة مع القوات النظامية السورية.

واصيب ثلاثة مدنيين اخرين الثلاثاء برصاص طائش مصدره الجانب السوري، ما دفع السلطات المحلية الى الطلب من السكان الابتعاد من الحدود، علما انمدارس المنطقة مغلقة منذ الاثنين.

ويبعد مركز تل الابيض مئة كلم شمال الرقة.
ومنذ تموز(يوليو)، تمكن المعارضون السوريون من السيطرة على معابر باب الهوا والسلامة وجرابلس بمحاذاة الحدود التركية.
كما سيطروا على معابر مع العراق عند الحدود الشرقية لسورية.

Posted in Arabic, SyriaComments Off on تركيا تنشر مدافع وصواريخ مضادة للطائرات على الحدود السورية

صدى الزواريب | محمد الخضرجي

Posted by:  Siba Bizri

Arabic Shoah Editor in Chief

صحيفة الأخبار اللبنانية 

كان الليل يوازي حبات العنب المتدلية من العريشة المنصوبة فوق الرؤوس كخيمة من ثريات بعيدة. وكانت الأصوات البشرية تتداخل، فلا تميز منها إلا نتفاً من كلمات لا تفيد معنى. صوت خفيض يدلّ على أن شخصا يكلّم شخصاً آخر بأمر لا يريد أن يسمعه الباقون. وبما يشبه اللامبالاة، يتدخل شخص من الخارج بشيء قد يكون تعليقاً، فيضحك له الجميع. المتحادثون بصوت خفيض يبدأون برفع أصواتهم دون انتباه. كأنهم رفعوا أصواتهم مضطرين، ربما لارتفاع الصوت العام في الخارج، تصرخ المتلقية للحديث لمحدثتها الخفيضة الصوت «هادا مش رجّال». لسوء حظها، تصرخ هذه الجملة بلحظة صمت كانت الضحكات فيها كامنة، فتسمع جملتها واضحة رنانة… لتعاود إثارة الضحك الشديد. وبعد محاولات عديدة، تنجح السيدة صاحبة الجملة في السيطرة على الوضع. تشرح أنها وزميلتها كانتا تتحدثان عن شخص جبان، وأنها استنتجت ذلك إثر موقف حدث وأثبت لها ذلك. عندها يبدأ الجميع في مطالبتها بحكاية القصة كاملة. ترفض، ثم تتواطأ نظراتها مع نظرات زميلتها صاحبة الصوت الخفيض متسائلة، لتبادر الأخيرة برواية ما سمعته قبل أيام.
«محمد بائع الخضار في أول المخيم، الذي لطالما تفاخر بشجاعته في القتال. تأكّد الناس أنه يهرب كل يوم سراً إلى القرية القريبة ويصعد شلالها النازل من ارتفاع عال، مستعيناً بالأشجار وبسلّم خشبي مطروق بالمسامير على إحدى الأشجار».

«وماذا يعني ذلك، أكل من يصعد شلال القرية يصبح جباناً؟!» سألها أحدهم بتهكم.
القصة ليست هنا، تقول الفتاة. وتتابع روايتها «القصة لم تكتمل بعد…في قمة الشلال بقعة من الماء، يجلس عليها لينظر في الأفق إن كانت ستأتيعاصفة لتلقي به «بعيداً عن سجنه الغريب» كما يقول.

عادة لا يتوفق في ركوب العاصفة، ويعود أدراجه وكأن شيئاً لم يكن، وفي اليوم التالي يعاود المحاولة.
يعقّب أحد الموجودين بأن محمد الخضرجي هو من أكثر من تكيّف مع حياة الغربة بعيداً عن فلسطين. على الأقل، هذا ما يبدو عليه دائماً. ولكن يتضح أنمحمد لم ينس بلاده أبداً، رغم أنّه متكيف مع سجننا هذا.

إذا فقد الساهرون محمد يوماً ما، فهم لن يستغربوا لأنه لن يحتاج إلا إلى مرة واحدة تأتي العاصفة فيها ليرحل معها. ولكن الساهرين يكملون ما كانوا قد بدأوه فتتداخل أصواتهم من جديد.
*من أعضاء فرقة الراب
الفلسطيني «كتيبة 5»

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Respect’s Salma Yaqoob: ‘Why I quit’

Salma Yaqoob, in her first interview, explains why she left the party, what comes next – and her thoughts on George Galloway.
Salma Yaqoob

‘I really hoped a clarification would sort that out’ … Salma Yaqoob on her differences with George Galloway. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

If you wanted a quick insight into the character and capacities of Salma Yaqoob, you could do worse than bring up a clip, now on YouTube, of one of her appearances on Question Time, in December 2009.

The programme was broadcast that night from Wootton Bassett. It was broadcast not just to licence-fee payers in Britain, but also to serving British soldiers, including those in Afghanistan, and it had six panellists, rather than the usual five: Yaqoob, General Sir Richard Dannatt, then serving as defence adviser to David Cameron, Paddy Ashdown, Piers Morgan, Bill Rammell, then minister of state for the armed forces, and William Hague, then shadow foreign minister.

The first, striking effect was visual – six men, including David Dimbleby, and a slight woman in a bright green cardigan and pale hijab. The next was the reasoned force of Yaqoob’s argument, and how clearly and directly she spoke. Directly, first, to defuse any kneejerk doubts about her national loyalties: “I am a mother,” she said: “I have three sons. I would be proud to have my sons defend this country”; then to those abroad and in Wootton Bassett, concerned about the treatment of troops (the way the government is treating soldiers is “an absolute disgrace”), and then, having given the various constituencies unequivocal evidence that she had heard and thought about them, eviscerated the reasons for going to war, and the supposed reasons for staying. When she finished, four audience members spoke up, and all said the same thing. I agree with Salma.

The Respect party, of which she was leader, was doing well enough that when the general election was called four months later, they hoped to take three seats. In the event, they took none, though Yaqoob came second to Labour in Birmingham Hall Green by only 3,799 votes, achieving an 11.7% swing from Labour to Respect and making it a marginal seat. After 2010, membership dropped below 1,000, but then the coalition cuts began to bite, and a party that had always campaigned both against inequality (or neoliberalism, as they would put it) as well as foreign wars (imperialism, they’d say), found that it was the former that people really wanted to talk about.

Then in March of this year George Galloway was elected MP of Bradford West in a result that left Labour reeling. In the local elections in May, Respect acquired five councillors in Bradford. There was even talk of another possible byelection if Liam Byrne ran for mayor of Birmingham (voters rejected the idea of a mayor altogether), and of Yaqoob then becoming Respect’s second MP.

But last week, she resigned. The immediate catalyst was Galloway, who had said in a podcast that some of the allegations against Julian Assange by two Swedish women did not constitute rape “as most people understand it”; that Assange was simply guilty of “bad sexual etiquette”. When I ask how these comments led to her leaving the party she helped to found, there is a long pause.

Yaqoob, 41, is, in person, even slighter than she seems on television – she has long, thin arms and a face miraculously unlined by a decade spent raising three boys, working as a councillor in Birmingham (she resigned for reasons of ill-health last year), running a part-time psychotherapy practice – oh, and leading a new political party. She has just had a new kitchen fitted, and the backyard of her home in the Moseley area of Birmingham is piled with cardboard boxes. The ceilings are high, and the rooms full of light. On the kitchen table sits a straw basket of chapatis she has been baking.

“I’ve always admired George’s anti-imperialist stances and I don’t regret, for a second, standing side by side on those issues. But for me, to have to make a choice between that and standing up for the rights of women was a false choice. I thought it was a blurring of something that didn’t need to be blurred. It’s not that complicated – you can hold two ideas at the same time.” Of course, “we’re all human, we can’t always make perfectly worded and crafted sentences – I really hoped a clarification would sort that out.” She published a statement setting out her own position, but then, as she describes it, things escalated. Although she says Galloway never got directly in contact – and still hasn’t – she felt she was being personally maligned; that “under the guise of different names there were personal attacks”.

The irony is, of course, that so much of Galloway’s victory in Bradford West was ascribed to women, and particularly women from traditional backgrounds who had in the past been expected to vote the way their husbands or fathers or brothers voted – the baradari system that generally delivered block votes to Labour – “that’s why it’s been deeply disappointing, because I do feel that those women have been let down. [Comments like that] open the door to women being treated in a certain way. You are just dismissed, your views are not taken seriously, and a certain reactionary attitude is encouraged rather than challenged.”

A week before, Kate Hudson, who had joined Respect from the Communist party after the Bradford byelection, and had been selected as their candidate for Manchester Central, withdrew her candidacy; there have been reports that in the week since Yaqoob left, others have followed her. There were accounts of crisis meetings held in Bradford, predictions in the Pakistani press (which also noted that Yaqoob had been “highly upset when thuggish elements, including some with a highly radical religious agenda, took control of the party during the election campaign”, although this is not an issue she mentions in our conversation) of mass exit. Yet, according to a piece on this paper’s website, when Galloway addressed the Bradford Muslim Women’s Circle, hours after Yaqoob’s resignation, he was still standing by “every word I said in my podcast”.

It looks like Respect, only six months after a great electoral victory, is imploding. Is this the end of your party? “Only time will tell. Councillors have just been elected, on a very clear mandate. They are hardworking and principled and there is an opportunity still for them to enact that vision.” But it would not be too extreme to assume that a significant part of that famous women’s vote in Bradford came about because she comes from the Pakistani community (when her parents arrived in Britain they settled first in Bradford, where she still has family, and then in Birmingham, where her father worked 18-hour days at the Post Office to support seven children), because she is trusted and (often reluctantly) admired for a public role that has at times been difficult to play; surely the combination of her leaving, and leaving over an issue so specific to the way women are treated, is a body blow ? “I think … George has to deal with that in the way that he sees fit. And reflect on that.” There’s a sudden sense of the tone her sons must hear when they have overstepped the mark.

One of the issues that has been increasingly true of Respect is the way in which it has often seemed, from the outside at least, to be dominated by one man, Gorgeous George, with all his undeniable gifts, but also his unpredictability, his ego, his sometimes dubious decisions (his salute to Saddam Hussein’s “courage, strength and indefatigability”; his stated “respect and admiration” of Syria’s Assad in an email). Many people did not necessarily realise Yaqoob was party leader. Was that not galling? “Not at all! It’s not a popularity contest – at least not for me. It’s about the ideas – and I’m proud – whoever champions those ideas and they get that support it’s a victory for all of us. Which is why I’m very open about supporting, for example, members of the Green party, or members of the Labour party, who share that progressive vision.”

Ah yes, the Green party. And Labour. Immediately after she resigned, Caroline Lucas was tweeting, “Really hope Salma Yaqoob‘s resignation from Respect doesn’t mean she’s leaving politics – we need her clarity and vision,” and Birmingham Labour MP Richard Burden was suggesting a possible future in Labour. These overtures are not a new development – it has even, in the past, been reported that she’s had approaches from the Lib Dems and the Conservatives (which says something about the worlds she straddles, and the nature of her appeal; it could also be a cynical calculation about visible diversification and the attendant votes).

“This is all in 2010 – it’s no secret that people have made approaches. But then my political platform and principles are very, very clear – there was never that temptation. And right now, although I’m very flattered and honoured, I’m taking stock.” (She says that Galloway has been keen to find a way back to Labour. “This is the irony – he’s always said to me, ‘if you have an approach, just make sure that I can come back in’. Ironically, that has not been on the cards. I think it’s a great sadness to him, understandably, that he was expelled [for his vocal opposition to the Iraq war].”)

Not everyone, of course, would be happy to see her join the Labour party: “Labour right already hyperventilating at thought of @SalmaYaqoob joining party. No problem with Tories though #doublestandards,” tweeted Diane Abbott. Others pointed to an open letter Yaqoob signed that stated: “The US government and its allies, and their friends in the media, have built up a campaign against Assange which now sees him in prison facing extradition on dubious charges … We demand his immediate release, the dropping of all charges, and an end to the censorship of WikiLeaks.” “If you don’t want the seriousness of the charges to be diminished,” blogged Dan Hodges, “why denounce them as ‘dubious’, claim they are part of a US government conspiracy, and call for them to be dropped?” The word “charges” relates to extradition, she points out – Assange has not yet been charged with rape.

There is also a significant cohort worried about the nature of the membership of Respect, that it is an uneasy alliance of far left and Islamist far right.”I will not accept that. I’ve been there from the beginning. I know that we have fought those very reactionary forces, we challenged them from within. I get the hate calls – I get people in the streets saying, ‘She is trying to wreck our homes.’ I’ve had the death threats, that anyone who beheads me will go straight to heaven. Because I promote democracy, because I have a very clear stance on pluralism. Pluralism is not about just supporting people you happen to agree with anyway. I would challenge anybody to say where I have pandered to, never mind encouraged, any reactionary stance.”

It has been exhausting, she says, arguing with “people who misunderstand or deliberately project their stereotypes, so you’re constantly saying, ‘I’m not this’ or ‘I’m not that,’ while trying to maintain a clarity of what you actually are.” This is, in many ways, one of the most likable and impressive things about her – her robust refusal of easy, essentialising demographic assumptions, even those that might initially play, politically, in her favour – but also, having done this, her patient spelling out of a vision. Granted, that vision can sound incredibly idealistic, and in these careful days almost shockingly left-wing, but, unusually for a political leader, it doesn’t feel rote.

And this ability to stand for herself is, of course, what she’d be risking by joining a bigger party such as Labour – even though she makes a point of saying that they seem to be making baby steps in what (for her) is the right direction: “We’ve seen Ed Miliband say that the Iraq war was wrong. We’ve seen him be bold before a lot of other people about Murdoch and the corporatisation of media, the fact that he’s talking about inequality as an issue.” But for her it is all still too timid. “I think there is real potential for mobilising around what people are feeling right now at home. And yet [they are also] feeling, ‘Who’s championing us, who’s speaking for us?’ There is a vacuum there. Labour is the natural home for those people, but it needs to not take that for granted, needs to infuse [their message] not just with a negative narrative of, ‘Oh, the Tories are scary and let people down,’ but actually with hope.”

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