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Entries in Syria Deeply (7)


Syria Feature: The Lesson of the Destruction of the Ummayad Mosque (Hanano)

Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFPThe lesson of the minaret: every tyrant will fall and the city remains. History has taught us that the people find a way to pick up the pieces of their city and rebuild. One thousand years from now, these years will be a chapter in history books. The future people of Aleppo will visit this sacred site and will feel the calm and peace once more. The stone will be old again. They will point to the square tower and whisper to their children the tale of this minaret that falls every few centuries when the lesson of tyranny must be taught to a people who had forgotten. Those people of the future are lucky. They will be unaware of the pain of living those years, unaware of the shame of writing this chapter. History is abstract and seamless to them, like it once was for us. It is merely a story they can recite while they trace their fingers over the stone and remember without consequence. I envy them.

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Syria Feature: The Conflict --- and Truce --- Between Insurgents and Kurds in Ras al-Ain

Fighters in Ras al-Ain (Photo: Reuters)

Kurdish and Arab militias waged a bitter battle for three months in the northern city of Ras Al Ayn, in Hassakeh province. Now, they’ve reached a truce that has managed to last into a third week, marking an early success for a nascent group of peacekeepers led by famed Christian dissident Michel Kilo....

The months of fighting in Ras Al Ain killed nearly 300 people. It took a diverse group of men and women, Kurds and Arabs, Alawites, Sunnis, Christians, tribal leaders and urbanites to broker Feb. 17’s tenuous peace.

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Syria Feature: The Life and Death of a Citizen Journalist (Hanano)

On April 25, 2011, a man held up a video camera in Deraa. He was not an experienced videographer and he did not have a tripod.

He stood in front of a group of Syrian army soldiers with tanks and filmed them shooting their machine guns towards civilian targets. Each time he watched the clip on his laptop, he noticed the footage was shaky due to his trembling hand, so he would go back to his exposed vantage point to film once more.

He did this 24 times before he made this passably stable clip:

His name was Mohamed “Abu al-Nimer” Masalmeh.

On January 18, 2013 --- after 22 months of reporting as a citizen journalist from Deraa --– he was killed by army snipers in the village of Busra al-Harir

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Syria 1st-Hand: The Bombings That Broke "Peaceful" Salamiyeh

Aftermath of the car bomb that killed 42 in Salamiyeh, 22 January 2013

For two years Salamiyeh, the Ismaili-majority city 20 miles east of Hama, has skirted much of the violence unleashed on its neighbors despite hosting large anti-government protests. It’s created an environment of political tolerance that differs from Assad regime strongholds and territories held by rebels.

But a series of bombings there, and the looming entry of rebel forces, is poised to bring this quiet city of 75,000 into Syria’s civil war, and risks fraying Salamiyeh’s sectarian harmony that served as an example for the nation before and during the revolution.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Kurdish Fighters Hoping to Balance Islamist Forces (Sergie)

Claimed footage of Saladin Brigade joining Free Syrian Army, October 2012

Fighters of the Kurdish Saladin Brigade greet visitors with marhaba, hello, rather than the Islamic salam alikum. They lack the bushy beards that mark the more conservative Muslims who fight alongside them in the battlefields. It’s a marriage of convenience: secular Kurds joining with Islamist groups to gain more traction in the fight against President Bashar al Assad.

Saladin Brigade, which includes Arab members in its ranks, says its alliance with Islamists is a way to pay its dues to the revolution. Its leaders hope to bring down the Assad regime and play an influential, and moderating, role in a future Syria.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Coffee with the Mayor of A Christian Village (Leigh)

“I’m a Christian. There’s a big difference here between Christians and Alawites. Alawites are special cases, they are always number one,” Msyor Abu Skandar says.

“Before the war, we had a good relationship with them. We also had a good relationship with the Sunnis. There’s an old Arabic saying: ‘We sleep in the same house'. There were a few Alawite families here before, but when we started the revolution, we threw them out of this village.”

Why, I ask.

“The Alawites are all out for our houses, they’re all out for money.”

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Syria 1st-Hand: Two Survivors of the Insurgent Attack on a Military School (Syria Deeply)

Insurgents take over the Syrian military's infantry school, December 2012

Most of the supervising officers were Alawites, Adel said, and the commanders told cadets that the fight was against armed terrorists, many of them foreign, who were bent on destroying the country. Unable to call their parents or watch foreign news channels, the cadets had no way to verify this assessment. “They would insult Sheikh Arour,” Adel said, referring to the firebrand and sectarian Sunni cleric who has a TV show on a Saudi satellite station.

As war raged in Aleppo and news trickled into the infantry school of comrades who died or fled the battle, cadets from all sects quietly talked about plans to defect and speculated on when Assad would fall, Ahmad said. By November 1st, the battle reached the infantry school.

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