Features

SEEING THE WOMEN IN REVOLUTIONARY SYRIA

by Razan Ghazzawi, openDemocracy

"They brought us by bus. We were a large group of female and male comrades. I recall that we were shackled, and an increasing sense of fear overwhelmed me about reaching that place, the expected interrogation, from facing Mudar whom I thought was there, and seeing all the comrades. Mixed feelings of fear and anticipation and desire and ... But it all began to disappear en route and as I am approaching the city that I loved and still do, I did not feel the length of the road or the time that had passed by...Damascus was looming in front of us."

—Amira Huweija, member of the Communist Labor Party, from her time in Douma prison between 1987-1991.

This account will try to give an overview of the role of grassroots women in the Syrian uprising in an attempt to highlight angles not widely covered by the mainstream media, in Arabic or internationally. Nor is this well represented in the narratives of the Syrian political opposition abroad. In fact in all these narratives, women are rather systematically excluded from any account of political decision-making regarding this country in such a historic phase. Women and youth have very little representation in the ranks of either the local councils or the Syrian National Coalition. So how is it that women in Syria have played an essential role throughout the phases of the uprising, a role that has shifted over time in response to the increased violence and rapid developments on the ground?

THE NEW PKK

Unleashing Social Revolution in Kurdistan

Post image for The new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan

by Rafael Taylor, ROAR Magazine

As the prospect of Kurdish independence becomes ever more imminent, the Kurdistan Workers' Party transforms itself into a force for radical democracy.

Excluded from negotiations and betrayed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne after having been promised a state of their own by the World War I allies during the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds are the largest stateless minority in the world. But today, apart from a stubborn Iran, increasingly few obstacles remain to de jure Kurdish independence in northern Iraq. Turkey and Israel have pledged support while Syria and Iraq’s hands are tied by the rapid advances of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS).

With the Kurdish flag flying high over all official buildings and the Peshmerga keeping the Islamists at the gate with the assistance of long overdue US military aid, southern Kurdistan (Iraq) join their comrades in western Kurdistan (Syria) as the second de facto autonomous region of the new Kurdistan. They have already started exporting their own oil and have re-taken oil-rich Kirkuk, they have their own secular, elected parliament and pluralistic society, they have taken their bid for statehood to the UN, and there is nothing the Iraqi government could do—or the US would do without Israeli support—to stop it.

The Kurdish struggle, however, is anything but narrowly nationalistic. In the mountains above Erbil, in the ancient heartland of Kurdistan winding across the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, a social revolution has been born.

GAZANS FACE STRUGGLE ON WAR CRIMES CLAIMS

from IRIN

JERUSALEM — Speaking on Aug. 5 after a meeting at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki was unequivocal. "Everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity," he said, referring to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza. "There is no difficulty for us to show or build the case. [The] evidence is there… Israel is in clear violation of international law."

His comments echoed those made by senior international figures. Speaking after the bombing of a UN school, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attacks a "gross violation of international humanitarian law," while UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said there is a "strong possibility" of war crimes.

According to the latest count from the UN, Israel's Operation Protective Edge against Hamas and other militants in Gaza has claimed the lives of more than 1,800 Palestinians, 72% of whom were civilians. The death toll on the Israeli side is 67: 64 soldiers, two civilians, and one foreign national working in Israel.

Yet while the accusations of abuses against Israel have been loud, proving them will be a lot more challenging. Political, legal and practical limitations, experts say, mean the Palestinians will struggle to use either international or Israeli courts to pursue their claims.

UNDERSTANDING SYRIA'S FOUR-FRONT WAR

ISIS

by Christopher Phillips, Middle East Eye

As the world media has been preoccupied with the Gaza conflict, Syria has just had the bloodiest week of its civil war. Some 1,700 were killed in seven days, with a renewed push from Islamic State (IS) accounting for much of the violence.

Confident after its victories in Iraq and deploying newly looted military hardware, IS's sudden charge and the reaction to it in Syria and outside, has tilted the conflict on its axis, challenging various assumptions and shifting dynamics. Increasingly, we can talk about a war being fought on four overlapping fronts by four groupings of actors: the Assad government, IS, the mainstream rebels and the Kurds.

PRACTICING PEACE IN WARTIME

Israelis and Palestinians Who Refuse to Be Enemies

Neve Shalom

from IRIN

JERUSALEM — The sixty families are determined not to be driven apart by even the most extreme circumstances; the sign pointing to a bomb shelter is written in three languages—English, Arabic and Hebrew. Equidistant from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on a hilltop near the border with the West Bank, residents of the village called Neve Shalom and Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace in Hebrew and Arabic) choose to live side by side in Israel's only truly mixed community.

The 30 Israeli Jewish and 30 Palestinian families have resolved not to let the latest hostilities turn neighbor against neighbor. "These times of heightened violence actually really bring the village together," said Bob Mark, a Jewish Israeli who taught at Neve Shalom's primary school for 23 years. "You'll find the village demonstrating together," he added. While residents have differing views on the solution to the country's woes they all agree that the killing must stop.

SELECTIVE INTERNATIONALISM

Gaza and Syria Reveal an Activist Disorder

Syria solidarity

by Nott George Sabra

Some 80,000 people rallied in London last weekend to support the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip whom Israeli forces are slaughtering daily by the dozens. This commendable display of internationalism—defined as unconditional solidarity with the oppressed and the exploited without regard to borders, colors, or creeds—was repeated all over the US and Europe as thousands turned out at similar marches, even defying a government ban in Paris. Bringing this street sentiment into the halls of power, Chile's parliament voted to suspend trade talks with Israel.

This vigorous internationalist grassroots response to Israel's murderous campaign is exactly what revolutionary Syrians called for from activists abroad since 2011 in response to the Syrian regime's adoption of Israeli tactics like collective punishment and bombing, shelling, and demolishing entire civilian neighborhoods—but to no avail. The regime of Bashar al-Assad has killed over 2,000 Palestinians and displaced far more Palestinians than Israel has and yet the only time organizers of London's Gaza protest, the Stop the War Coalitionever took action over Syria was to save said regime from airstrikes and to stop the imposition of a no-fly zone—the only way to end the regime's barrel bomb attacks. After they succeeded, Stop the War Coalition organized a "victory" march to brag that they had stopped the war in Syria!

BRAZIL'S DEFEAT: BEYOND FOOTBALL

The High Cost of Hosting FIFA's World Cup

protest mural

by Andrew Kennis, Americas Program

RIO DE JANEIRO — While smoking his tobacco pipe in front of his small cinder-block home toward the top of his native Vidigal, a sprawling favela overlooking some of Rio de Janeiro’s most luxurious neighborhoods, Jamil Jorge offered his thoughts on Brazil hosting the World Cup in the midst of the tournament: "The World Cup only benefits people and institutions with money, not people like me."

Jamil had just finished meditating during a breezy ocean-side night at one of the many stunning lookouts that Vidigal offers. The public viewpoint lies at the foot of one of the many homes of none other than David Beckham—reflective of the uneven and volatile development Brazil has undergone over the last decade alone. Recent years have brought tens of millions into the middle class but left plenty of others behind, as suggested by a low 85th ranking in the United Nations Human Development index.

When asked about the FIFA (International Federation of Football Association, in English) and its motives in relation to the Cup, Jorge grinned and made the universal gesture for money with his hands. "Someone is profiting from this World Cup, but it isn’t me… or our favela."

ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE ZIONIST PROJECT

Interview: Nadia Abu El-Haj

al-Aqsa

by Alex Shams, Ma'an News Agency

In early January, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that it would begin excavation on an archaeological site inside a Jewish settlement near the heart of Hebron's old city. The announcement sparked outrage among many who viewed the move as an attempt to legitimize the presence of illegal settlements in the center of the flashpoint southern West Bank city. Since then, Israeli authorities have also moved forward on plans for a Jewish history theme park in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Local residents—dozens of whom have received home demolition orders in recent months—have loudly objected to the idea, while the Al-Aqsa Foundation has raised alarms that Israel archaeologists have destroyed a number of non-Jewish archaeological sites in ongoing excavations nearby.

In order to understand the political uproar over seemingly innocuous archaeological projects, Ma'an interviewed anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj to discuss the broader historical context. Abu El-Haj is a professor at Barnard College and Columbia University and the author of Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, among other books. Her work explores how archaeology played an integral role in the Zionist settler-colonial project and the legitimization of Israeli territorial claims in the region.

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