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The War of Religion, Power and Opposition: Syria

Sunni population in Syria was constantly repressed at the time of Hafez as well as Bashar, which had infuriated the Sunnis long time ago

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters hold up their weapons in the north of Raqqa city, Syria. VOA
  • The year 2010 witnessed a massive political upheaval in the Arab world
  • Syria, too like others strived to fight back against the regime of Bashar-al-Assad
  • In 2011, the protestors started showing demonstration against the government which marked the beginning of Syrian civil war

– by Naina Mishra

June 04, 2017: War is a crime paid for by the pain of the defeated. As long as Humanity exists, Hatred will also exist and there can be no peace, only war. The rack of the civilians is nothing in front of the self-centered interest of the 75 rebel groups in Syria. 4 million lives have been lost till now in Syrian War. The number nevertheless just keeps on augmenting every now and then.


The year 2010 witnessed a massive political upheaval in the Arab world, which led to the origination of ‘Arab Spring’. The movement originated in Tunisia dethroning the then dictator, Zine el-Abidine after 24 years in power and spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The Arab Spring saw a huge protest by people against their deep-rooted political masters. Syria, too like others strived to fight back against the regime of Bashar-al-Assad.  However, the term Arab Spring has now been changed to ‘Arab Winters’, the reason being that the phase can not be attributed to a blooming phase rather it is dark and gloomy for Syrian civilians.

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Syria is located in the Middle East and is bordered by Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. Syria gained independence from France in 1946, which led to political instability for over two decades in the country. Hafez-al-Assad was brought to the presidency in 1971 to bring the much-needed stability in Syria. Soon after he rose to power, all democratic practices were continued to be abandoned under his regime. He condemned dissent and anyone who dared to oppose him was detained capriciously and tortured. He started electing loyalists from his Alawite Shia sect in the security agencies and intelligence bodies. Sunni, a marginalized faction in Syria, which constitute 82 percent of the Syrian population, were denied access to the resources. Hafez formed one of the most oppressive regimes in this world, which was brutal and barbaric in nature.

Enter Bashar-al-Assad 

In 2000, Bashar-al-Assad, the youngest son of Hafez-al-Assad came to power after his father’s death. Bashar was 34 at the time of his father’s death whereas according to the constitution of Syria, the president’s age must be 40 years, which was altered to 34 years for Bashar. Imagine the kind of dominion was about to prevail in Syria which denied the constitutional procedures. One does not expect from a president to turn things into his favor unrighteously.

The Beginning of Syrian Civil War

Sunni population in Syria was constantly repressed at the time of Hafez as well as Bashar, which had infuriated the Sunnis long time ago. The period 2007-2010 faced a severe drought which led to widespread hunger in Syria and food prices inflated by the government. In 2011, the protestors started showing demonstration against the government, which was suppressed by police and army fire over the protestors. This marked the beginning of Civil War in Syria that caused civil unrest among people, and men started defecting from the army to form Free Syrian Army (FSA).

How Civil war veered into Religious war?

In 2012, Jihadist (extremists) stepped into the civil war to join the fight against Bashar government.  The reason was quite obvious — the extremist belonged to the Sunni sect. In January 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra, a segment of Al-Qaeda was formed, which settled in Syria to fulfill their hedonistic intentions. Another group from Al-Qaeda called ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) broke away in 2014 and started attacking FSA, sometimes Al Nusra too. They established their caliphate in Raqqa city of Northern Syria, which is now the capital of ISIS ( Islamic State of Iraq and Levant).

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On the other side, Iran, a Shia-majority country started backing the Syrian government and provided military support to Assad. Here too, Iran wanted a Shia government to rule in the Middle East. Hezbollah, a Shia militia based in Lebanon joined to support Assad.

Here the world joins the Syrian War

The ultimate aim of the rebel groups like Jabhat al-Nusra was not only confined to collapse Bashar government but after taking over Syria they wanted to take over the United States. Fearing the 9/11 attack, US approved CIA-backed training to moderate rebel groups, who just wanted a democratic government in Syria. However, it was not successful and till date, the US has not been able to give training to the moderate groups.

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In August 2013, a chemical attack was hailed on civilians in Damascus and more than 700 people died in just one day of the attack. The attack is known to be the deadliest use of chemical weapons since the Iran–Iraq War. There was huge outcry after the chemical attack in the world, and everyone contemplated the fallout of Bashar to be ideal for Syrians. Soon after the attack, Russia rescued Syria and convinced Assad to let the Organizations for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) dismantle all chemical weapons in Syria to save the government from external threat.

US-led airstrikes against ISIL in 2014 in an international coalition. Assad government started losing ground in Syria as ISIS had captured a major portion of northern Syria by that time. When the Syrian government was on the verge of collapsing, Russia intervened militarily and bombed against ISIL, Nusra and FSA.

It can be inferred that the backing of world powers (US, RUSSIA, CHINA, and IRAN) are only dragging the conflict further.

Syria in Turmoil

The Al-Qaboun neighborhood in rural Damascus is shelled July 15, 2013. VOA

Due to this ongoing civil war, there has been a massive displacement of people. Many countries do not allow refugees from Syria. According to UNHCR, the number of refugees has risen and never have been this much critical after the World War II. Refugees who come from Syria say that ‘Syria can never be the same again’. The quality of life has plummeted in Syria, and health crises have increased tremendously.

Notwithstanding with the current scenario, Bashar-al-Assad may yet survive just another day, a day that shows the triumph of the brutal forces over the naive and innocent people. It is sad to reckon that human loss is so diminutive in today’s world. The thought of waking up tomorrow with a save life is merely a fantasy for these people.

– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: Nainamishr94

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)


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4 Ships Banned From All Ports For Violating North Korea Sanctions

South Korea's naval ships
South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill for possible attack from North Korea in the water of the East Sea, South Korea. voa

The U.N. Security Council has banned all nations from allowing four ships that transported prohibited goods to and from North Korea to enter any port in their country.

Hugh Griffiths, head of the panel of experts investigating the implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, announced the port bans at a briefing to U.N. member states on Monday. A North Korean diplomat attended the hour-long session.

Griffiths later told several reporters that “this is the first time in U.N. history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports.

He identified the four cargo ships as the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun.

According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China.

Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans.

That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion – about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

The Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions on Sept. 11, responding to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3.

These latest sanctions ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap its crude oil imports. They also prohibit all textile exports, ban all joint ventures and cooperative operations, and bars any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers-key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Both resolutions are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Griffiths told U.N. diplomats that the panel of experts is getting reports that the DPRK “is continuing its attempts to export coal” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We have as yet no evidence whatsoever of state complicity, but given the large quantities of money involved and the excess capacity of coal in the DPRK it probably comes as no surprise to you all that they’re seeking to make some money here,” he said.

Griffiths said the panel is “doing our very best to monitor the situation and to follow up with member states who maybe have been taken advantage of by the tactics deployed by DPRK coal export entities.”

As for joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, Griffiths said the resolution gives them 120 days from Sept. 11 to close down.

But “in a number of cases, the indications are that these joint ventures aren’t shutting down at all but are on the contrary expanding _ and therefore joint ventures is a major feature of the panel’s current investigations,” he said.

Griffiths also asked all countries to pay “special attention” to North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, also known as the Mansudae Art Studio, which is on the sanctions blacklist and subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

According to the sanctions listing, Mansudae exports North Korea workers to other countries “for construction-related activities including for statues and monuments to generate revenue for the government of the DPRK or the (ruling) Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Griffiths said Mansudae “has representatives, branches and affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region, all over Africa and all over Europe.” Without elaborating, he added that “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa.” (voa)

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Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner Used Private email Account for White House officials

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner is senior advisor at the White House .

Washington, Sep 25: US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner has occasionally used a private email account for correspondence with fellow administration officials, his lawyer confirmed.

“Fewer than a hundred emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account,” counsel Abbe Lowell told CNN on Sunday night.

Politico news had first reported Kushner’s use of a private account and said it was set up in December and was used to sometimes trade emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and some others about media coverage.

Lowell said that the emails on Kushner’s private account were “usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal, rather than his White House, address”.

Federal law requires that all White House records be preserved, including emails.

Regarding concerns that some of the emails might not have been preserved since Kushner was not using a White House account, Lowell told CNN: “All non-personal emails were forwarded to his official address, and all have been preserved, in any event.”

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly criticised Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server to send and receive an email during her tenure as Secretary of State.(IANS)