Death under torture in Syria: the horrors ignored by pacifists

Rami Alhames:

Khaled was arrested by Syrian regime security forces in January 2013 for his leading role in organising and carrying out humanitarian and aid work in Yarmouk Refugee Camp. On 11 September, the Yarmouk coordination committee and Jafra Foundation reported that Khaled was killed under torture in one of the several infamous intelligence branches in Damascus.

Originally posted on Random Shelling قصف عشوائي:

Budour Hassan
Publised in TheRepublicGS.netArabic, Italian (thanks to Enrico Barolomei)

Perhaps one of the cruellest aspects of the Syrian regime’s war on the Syrian population is its success in normalising death and desensitising the world to its harrowing massacres. Missing from the six-digit death toll are the charred faces and untold stories of the martyrs, and of the suffering inflicted upon the loved ones they leave behind. As one Syrian activist put it: «One thing I will never forgive Bashar al-Assad for is denying us the chance to grieve over our martyred friends». Indeed, with mass-murder turning into a horrifyingly frequent occurrence two-and-a-half years on, mourning the fallen has become a luxury most Syrians are deprived of.


Dehumanising Syrians

The dehumanisation of Syrians was painfully illustrated by the debate that ensued after the chemical weapons attack on 21 August in the Damascus countryside. The victims were treated…

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Western Women Don’t Care If They Are Raped on Roadside, We do!

This Post was originally written for Global Voices

A screenshot of Youtube video. Used under CC BY 2.0

A screenshot of Youtube video. Used under CC BY 2.0

Another episode of Saudi Arabia women drive rights was highlighted in international and social media earlier this January 2015. Dr. Saleh Al-Saadoon claimed on Rotana Khalijia, a national TV directed to GCC countries, that ‘Western women who drive don’t care if they’re raped’ in his defense of prohibiting Saudi women of driving in the kingdom.

The new comments come in a continuous national dialogue of women right to drive in Saudi Arabia, the sole country in the world that officially prohibit women from driving cars. There were many tries to break the ban, most widely in October 26th, 2013 when dozens of women shared videos driving cars in the day they plan on defying the ban.

Saudi “historian” notes that:

Unlike riding a camel, driving a car places a woman in danger of being raped, which for Saudi women is a much worse experience than for any women in the western world where women “don’t care” if they are raped.

To make his interview worse, he suggested a solution to import “foreign female drivers” to drive the Saudis women to prevent a potential rape by contracted male drivers. The video posted on Youtube by The Husky is in Arabic and subtitled to English by MEMRI.

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Six Syrian Cartoonists Who Dare to Mock Assad

This Post was originally written for Global Voices

One of Akram Ruslan's cartoons that outraged Assad regime. Source: Cartoon Movement Blog. Used under CC BY 2.0

One of Akram Ruslan’s cartoons that outraged Assad regime. Source: Cartoon Movement Blog. Used under CC BY 2.0

Featuring dictators considered among the greatest taboo freedom of expression and possible life-danger of cartoonists’ anywhere, anytime. Syrian cartoonist is not an exception as they suffered torture, loyalists attacks, and even death. Cartoons they draw yet reflecting lives of millions of Syrians and Arabs, nonetheless, have fund their way online through four years of uprising against Assad regime thanks to social media “free spaces”.

Assad acts towards his people have inspired Arab and foreign cartoonists who flooded the printed, digital, and social media portals with thousands of examples. We have sorted out 6 of Syrian artists with a short bio of each presented in a random order.

Not to forget, honorably, we have to mention 2 Syrian artists who suffered the most: Ali Farzat, internationally awarded artist, who has been beat up in exchange of mocking Assad in early days of the Syrian revolution, and Akram Ruslan who detained and reported killed for the same reason.

1. Hussam Sara

One of early revolution activists posting his drawing on his Facebook page. Worked for several Arabic newspapers in Bahrain. He is son of Fayez Sara, an opposition leader and a brother of Wisam Sarah, a martyr pacific activist who had been tortured to death in Assad prisons in Feb 2014. Hussam suffered [Ar] a physical attack in Bahrain as he draws Assad clearly in his work.


Assad via Hussam Sara Facebook Page. Used with permission.

2. Kamiran Shemdin

Born in al-Qamishli, 1974, published his cartoons in Aljazeera website and Ge P magazine in Iraqi Kurdistan. In an interview with SyriaUtold he says: “The sight of the thousands of Syrians marching in the streets without fear and calling for the downfall of the regime gave me a feeling of solace and of being free myself. Despite my exile, I was a part of them with all my feelings.”


Assad via Kamiran Shemdin Facebook page. Used under CC BY 2.0

3. Amer M. Zughbi

Amer worked in several Arab newspapers, currently working Albayan in UAE newspaper and publishing on the AlJazeera website. He Won the Arab Journalism Award for best cartoonist in the Arab newspapers and publications for three times 2007, 2009 and 2013.


Assad via Amer M. Zohbi Facebook page. Used under CC BY 2.0

4. Firas Bachi

Born in 1979 in Damascus, has a B.A. in Economics in 2003 but still in love with art & drawing. Cartoonist, Caricaturist, and Advertising Art Director. On his Facebook page he describes his cartoons as: “againstall forms of dictatorship politics, human injustice, suppression & oppression, racism & discrimination. cartoons that dig to expose the fuzzy scenes in a world of injustice where surrendering suddenly became a habit, and supporting the unjust became a worship.” More of his works on


Assad as Pheron, Nobody stopped him. Source: Firas Bachi Facebook page. Used with permission.

5. Ahmad Jalal

Do you remember the infamous people of “Liberated Kafranbel” holding creative cartoons banners? Ahmed is behind them. His hobby before the revolution, turn him to be known as “Kafranbel Cartoonist”. He works within a group of young people filled with irony spirit and creativity in their village in the countryside of Idlib, Syria.

Assad and ISIS via Ahmed Jall Facebook Page. Used under CC BY 2.0

Assad and ISIS via Ahmed Jalal Facebook Page. Used under CC BY 2.0

6. Saad Hajo

Born in Damascus in 1968, graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, work in in “An-Nahar” and “ambassador” newspapers in Beirut, Lebanon. He has several published books, one of which tilted “بلاد العنف أوطاني” (meaning countries of violence are my homeland). Winner of the “Gabrovo Carton” award of humor and biennial art, 2005 Bulgaria.

Assad as eye doctor via Saad Hajo Facebook Page. Used under CC BY 2.0

Assad as eye doctor via Saad Hajo Facebook Page. Used under CC BY 2.0

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Video: What happened when a truck loaded with bread entre besiged Yarmouk camp in Syria

This Post was originally written for Global Voices

”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood” – Anas, Yarmouk resident.

According to Unrwa, this is the situation of 18,000 Palestinian refugees -Of the 160,000 used to live in the camp- remain trapped in Yarmouk Camp of Damascus with no successful distribution has been completed since 6 December 2014. Though that people took the streets on January 18th to protest the siege imposed by the Assad regime since July 2013, the crisis yet leaving at least 200 people dead from starvation. After a year of posting similar video of distributing food in Yarmouk Camp-Syria, here is another video recording the desperate people of the same besieged camp.

This recently posted video in 6th of Feb, 2015 by sami alselwadi shows a Palestinian refugee resident blames his government of leaving the camp to starve to death without taking an action against Assad regime. Then the footage move to a what believe a truck full of bread been distributed to people by throwing the packages to the air for a lucky catcher. In his words, the man blame Abbas, the Palestinian president:

All this is hunger, Abbas. You are in Ramalla, and you don’t know what your Palestinian people is suffering here. Thousands of people are in hunger here. Where are you from this? Shame on you.

No change in Assad strategy nor the world humanitarian responses but the only difference is the date.

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The Sex Chats That End With Syrian Hackers 2/2

7.7GB of Data Stolen

Fireeye Stolen data

Scrrenshot of Fireeye report.

According to the report, these hacking actions resulted in 7.7 GB of stolen data, including military and political information, humanitarian activities, refugees profiles, communication and media.

In an Arabic post on Raseef22 blog, Mohamad Gazi writes the incidents that several officers of armed Syrian rebels were victims of sex-based hackers by publishing their photos, videos and stories of sexual actions. However, he doubts several cases though that it was used in advantage of real ones.

باختصار، سهّل عبد الرزاق طلاس وعبد العزيز كنعان مهمّة فبركة الفضائح التي تطال المعارضين السوريين. خبران صحيحان سمحا لعدد كبير من الأكاذيب بأن تنتشر استناداً إلى مصداقيتهما!

In short, the cases of Abdul Razak Tlass and Abdul Aziz Canaan made creating false scandals easier to affect the Syrian opposition. Only two real cases allowed for a large number of lies to spread on their credibility basis!

This is not the first time that an international organization detects possible Syrian regime tends to spy over its oppositions plan. Back in Dec 2012, when the Internet is back in Syria after three day of shot down, EFF has detected two new campaigns of Malware targeting Syrian activists associated with the same IP address.

The last report by FireEye comes after 47 weeks of violent war between fragmented armed divisions opposition to Assad regime who still denying any human rights violations and yet bombing indiscriminate civilian targets despite international condemnation. The war that results in losing lives of 210 thousands Syrian, since 18/03/2011, is taking further dimension online as now the Cybersex is changing the war grounds, Says Jamie Dettmer:

Forget pillow talk, the spyware they can insert in a victim’s computer will give them the full monty.

This Post was originally written for Global Voices

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The Sex Chats That End With Syrian Hackers 1/2

This Post was originally written for Global Voices


Sex as a Weapon against Syrian Revolution. Photo by @R22Blog

Sex scandals have become the most important pillars of electronic warfare on the Syrian opposition where many of Syrian opposition fighters have been subjected to piracy and stolen military plans by women seduction on the Internet. This what FireEye reveals in its special report “Behind The Syrian Conflict’s Digital Front Lines” [pdf] of Syrian regime Sex-based hacking operations.

We uncovered these battle plans in the course of our ongoing threat research. It quickly became apparent that we had come across stolen documents containing the secret communications and plans of Syrian opposition forces that had fallen victim to a well-executed hacking operation.

Seduction and sex as weapon is as old as Delilah story when she seduced powerful Samson. “Delilahs” in 21st century are Pro-Assad hackers who have tricked Syria’s rebels (possibly including some from ISIS) into falling for the oldest scam on the Internet in chats with “girls”. The contact established via Skype, as attractive women who sought information about the victim accessing form. The hacker, soon after, send an image malware -tailored to PC or smartphone- it automatically establish a remote-access tool known as DarkComet which is adapted to the circumstances in Syria- along with their sexy “selfies.”

On its report, page 12, FireEye reports a representative chat between IMAN (hacker) and her target (victim):

IMAN: How are you on skype? On a computer or on your phone?
TARGET:How are you?
IMAN: Are you opening Skype on your mobile?
TARGET: Computer and mobile
TARGET: How old are you?
IMAN: 25
IMAN: And you?
TARGET: What is your date of birth?
IMAN: 10-3-88
TARGET: Lololol
TARGET: 10-3-89
IMAN: What a nice coincidence
IMAN: Sent file New-Iman-Picture.pif
TARGET: You drive me crazy

Thought that the fighter’s birth date was available on Skype and social networking sites, the same birth date was likely not a coincidence.

AnonymousHQ comments on the reported cyber incidents on its website:

It is not yet clear whether the hackers have passed the stolen information of the Syrian rebels to the Syrian government or not. If the stolen information is passed on to the Syrian government, it would help them in defeating the rebels. We don’t have any information regarding the hackers behind this operation.

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Revolutionaries of the “liberated” territories of Aleppo: general strike to protest against the kidnappings of medical doctors by Jabhat Al Nusra

Originally posted on Syria Freedom Forever - سوريا الحرية للأبد:

Groups of civilian activists in the “liberated” territories of Aleppo published a statement, signed on behalf of “revolutionaries of the liberated city of Aleppo”, in which they announced a strike to protest the kidnapping of some medical doctors by members of Jabhat Al Nusra.

The statement addressed the bodies of medical and civic councils operating in Aleppo, inviting them to “assume their humanitarian responsibilities, and to maintain the security of the medical staff.”

According to the statement, the medical doctors in Aleppo oppose the kidnapping, by the counter revolutionary force and reactionary force of Jabhat Al Nusra, and called for a “general  and global strike in all the hospitals and medical centers in the liberated territories of  Aleppo.”

The Revolutionary Left Movement declares its support for this strike and all forms of popular struggles against both the reactionary forces and the authoritarian Assad regime, and called for renewal of the popular movement wherever this is possible.


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Anonymity: Pros vs. Cons 3/3


On his analysis, Fontana (2014) asked simple but yet difficult to answer questions: ‘Where is that data stored? Who owns it? Who has access to it? And who is liable for its protection, unintended release or stealth aggregation’. He addressed that 25 billion devices to be connected by 2020; nevertheless, privacy and anonymity are two of the century biggest concerns. While anonymity armed with honesty is good for survey, justice and legal engagements where it encourage the criticizing, voting, performance evaluation for improvement or investigation purposes, applications like SnapChat, Secret App, Tinder and Tor are a fertilized soil of good and evil alike.

AlQassemi (2014) from UAE argues on “State” website that anonymity is dangerous and important at the same time; nonetheless, it needs ‘a delicate balance to be struck in order to protect individuals’ freedoms online and prevent misuse of the Internet’.

Applebaum (2014) reflected an important point of view of linking the cyberspace to offline world when he states that ‘anyone who writes online should be as responsible for his words as if he were speaking them aloud’.

It’s about responsibility which comes with real identity (Clapperton, 2013).

Indeed, MENA internet users comply to the charter of the human rights and principles of the internet resumed by iGmena’s (no date) in “Click Rights”: ‘everyone has the right to privacy online’ including the right to encryption, and online anonymity; not to forget self-assessment and transparency, ‘based on principles of openness, inclusive participation and accountability’ of information posted. These are ethical principles that apply on individuals and groups. The bottom line, ‘people are a product of what they read, learn, understand and experience’ iGmena (no date).

Cook (2010) claims that protecting the people’s domain of privacy without fear of been penalized and encouraging constructive behavior in online discussions are far progressive ‘than trying to chain people to their names’.

On the other hand, internet lawmakers should protect the end users identities and secure their communications as sacrosanct, because ‘if they do not, the Internet will become a universal tool of oppression instead of a tool of empowerment’ Rodrigues (2013).

Few months ago, anonymity has been discussed at Internet Governance 2014 (IGF2014). However, the cyberwar, to reveal or conceal identity, thus far without a definite winner between privacy activists, human rights defenders on internet, advocacy organizations and MENA’s governments.

So how to behave yourself on the internet?

Reference List

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Anonymity in MENA Region 2/3

Time to be able to be anonymous online

Source: ICTQatar, 2014.

‘Anonymity does better when it accompanied with awareness and education’ says Ahmado (2014). Ahmado hides her/his identity as an activist inside Syria, but at the same time admits that this anonymously doesn’t protect its holder from been revealed by a malware or hackers attacks.

In this regard, Ballard (2014) reported that Iranian government is working to block the internet anonymity. ‘It is believed that by preventing anonymous browsing, it hopes to deter individuals from posting contentious content.’

According to Najem (no date), most of Arab government doesn’t have a specific law of anonymity online as right, contrary; it might prosecute under a terrorism law. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are among other Gulf Cooperation Council countries that potentially may follow.

July 2014 survey of the ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICTQatar) on the attitudes of online users in MENA region to cyber safety, security and data privacy, revealed that 30% of internet users in Middle East and 31% of North Africa tend to “totally agree” the right of being to occasional anonymity online whereas this percentage considered 3% above the world average (please refer to the figure below).

This result indicates that there a trend in MENA to use anonymous identities due to internet privacy fears and its citizen suspicions prospect towards their communications especially after Snowden leaks which confirmed to what extent governments are spying, collecting and processing personal data to analyze individuals’ behaviors.

Despite the fact that MENA Internet users are ‘most likely to express an opinion about politics online’ with their real names, the survey demonstrated that they are ‘more cautious about what to say and does online.’

Earlier, in 2011, International Business Times reported that the Free Software Foundation awarded Tor Project for protecting Anonymity in Libya. Tor Project went on use broadly during Turkey’s 2014 March protest when the authorities banned Twitter, says AlHussaini (2014). It offers considerable privacy margins to its user’s identity, location and login tracking.

Wikileaks founder suggests whistleblowers to use Tor as safe transporter, Russia offered four million rubles to crack the project (Rothrock, 2014), while NSA described people who use Tor as “Very naughty people” (Coursen, 2014).

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Brazil: Water Woes, Climate Change and Security

Originally posted on The Center for Climate & Security:

Brazil_dry earth in Ibirapuera Park Sao PauloBy Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, United States Navy (Ret)
Senior Research Fellow, the Center for Climate and Security

In restaurants across South America’s largest and most populous city, Sao Paulo, customers are being served drinks and meals on plastic cups and plates. The reason? A severe shortage of clean water, exacerbated by drought, means there’s no water for washing dishes. A burgeoning urban population and the effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate Brazil’s water woes. And given Brazil’s evolving role on the international stage, as an agricultural giant and a standard-bearer for a group of emerging economies, this will have both domestic and international security implications.

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