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mashriq / arabia / iraq / imperialism / war / non-anarchist press Wednesday September 26, 2018 13:53 bySynaps Network
Syria’s war has transformed the country in both shattering and subtle ways. While many evolutions are for the worse, others inspire cautious optimism: Syrians have shown relentless ingenuity in adapting to every stage of a horrendous conflict, salvaging remnants of dignity, solidarity and vitality amid nightmarish circumstances.They have generally done so on their own terms, grappling with changes ignored by virtually everyone who claims to help or represent them. These transformations are far removed from peace talks and power politics, and rarely considered in aid efforts. They apparently elude the growing pool of outsiders able to visit Syria, who often remark that things are more “normal” than they thought: Damascene cafes are filled with people, shops have begun to reopen in Aleppo, and officials of varying nationalities buzz with over-optimistic plans for the future.
Indeed, Syrian society has been reshaped in ways that will take time to discern. A thorough reassessment is in order if we are to grasp even the most basic realities of Syria as it continues to exist and evolve today. In gauging the magnitude of these changes, accounts from ordinary Syrians provide the most powerful guide.
No country for young men
The decimation of Syria’s male population represents, arguably, the most fundamental shift in the country’s social fabric. As a generation of men has been pared down by death, disability, forced displacement and disappearance, those who remain have largely been sucked into a violent and corrupting system centered around armed factions.
An Alawi family in a coastal village provides a window into the ravaged state of Syria’s male population, even in territory that has remained firmly under government control. Of three brothers, one was killed in battle, a second paralyzed by a bullet to the spine, and a third—an underpaid, 30-year-old civil servant—lives in fear of conscription. Their mother summed up her plight:
We’re tired of war. I gave one martyr, and another son is half-dead. The youngest might be drafted at any moment. I hope for god to end this war; the graveyards are filled with young men.
Their story is typical in their 3,000-person village, which in turn reflects realities across many communities socioeconomically bound up with the military and security apparatus. By the family’s own estimate, matching the information provided by an NGO director active in the area, 80 of the village’s men have been killed and 130 wounded—amounting to a third of the male population aged 18-50. The remaining two-thirds have overwhelmingly been absorbed into the army or militias.
The violence that has consumed so many lives has also generated indispensable sources of income. Within this particular family, the paralyzed brother relies on his veteran’s pension of roughly 60 dollars per month. (All dollar figures are approximate, rounding off to an exchange rate of 500 Syrian pounds to the dollar.) His brother’s widow receives a monthly allowance equivalent to 35 dollars, doled out by the militia for whom he was fighting when killed in battle. Such stipends, however, are far from adequate, and other family members need to spread themselves thin to make ends meet. The 65-year-old father—himself an army veteran—said despondently: “With one son martyred and another broken, my healthy son and I work day and night to feed the family.”
A similar malaise has taken root in areas formerly controlled by opposition factions, and since retaken by pro-Assad forces. While many young men have been killed or forced to flee, those who remain face powerful incentives to cast their lot in with regime-aligned armed groups. Doing so offers the chance to safeguard oneself while earning a living – providing an alternative to conscription into the regular army, which combines dismal pay with the mortal risk of deployment to faraway frontlines.
The eastern half of Aleppo city exemplifies this trend. Devastated by years of government siege and bombardment, it has been left with minimal services, a ravaged economy and the grinding insecurity caused by unregulated militia activity. “If you want to protect yourself and your family, you join a militia,” remarked a middle-aged man in the Jazmati neighborhood. “The area is infested with crime associated with the National Defense militias. Each group has control over a certain quarter, and they sometimes fight each other over the distribution of spoils. Shop owners must pay these militias protection. One owner refused, and they torched his store.”
Against this backdrop, bearing arms carries a natural appeal. A man in the Masakin Hanano neighborhood described this dynamic:
The young people who stayed in East Aleppo have joined militias, which provide solutions to some of the worst problems we face. Fighters get a decent salary, but also other perks—for instance more amps from private generators, because electricity vendors will reduce the price if they know they are dealing with a militiaman.
Another resident of the same area explained that he and his family could scrape by thanks to his two sons’ positioning in the Iran-backed Baqir Brigade—which provides not only monthly salaries, but also opportunities to procure household items through looting.
Across Syria, young men wishing to evade conscription—whether into the regular army or militias—face scant alternatives. Most who can afford to leave the country do so; others benefit from an exemption afforded to university students, while another subset enjoys a reprieve due to their status as the sole male of their generation in their nuclear family. Others may pay exorbitant bribes to skirt the draft, or confine themselves within their homes to avoid being detected—making them invisible both to the army and to broader society. Some endure multiple such ordeals, only to remain in an indefinite state of limbo due to the contingent and precarious nature of these solutions. A man in his late thirties recounted his experience after loyalist forces reclaimed his hometown in the Damascus suburbs in 2016:
I faced two choices: Either pay 3 to 4,000 dollars to be smuggled out to Turkey or Lebanon, or join the army or one of the militias. There were about nine such factions in my city, led by young people connected to the security services. For men not wishing to fight, there’s a tacit agreement that the head of any faction can register you as a fighter and simply leave you to live your life. In exchange, you pay that commander a one-time bribe ranging from 250,000 to one million Syrian pounds [500 to 2,000 dollars], in addition to your monthly militia salary and sometimes a further monthly sum of up to 50,000 pounds [100 dollars].
In my case, the costs of being smuggled out were too high—plus I have a wife and children here. So, I spent more than 500,000 pounds [1,000 dollars] to arrange things with a faction. By simple bad luck, that faction was dissolved, and I lost both my money and my freedom of movement. I’m confined to my house, dependent on savings and help from family. I don’t know what to do.
In other words, even the diminishing cohort of young men who stayed alive and in Syria will long bear scars of their own—if not from the trauma of joining militias, then from the desperate measures taken to avoid doing so.
Inevitably, the devastation of Syria’s male work force will beset efforts to restart the country’s economy. An industrialist in Aleppo put it simply: “I talk with factory owners and they say they want to reopen their factories, but they can’t find male workers. When they do find them, security services or militiamen come and arrest those workers and extort money from the owners for having hired them in the first place.” With no large scale returns on the horizon for local industries, this economic impasse will take years to resolve.
Politically, the war has crippled the very generation of young people that spearheaded Syria’s uprising. Those who remain in Syria have mostly been bludgeoned into submission—or indeed forcibly conscripted into the very apparatus of power against which they rose in the first place. The result is a grim paradox: Although virtually every problem that sparked Syria’s 2011 uprising has been exacerbated, society has been beaten down to the point of almost ensuring that no broad-based reformist movement will be able to coalesce for a generation to come.
Economies of cannibalization
The desperate circumstances facing Syria’s young men feed into and are reinforced by a second fundamental transformation: namely the unraveling of Syria’s productive economy, and its replacement by an economy of systematic cannibalization in which impoverished segments of Syrian society increasingly survive by preying upon one another.
The most visible manifestation of this new economy is a culture of looting so developed and entrenched that Syrian vernacular has incorporated a new term—taafeesh—to describe a practice that goes far beyond stealing furniture to include extremes such as stripping houses, streets and factories of plumbing and electrical wiring.
A recent and particularly spectacular example of such systematic looting came with the return of pro-Assad forces to Yarmouk, a sprawling Palestinian camp south of Damascus, in April 2018. Yarmouk’s fall unleashed a wave of plunder that remained in full force as of June, and which will leave the urban landscape almost irreparably scarred. The scale of predation was such that even some pro-Assad militiamen expressed shock, not least because their own properties proved targets for other factions. “I watched uniformed soldiers using a Syrian army tank to rip out electrical cables from six meters underground,” remarked a fighter with a loyalist Palestinian faction, who was scrambling to retrieve belongings from his apartment before it could be pillaged. “I saw soldiers from elite units looting private hospitals and government offices. This isn’t just looting—it’s sabotage of essential infrastructure.”
Desperate residents reported ruining their own property simply to prevent profiteering by armed groups. One such individual explained:
I returned to my apartment just to retrieve official documents and some hidden pieces of gold. I did so, and then destroyed my own furniture and appliances because I don’t want these people making money at my expense. I was ready to burn down my own apartment, but my wife stopped me—she didn’t want me to cause harm to other apartments in the building.
As this scourge spread across Syria, the spoils have created micro-economies in their own right—from the recycling of rubble to the proliferation of taafeesh markets, where people buy second-hand goods stolen from fellow Syrians. Many have no choice but to use these markets in order to replace their own stolen belongings. A civil servant explained the process of moving back to his home city of Deir Ezzor after two years of displacement in Damascus:
In October 2017, I was ordered back to Deir Ezzor to resume my work for the government. I was shocked to find my apartment building demolished. Everything in it was stolen. My brother helped me find a simple one-bedroom, and bought me some looted goods to furnish it. The people of Deir Ezzor have lost twice: First we lost our kitchen supplies, beds, everything—and then we felt that we lost again, by purchasing looted goods.
In more ways than one, displaced Syrians seeking to return home must navigate a convoluted and costly process of buying back into their own neighborhoods. Beyond the direct costs incurred by damage and theft, such individuals face predation ranging from informal tolls at checkpoints to extortionist fees imposed by various branches of the state, including for nonexistent basic services. An elderly textiles trader in Aleppo’s old city ticked off these costs:
I spent three million Syrian pounds [6,000 dollars] to reopen my damaged shop. On top of that, government agencies demanded that I pay bills for water and electricity—plus taxes on profits—from 2013 through 2017. I argued that my shop was closed, that I was making no money and using no electricity or water—but was forced to pay anyway. I then spent seven million pounds [13,500 dollars] buying new textiles, because my shop had been completely looted.
So, in total, I spent ten million pounds [20,000 dollars] to open my shop. I now make about [6 to 8 dollars] in profit daily, which barely covers food, electricity, water, and taxes. But it’s still better to spend my days in the market rather than sitting at home, thinking too much and getting heart disease.
Syrians also dip into precious resources to pay officials for information, for instance on disappeared relatives or their own status on Syria’s sprawling lists of “wanted” individuals. For those wishing to confirm that they won’t be detained upon crossing the border to Lebanon, the going rate is about 10 dollars—most often paid to an employee in the Department of Migration and Passports.
While much of Syria’s predatory economy is linked directly to violence, the war has spawned countless, subtler forms of predation that will endure and evolve for years to come. This cannibalistic economy, which encompasses all those who have come to rely on extortion for their own livelihoods, extends to the cohort of lawyers, security officials and civil servants who have positioned themselves as “brokers” in the market for official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates. Untold numbers of Syrians have passed through pivotal life events while in territory outside government control; in order to avoid legal purgatory both inside and outside Syria, they often pay exorbitant sums to intermediaries to facilitate documentation. A Damascus-based lawyer explained how this growth industry has transformed his own profession:
Today, even the most senior lawyers in our practice are working as document brokers. A well-connected broker makes 30 to 40,000 pounds [60 to 80 dollars] per day; this roughly equals the monthly salary of a university-educated civil servant. As a result, many government employees resign and work as brokers to make more money.
And this truly is a business, not a charity: Every broker takes money, even from his own brothers and sisters. Last week a colleague brought me his brother-in-law. I asked him why he needed me, when he could make all the papers himself. He explained that he can’t take money from his own brother-in-law, but I can do so and then give him half.
These cannibalistic dynamics are all the more pernicious for their self-perpetuating quality. Multiplying forms of predation have accelerated the outflow of Syria’s financial and human capital, leaving behind a country largely populated by an underclass that can aspire to little more than subsistence. The demands of survival, in turn, push growing numbers of ordinary Syrians into the vicious circle of predatory industries—if not as predators themselves, then as second-order beneficiaries of predation, through purchasing or receiving looted goods, reliance on extortion-based income of relatives, and so on. In other words, Syria’s predatory wartime economy is slowly but surely turning into a predatory economy of peace.
Walls of fear and fatigue
A less conspicuous but no less profound shift lies in the degree to which Syrian society has been forced into psychological submission after a period of revolutionary awakening. As some Syrians put it, Damascus has been particularly effective in reconstructing one thing amidst the immeasurable destruction: the “wall of fear” which characterized the regime before 2011 and which momentarily broke down at the outset of the uprising.
This transformation relates, obviously, to the resurgence of Syria’s security state across swathes of the country from which it had temporarily retreated. Areas that once overflowed with revolutionary activism have been brought back under the watchful eye of Syria’s political police, or mukhabarat, leaving many afraid to speak openly outside the seclusion of their homes. A researcher from Homs described the weight of this pressure in her home city:
I have a friend who was doing research with a licensed NGO, asking questions in the street. She was pregnant. Security came and took her—no questions asked, they just took her. She was detained overnight and they let her out in the morning—only because she was pregnant.
However, active surveillance, intimidation and repression are not the only contributors to this leaden atmosphere. A pervasive exhaustion has settled over Syrians ground down and immiserated by war, disillusioned with all those who purport to lead or protect them, and largely reduced to striving for day-to-day subsistence. The same researcher from Homs went on:
In 2011, everyone talked politics—even those who didn’t know anything about politics. Today they don’t talk politics anymore, because it doesn’t matter to them. They want to live. They spend their energy trying to find enough to eat, or trying to get their relatives out of prison.
A North African analyst who lived and worked for decades in Damascus echoed the point, describing his current interactions with friends in and around the capital: “People are lost, frustrated to the extent they don’t care about daily events. Even loyalists will say outright: We don’t know where we are going. Nobody sees a future.”
Just as Syrian society has been beaten down, so too has it been broken apart. As communities settled into the grinding routine of war or exile, they retreated into discrete groups that now know little or nothing about one another—despite often having much in common.
At one level, the war has wrenched open social and economic fractures that existed long before the conflict. The city of Homs stands as perhaps the starkest microcosm of this trend. A Sunni majority city with sizable Christian and Alawi minorities, Homs was the first major urban center to rise up and the first to devolve into bitter sectarian bloodletting. Almost four years after being reconquered by loyalist forces, Homs’ communal divisions remain brutally clear—coloring everything from ordinary social interactions to patterns of rebuilding and civic work. An NGO worker described how Homs’ charitable sphere has become shaped by such divisions: “Charities were not intrinsically sectarian, but the war made them so. People aren’t comfortable working outside their areas.”
In Homs, as across Syria, communal divisions are intimately bound up with the divide between those deemed with the regime and those against it—a binary that is both inadequate and inescapable, having marked whole families, neighbourhoods, towns and cities in ways that will reverberate for decades. While Homs’ Sunni majority overwhelmingly cast its lot with the revolution, the city’s Alawi minority was quick to mobilise against what it perceived as an existential threat. Now, with Damascus resurgent, communal boundaries assume new salience, pitting victor against vanquished.
A man from an Alawi neighborhood in Homs grumbled about even the paltry rehabilitation efforts underway in the city’s Sunni areas: “I don’t know why our government is allowing these reconstruction projects. They should be in our neighborhoods, to thank the families who sacrificed their sons.” While vast swathes of Syria’s Sunni population feel silenced and brutalized, Alawi communities often carry their own narrative of victimhood, which blends legitimate grievances with vindictive impulses vis-à-vis Sunnis whom they regard as having betrayed the country. Sunnis, for their part, frequently express the opposing viewpoint—namely that Alawi neighborhoods have prospered through war profiteering. “Loyalist areas have benefited enormously,” remarked a Sunni merchant in the city. “They’ve become like mini-states run by shabbiha [loyalist thugs]. Even security forces don’t dare to enter an area like [the underclass Alawi neighborhood of] Muhajireen. It’s terrifying, and I don’t think it will go back to normal anytime soon.”
Homs moreover exemplifies the widening chasm between Syria’s rich and poor—a reality that helped lay the groundwork for the uprising and which today has reached unprecedented proportions, with a narrow clique cashing in on the war economy while the majority descends into poverty. A local Sunni trader summed up the situation:
War has ruined commercial activity here. Many respectable traders have emigrated or been killed. Most of those still around are afraid to return to work. You do see some who succeed—by being close to security services, informing on young people with opposition affiliations, or taking huge sums of money from families trying to secure the release of detained children. Those are the businessmen who manage to thrive.
Further divisions across Syria are less visible but no less insidious, flowing from seven years of a brutal, messy war. Indeed, crude divisions based on sect or class fail to describe a complex and fluid landscape. Some fault lines are less dramatic, all but imperceptible except to those who experience them first-hand. Neighbors, colleagues, friends and kin may have come down on opposing sides, despite having every social marker in common. Each part of the country has its own web of tragic events to untangle.
Indeed, the conflict has generated an enormous backlog of resentment which may have been suppressed for now, but will not soon be forgotten. A teacher in Raqqa, for example, voiced a grim perspective on the enduring rifts left by the Islamic State’s rule in that city:
Many Islamic State fighters swapped clothes and joined the [Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces to protect themselves and their families. But they haven’t changed; those people are bad, and will always be bad. There will be vengeance. Not now, while everyone is busy putting their lives together. But eventually, everyone who suffered under ISIS, whose brother was killed by ISIS, will take revenge.
The legacy of violence is exacerbated by cutthroat competition over meagre resources, generating yet another source of simmering discontent. In Damascus, subtle gradations have emerged between the original inhabitants and a mosaic of displaced communities, who all contend for employment and charitable handouts. A displaced woman from Deir Ezzor explained her guilt at taking jobs from individuals known colloquially as nazihin—Syrians who were displaced, in 1973, by the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, and who have for decades occupied lowly positions within Syria’s social hierarchy:
I work for a woman who used to hire her cleaning lady from the Wafideen Camp [populated by nazihin], but she got old and started breaking things. She told me I’m younger and better suited to the position. Another woman used to hire someone also from Wafideen, but she no longer sees them as displaced. She feels that newly displaced, like me, deserve more.
Similar anecdotes are commonplace among those struggling to survive in and around the capital. A woman from rural Aleppo described her experience changing places within Damascus’ hierarchy of deprivation: “We came to Damascus a year ago, and signed up for assistance with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. They gave us three blankets, a mattress, and eventually three food baskets. But now they’ve stopped, saying they can’t give us anything anymore—now it’s the turn of people from Ghouta.” A woman from Deraa pointed the finger elsewhere: “People from Deir Ezzor are taking all the food baskets. They’re very good at convincing charity workers to help them.” Needy locals, for their part, often feel overlooked. A native of a Damascus suburb remarked: “Charities typically want to help those who fled from elsewhere. So, when I go to a charity, I say I’m displaced.”
While less poisonous than the schism between those who lined up on opposite sides of the war, such divisions nonetheless capture the extent to which violence has broken Syria down into its constituent parts. And the list goes on: The divide between conservative and more secular Sunnis has calcified, manifesting itself even in differential treatment at checkpoints. “I have an easier time driving around because I don’t wear the hijab,” remarked a woman from the Damascus suburbs. “If you veil, security assumes you’re with the opposition.” Splits between Syrians inside and outside the country, between urban and rural communities, and between the capital and the periphery have deepened, too—with the former groups often blaming the latter for the uprising and ensuing destruction.
This fragmentation seems to give rise to a growing array of Western-funded “dialogue” efforts—between one communal group and another, between host communities and the displaced, between state institutions and opposition actors. While dialogue is sorely needed, some Syrians warn against emphasising dialogue for its own sake—even at the cost of burying the most substantive issues at stake. A businessman from Damascus described his own abortive experience with talks proposing to link disparate elements of Syria’s private sector: “There’s this whole industry around ‘mediation,’ including between sides that don’t actually disagree on anything. Meanwhile, all the problems that caused the uprising have gotten worse.”
The risk of papering over Syria’s worst ills is all the more acute at a time when Damascus is increasingly able to impose its version of events nationwide—empowering the country’s most aggressive loyalists while silencing both those who oppose it and those who, ambivalent, stand somewhere in between.
Given the magnitude of Syria’s disintegration, it is all the more striking to note the ingenuity with which ordinary Syrians continue to muddle through—relying on a mixture of grit, patience and lifesaving forms of solidarity.
For many, this amounts to simply waiting and enduring for as long as it takes until they can restart their lives in earnest.
A government-employed teacher in Deir Ezzor described a typical experience of returning to the city, after several years of displacement in Hasakah province:
I was happy to find my apartment intact—it’s been entirely looted, but at least it has walls and a roof. I need about two million pounds [4,000 dollars] to fix it. I have some savings, and my son is a physician in Saudi Arabia, so he’s going to send me the funds I need for the apartment and to pay for a way out of conscription into a Kurdish militia for my other sons.
Life in Deir Ezzor isn’t good. There are no basic services whatsoever. But at least I have my apartment, and I expect in a few months the government will bring back water and electricity, and next year some schools will open. I’m tired of being displaced. I want to rest in my own community. Here I can go to the coffee shop and meet my friends, smoke argileh and drink tea and play cards every day.
Often, the ever-changing circumstances demand a high degree of adaptability simply in order to survive. Another, less optimistic native of Deir Ezzor explained the lengths to which he has gone to maintain his job in a state-run health clinic while allowing his family to continue living in the relative safety of displacement in Damascus:
Three months ago, I was required to come back to Deir Ezzor to resume work, or lose my job. But I have three teenaged daughters and two sons, and I’m afraid to bring them with me because of the militias and criminal gangs. The city has become a place for shabbiha, not for civilians. So, I stay with my brother in Deir Ezzor one week every month, and spend three weeks in Damascus with my family. I used to own a two-story house and a big pharmacy in Deir Ezzor; both have been destroyed.
My government salary pays about 45,000 pounds [85 dollars] per month, which is only enough to cover my rent in Damascus. I make another 60,000 pounds [120 dollars] per month working long hours in a private pharmacy. Just traveling to and from Deir Ezzor costs more than my government salary—about 45 to 50,000 pounds [90-100 dollars] per trip.
Just as Syrians are forced to be more self-reliant, they have also come to depend evermore on vital social support structures. Indeed, extreme circumstances have created a paradox: Even as society has splintered in countless ways, the scale of deprivation arguably renders Syrians more closely interdependent than ever before.
Perhaps the most fundamental and ubiquitous support mechanism is remittances from relatives who live abroad. A displaced woman from Homs, now in Damascus, explained how aid from her family allows her to survive:
I worked as a live-in maid with an old woman, and got an advance payment so my husband could open a small shop. My husband then had a stroke, so I left my work and took over the shop. But between rent, bills, food, treatment for my husband and school for my daughter, I spend more than I make. I have three sisters—two in the Gulf and one in Homs—who are in a better situation than me, so they send me a monthly allowance.
Other forms of support are more organized, but no less genuine—flowing not from any financial or political interest but rather from the simple urge to help one another. Such grassroots efforts are often triggered by immediate, urgent needs, and hinge on goodwill from locals who can afford it. A retired army officer living in the Damascus suburbs described how he and a group of friends decided to take action outside of any formal relief initiatives:
In 2013, huge numbers of displaced people came to our town in need of shelter and food. Some people gave them food and blankets, or found empty apartments, shops and schools for them to sleep in. Myself and six friends started discussing how we could gather donations. We went around town asking residents to donate whatever extra food, blankets or cash they had. Some volunteered to make hot meals. Doctors offered to check on the displaced, while pharmacists provided free medicine.
We visited the industrial zone and asked factory owners to give materials to equip a shelter. Some garment factories agreed to donate clothes twice a year, while food factories provided basic foodstuffs on a monthly basis. We also get cash from Syrian expatriates.
Such informal methods of support have deep roots within Syrian society. The country’s middle and upper classes have long extended vital forms of solidarity to their needier compatriots, with Syria’s merchant and religious networks playing a leading role. What is unique, today, is the scale of hardship across the country, which is so vast as to have changed the way that Syrians conceptualize the act of receiving charity. A businessman from central Syria noted the extent to which dependency, which once demanded some degree of discretion, has become a straightforward fact of life. “People used to hide it when they were reliant on charity. Not anymore. Today you might hear workers in a factory wondering, ‘Where is the manager?’ And someone will say that he’s out waiting for his food basket. The whole country is living on handouts.”
As needs have skyrocketed, ordinary Syrians have risen collectively to meet seemingly insurmountable challenges—a feat which, for this businessman, suggests a silver lining:
People still do charity the Islamic way, based on the premise that you must assist those closest to you. If there’s someone you should help—say, a neighbor—but you’re unable, then it’s your responsibility to find someone else who can. These circles remain very much intact, and the entire society lives on this. Seven years of war didn’t destroy that aspect of Syrian culture, and that’s something Syrians are proud of.
* * *
Syria’s war is moving toward a conclusion without any sense of closure. As large-scale violence subsides, essential questions will remain unanswered: How many were killed? By whom, and for what reason? Countless tragedies will remain obscured by competing narratives, evidence that has been destroyed, and the sheer scale of the country’s devastation.
Other questions have long been exhausted, and yet spur an endless and pointless cycle of commentary. The regime has won, on the maximalist terms it laid out from the beginning, and with no appetite for compromise moving forward. In the wake of its victory, Damascus’ allies will not rebuild the country. Nor, however, will Western states, which will continue to offer humanitarian support while balking at the notion of bankrolling a fully-fledged, Assad-led reconstruction. There will be no nationwide recovery, no serious reform, no meaningful reconciliation for the foreseeable future.
But that does not mean there are no questions worth asking. Rather, the most pressing issues are those too often overlooked as the wider world focuses on geopolitics and hollow peace processes. They relate to how Syrian society has struggled, transformed and, ultimately, survived—what Syria has become, how Syrians organize, and what they need to create a future for themselves. Answers won’t be found in Geneva, Astana or the corridors of power in Damascus. They will be whispered by people on the ground.
brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana / anti-fascismo / opinião / análise Sunday September 23, 2018 10:15 byBrunoL
22 de setembro de 2018, Bruno Lima Rocha
Estamos em setembro de 2018 e metade do Brasil está sob um legítimo e justificado estado de nervos. No texto que segue fazemos três reflexões sobre o momento do antifascismo e algumas perspectivas.
1ª reflexão: O que está indo embora junto com o fim da Nova República
O barco já está afundando, ou seja, a Nova República está sendo enterrada viva e com ela os direitos sociais duramente batalhados como contrapartida da luta do povo brasileiro no período da Abertura lenta, gradual e restrita. Como diziam os antigos, isso – a perda - já é jornal velho.
Os direitos sociais são a conquista substantiva na Constituição de 1988 e, sim, formavam na década de '80 a concepção do reformismo ainda radicalizado, mesclando uma formação em cima de Paulo Freire e Antonio Gramsci, e todas as diversas significações que isso pode implicar em um partido massivo, com direito de tendência e liderança carismática e intocável, como o ex-presidente Lula.
O ciclo que se encerra está para além da Nova República e trata-se da formalização institucional das relações sociais no Brasil. Há registro de comemoração do primeiro de maio - dia do trabalhador - já em 1892. Na virada do século, boa parte das associações mutualistas ou ligas de socorros mútuos foram acompanhando o debate da ala federalista da 1a Associação Internacional e tomaram os rumos do chamado sindicalismo de intenção revolucionária (de orientação anarquista). Foram exatos quarenta anos até as primeiras legislações de vulto ser promulgadas em 1932. Vargas terminou o trabalho sujo de Arthur Bernardes, cortou a cabeça do sindicalismo classista, reprimiu primeiro o anarquismo e depois a linha de Moscou e concluiu sua obra excluindo os setores mais duros do integralismo de seu Estado Novo, aos moldes do salazarismo português à época.
Mas, com toda a repressão e o autoritarismo varguista, o conjunto de regulações do mundo do trabalho e das legislações sociais veio em um crescendo, chegando até ao mundo da roça, o campo, em pleno governo Geisel. Por isso a ditadura no Brasil criou um regime de tutela militar e voltado para a modernização conservadora. Está tudo indo embora neste período histórico, à exceção do pior de sua reivindicação: militares entreguistas; neoliberais selvagens; esnobismo anti-povo e elogio às posturas anti-intelectuais. Enfim, estamos vendo a linha chilena manifestando-se através do racismo de classe como bem define Jessé Souza.
O desmonte do Estado em sua dimensão tanto pública como estratégica até pode ser revertido ou ter alguma interrupção, mas o pacto de classes gerado na Abertura e depois aprofundado no período lulista, esse já era. É um morto vivo e não terá solução nem neste ano e menos ainda no próximo biênio, independente do resultado das eleições presidenciais.
2ª reflexão: Onde e como transformar a revolta ao protofascismo em luta popular organizada?
Realmente o momento é grave, e por vários motivos, – relações causais diretas e indiretas - já muitas vezes debatidos tanto aqui como em publicações semelhantes. Se por um lado o recuo de legislação protetiva conforme narrado acima, simplesmente retira o chão de quem precisa literalmente ser protegido da sanha do capitalismo periférico, por outro, chama a atenção para novos recursos societários.
Traduzindo, os espaços urbanos vão ficar cada vez mais perigosos se não houver uma ampla - e urgente - retomada do investimento em equipamentos públicos. Como isso não transforma territórios violentos em "pacificados" em menos de três anos, teremos um trabalho social em locais deflagrados cada vez mais difíceis de serem executados. Mas, como se sabe na luta popular, ou se tem trabalho de base, e a partir destes, temos recursos de mobilização, ou tudo não passa de perigosa ilusão.
Um espaço intermediário seria o incremento da mobilização, com algum grau razoável de organização perene, das lutas derivadas do antifascismo que emerge nos últimos quatro anos, à medida que o pacto de classes é derrubado e através deste, a Nova República também. A sociedade está bastante mobilizada através de redes de identificação política, ideológica, simbólica, de gêneros, étnico-culturais e faltava - falta ainda - algum grau de unidade para todo esse caldeirão de possíveis lutas que ultrapassam a superfície e se fazem notar.
A aposta segura seria esse caldo de cultura como energia sobrante, na resistência ao avanço do protofascismo - caso a desgraça ocorra e a chapa Bolsonaro-Mourão vença nas urnas e, ainda que o pior não ocorra, apostar que todo o avanço reacionário vai recuar se perder para o voto útil é algo que beira a fantasia organizada.
Vem daí a questão de fundo: como garantir que toda essa energia que transborda o voto útil e o alinhamento ao reformismo possa existir a partir de novembro, e mais importante ainda, consiga realinhar forças a partir de fevereiro-março de 2019?!
Não está fácil, mas é o momento de menor recuo desde a avançada que culminou na rebelião popular de 2013 e o decorrente sequestro da pauta pelos grupos de mídia naquele ano ainda.
3ª reflexão: E os passos seguintes?
Pareço repetir o óbvio, mas se eu ainda conheço as centro-esquerdas e esquerdas brasileiras, não vejo nada além de "expectativas" quanto ao "o que fazer caso a desgraça aconteça". Assim, arrisco o passo seguinte do antifascismo cravando alguma unidade. Primeiro, observo que a dimensão das lutas sociais, da defesa da democracia em seu sentido mais profundo, vai ser a constante do dia a dia. Caso Bolsonaro, seu guru Chicago Boy e o general que "admira" Ustra em rede nacional e sem rubor algum não ganhem, 2019 será uma reedição de 2015 durante o governo Levy. Mas, caso os protofascistas cheguem ao Planalto pela força do voto na urna burguesa, aí o racha nacional se materializa. Explico.
Se a aventura política da versão brasileira linha chilena não der em vitória eleitoral, essas forças se dissipam e provavelmente em algum flanco jurídico o futuro ex-deputado vai sofrer.
A derrota eleitoral de Bolsonaro pode galvanizar o projeto político de médio prazo, no NOVO, onde os ultraliberais "apresentáveis se apresentam para a sociedade", propondo o desmonte dos direitos coletivos em nome de uma modernização colonizada. A distopia de Buchanan, Mises e Hayek pode vir a se tropicalizar, sempre com a inestimável ajuda da mídia, mas não agora.
O agora é o ontem, no cume de guerra fria e a linha chilena ruminantes no Brasil. Daí, o debate óbvio e que obviamente não cabe em rede aberta, é observar o que cada agrupação, corrente, tendência, coletivo, federação, organização, partido e movimento fará diante de uma democracia aparente e um projeto totalitário e ultraliberal no Planalto. Se do lado de cá tudo é ainda especulação, do lado de lá, posso apostar em um avanço na criminalização da luta política e a judicialização do debate cibernético. E, ao contrário do que ocorre com Trump, aqui o "Estado profundo" parece querer mergulhar de cabeça na distopia neo integralista onde o fantasma de Olympio Mourão faz morada. O tema é tão delicado que paro por aqui, mas corroboro - neste quesito - a análise quanto ao papel da Lava-Jato e quem a apoia incondicionalmente feita pelo liberal semi arrependido Reinaldo Azevedo. Este, antes de deitar baboseira no panfleto dos Civita - onde não está mais - deveria ter relido o Golbery e, tal como o Dr. Frankenstein, se dado conta: "eu criei um monstro!". Neste caso, não se trata somente do hoje âncora de programa líder na Bandnews. Quantos e tantos que ajudaram a criar o monstro e agora sequer sabem o que fazer e nem para onde correr.
Da banda de cá de novo, será a hora de rumar no sentido da bela estrofe do mais célebre hino antifascista, a Canção do Expedicionário, marcha da Força Expedicionária Brasileira (FEB)
"esse 'V' que simboliza, a vitória que virá, Nossa vitória final".
Tenho muita esperança no sentido coletivo das brasileiras e dos brasileiros. Vale lembrar que o povo se armou de voluntários e obrigou o Estado Novo a ir à guerra contra o Eixo nazifascista. Na campanha da Itália, nossos heróis pracinhas enfrentaram tropas alemãs com mais de cinco anos de guerra e neve na altura do joelho. Os fascistas daqui, como Olympio Mourão ou o patético Eduardo Gomes, passaram a mesma guerra no Brasil, se escondendo atrás de uma mesa.
Há que seguir a letra, "as asas do meu ideal, a glória do meu Brasil". Ou seja, concluir a obra do herói da FAB, brigadeiro Rui Moreira Lima, que da eternidade deve ainda desejar cumprir a ordem direta que Jango mesmo levando um golpe, nunca dera.
Bruno Lima Rocha é pós-doutorando em economia política, doutor e mestre em ciência política, professor de relações internacionais e de jornalismo.
(estrategiaeanaliseblog.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / grupo do Telegram t.me/estrategiaeanalise)
Βολιβία / Περού / Ισημερινός / Χιλή / Φύλο / Ανακοίνωση Τύπου Friday September 21, 2018 19:23 byBlack Rose/Rosa Negra
«Δεν φοβόμαστε». Δεν θα τρομοκρατηθούν από τις φασιστικές επιθέσεις ή από την απάθεια της αστυνομίας που κοιτούσε καθώς μαχαιρωνόντουσαν. Το φεμινιστικό κίνημα κατανοεί ότι ενώ κατατίθενται αιτήματα για νέους νόμους, η πάλη για τον φεμινισμό είναι έξω, στους δρόμους, τους χώρους εργασίας και τις γειτονιές.Δεν Φοβόμαστε: Ο φεμινισμός στη Χιλή κερδίζει έδαφος παρά τις φασιστικές επιθέσεις
Η Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation στέλνει την απόλυτη αλληλεγγύη της στις φεμινίστριες σε όλη τη Χιλή που μάχονται για ελεύθερη και νόμιμη πρόσβαση στην έκτρωση! Θέλουμε να τονίσουμε ιδιαίτερα την υποστήριξή μας στην Coordinadora Feminista 8 de Marzo, την Coordinadora Feministas en Lucha, καθώς και τις δεκάδες φεμινιστικές κολεκτίβες και άλλες οργανώσεις που συμμετέχουν σ’ αυτόν τον αγώνα.
Στις 25 Ιουλίου 2018, 50.000 φεμινίστριες και υποστηρικτές των ελεύθερων και νόμιμων υπηρεσιών έκτρωσης κατέβηκαν στους δρόμους του Σαντιάγκο στη Χιλή. Η πορεία τίμησε την 5η επέτειο από την κατάληψη του κεντρικού καθεδρικού ναού από τις φεμινίστριες στη διάρκεια λειτουργίας που πρωτοστατούσε ο αρχιεπίσκοπος της Χιλής προς τιμήν του Άγιου Σαντιάγκο με επισκόπους, τον δήμαρχο και άλλους κυβερνητικούς αξιωματούχους να παρευρίσκονται. Το γεγονός ήταν η πρώτη φεμινιστική toma (κατάληψη) και αποτέλεσε ορόσημο για το φεμινιστικό κίνημα στη Χιλή που, από το 2013, άνθισε σε μαζικό κίνημα με αντίκτυπο στους πολιτικούς χώρους και διαλόγους σε ολόκληρη τη χώρα.
Το φεμινιστικό κίνημα κερδίζει αργά έδαφος σε όλη τη Λατινική Αμερική. Στην Ουρουγουάη, μετά από χρόνια αγώνα, η έκτρωση πριν τις 12 εβδομάδες νομιμοποιήθηκε το 2012. Η Χιλή, μέχρι πρόσφατα μαζί με το Ελ Σαλβαντόρ, είχε την αυστηρότερη νομοθεσία γύρω από τις εκτρώσεις, που δεν επιτρέπονταν υπό οποιοσδήποτε συνθήκες, νομοθεσία που θεσπίστηκε το 1989 από το καθεστώς Pinochet. Τον Αύγουστο του 2017, η γερουσία της Χιλής ενέκρινε ένα νομοσχέδιο που επέτρεπε την έκτρωση μόνο σε τρεις περιπτώσεις: αν η ζωή της γυναίκας είναι σε κίνδυνο, αν το έμβρυο δεν είναι βιώσιμο, ή στην περίπτωση βιασμού κοριτσιών 14 ετών και κάτω. Στην Αργεντινή, οι φεμινίστριες είναι στο μεταίχμιο να δουν την νομιμοποίηση της έκτρωσης, που περιμένει την ψήφιση της στη Σύγκλητο της Αργεντινής στις 8 Αυγούστου.
Σε ένα άρθρο της Alondra Carrillo, μιας vocera (εκπρόσωπος Τύπου) από την Coordinadora Feminista 8 de Marzo, έγραψε, «Για αρκετά χρόνια, ένα φάντασμα πλανάται πάνω από το κόσμο και, σε αυτή την περίπτωση, είναι το φάντασμα του φεμινισμού». Η Carrillo έχει δίκιο. Το φάντασμα του φεμινισμού μεγαλώνει και η εξουσία και η πατριαρχία που βρίσκονται σε παρακμή, αμφισβητούνται σε πραγματικό χρόνο. Καθώς το σύστημα εξουσίας αμφισβητείται, τα παραληρήματα και η βία εκείνων που χάνουν τον πολιτικό και οικονομικό έλεγχο γίνονται αισθητά.
Σε αντίδραση προς την άνοδο και τον αντίκτυπο του φεμινιστικού κινήματος, έχει δραστηριοποιηθεί μια οργάνωση πατριαρχικών ανδρών που ονομάζεται Κοινωνικό Πατριωτικό Κίνημα και περιγράφει τον εαυτό του ως εθνικιστική οργάνωση που αντιτίθεται στην νομιμοποίηση της έκτρωσης και την «ιδεολογία του φύλου». Ο εκπρόσωπος Τύπου τους, Pedro Kuntsman, δήλωσε ότι η οργάνωση δέχεται γκέι άνδρες γιατί δεν είναι υπόθεσή τους τι κάνει ο κόσμος στο κρεβάτι του, αλλά περιέγραψε τις φεμινίστριες ως hembras (θηλυκά ζώα) που θα έπρεπε να στειρωθούν. Αρκετές εκατοντάδες άνδρες μέλη αυτής της φασιστικής οργάνωσης κινητοποιήθηκαν για να εμποδίσουν την φεμινιστική πορεία, γέμισαν το δρόμο με αίμα ζώων, και επιτέθηκαν κατά των διαδηλωτ(ρι)ών, μαχαιρώνοντας τρεις γυναίκες. Ενώ αισθανόμαστε ανακούφιση που δεν χάθηκε κάποια ζωή, στεκόμαστε δίπλα στις φεμινίστριες και τους υποστηρικτές τους που διαδηλώνουν κατά της φασιστικής επίθεσης.
Μετά το περιστατικό, οι φεμινίστριες στη Χιλή γέμισαν τις σελίδες των κοινωνικών δικτύων τους με φωτογραφίες από την διαδήλωση λέγοντας: «Δεν φοβόμαστε». Δεν θα τρομοκρατηθούν από τις φασιστικές επιθέσεις ή από την απάθεια της αστυνομίας που κοιτούσε καθώς μαχαιρωνόντουσαν. Το φεμινιστικό κίνημα κατανοεί ότι ενώ κατατίθενται αιτήματα για νέους νόμους, η πάλη για τον φεμινισμό είναι έξω, στους δρόμους, τους χώρους εργασίας και τις γειτονιές.
Δεν θα υπάρξει πισωγύρισμα! Το φάντασμα του φεμινισμού είναι εδώ για να αλλάξει το κόσμο.
Από την Επιτροπή Διεθνών Σχέσεων της Black Rose/Rosa Negra
26 Ιουλίου 2018
venezuela / colombia / historia / anarchist communist event Thursday September 20, 2018 23:59 byGrupo Libertario Via Libre
Encuentros Ácratas: La experiencia de las Ligas Socialistas y la izquierda abajo en 1970.
[Conmemorando el Paro Cívico Nacional del 14 de septiembre de 1977]
Hernán Darío Correa. Presentación del libro "Como marcas en la brecha. Una historia de vida (2015)".
Viernes 21 de septiembre. 6:30 pm
CODEMA [Carrera 19 # 39B-16]
mashriq / arabia / iraq / imperialism / war / debate Tuesday September 18, 2018 23:12 byKahled Aboud
The so-called Syrian Civil War is Syrian in name only. It has seen combatants from scores of countries flooding into the jihadist fanatic armies, while Israel, Turkey, the US, France, the UK, Iran, Russia, the Arab monarchies, they all have meddled, bombarded, funded their own armed proxies and contributed in many ways to destroy the country. Syria is a shame on humanity, seen by everyone as an opportunity to flex their muscles and test each other’s red lines, limits and capacities. And we’ve been surprised to see the Russian emperor come out absolutely naked in this power-game.The conflict in Syria has, above all, demonstrated the limits of the military power of Russia. All the jingoistic rhetoric of Putin-loving elements about Russia’s military might have been exposed to the world for what it is: a sham. The emperor is naked –Russia is nothing but a rundown state with pretentions of being a super-power, which may be able to bully the Georgians, but south of the Caucasus, it is others who run the show. And the war in Syria has proved just that. Despite the massive success of the operations to defeat jihadists in Syria and to boost the government of Assad –the only leader of the only country who would be willing to give them a military base in the Mediterranean-, Russia has clashed against a formidable military force which tests the limits of its hard power. This was demonstrated by Erdogan time and again, but particularly with the Sochi meeting which made partition of Syria official, showed that Turkey wouldn’t back down to Russia’s threats and showed its willingness to protect the most back-warded jihadists imaginable. It is Erdogan, not Putin who sets the agenda and who determines what is acceptable and what is not in Syria. Russia was humiliated, proving that getting into a course of conflict with a NATO country is no option for them. Their limits were exposed for everyone to see.
It is not the first time that Turkey slaps Russia in the face. They downed a Russian fighter; their ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Turkey by a policeman whom jihadists in Idlib parade as a hero; and what does Russia do? Some economic measures against Turkey only to be back a couple of months later with a stronger than ever relationship. They drum-beat like King Kong and then do nothing. Not because they are sensible, or hold the higher moral ground, or because they try not to escalate things. They don’t do anything because they can’t. Simple as that. The outdated Russian army is efficient enough to carpet bomb –they lack capacity for precision targeting- gangs of armed jihadists who spend most of their time reading the Q’uran as opposed to military theory anyway. But confronted to a real army, such as Turkey, they will back. Sergey Lavrov, their minister of foreign affairs, yelled from the top of his lungs that the territorial integrity of Syria was out of question and they would bomb the terrorists in Idlib. In Tehran Putin was saying that a cease-fire was out of question. But Turkey only needed to move its military forces into the region to convince Putin to sit in the negotiating table one week later and accept a de-militarised zone; indeed more than what Erdogan had originally asked for. And what about the territorial integrity of Syria and the fight against Al-Qaeda? Well, now Syria has been officially partitioned and the Al-Qaeda gangs will be well looked after by their Turkish sponsors.
To add injury to insult, that very night a number of targets in Syria, including Latakia where Russia has its military base, came under attack by Israeli fighters. The highly inefficient Russian air-defences not only didn’t manage to stop most of the bombs to hit target, but they actually managed to down a cargo place with 15 Russian soldiers behind which the Israeli fighter jets had taken shelter to attack Syria. The Russian Minister of Defence comes out to say that Russia reserves the right to take appropriate measures against hostile Israeli actions… and what will happen? Guessed right. Nothing. This is just bluffing. Putin already came out to say that the Israelis didn’t mean it and in a couple of days everything will be back to business as usual. Israel will keep bombarding Syria as the please, and Putin will declare that his love for Netanyahu is eternal and that a dozen dead Russians are not that big a deal at all. They will come out of this with a relationship stronger than ever. The harder you hit Putin, the stronger the relationship will be after the blow.
But if you give him what he wants, then he will trample all over you. Look at Assad, renewing the Russian military base until 2049, when Putin accepts the partition of Syria, and actually coordinates with Israel their bombardments so they don’t hit Russians but ‘kill as many Syrians as you like, sir’ –what kind of strange alliance is that? But it is not only that Russians will not stop Israel from bombing their supposed ally –they actually can’t do anything about it. The Latakia bombings demonstrated that Russia can’t even defend the surroundings of their military bases. Let’s see if anyone would dare to bombard jihadists even miles away from the Al-Tanf US military base in Southern Syria! If Russia can’t protect even its own bases and their own military personnel, what can Assad expect in terms of protection from future bombardments and interventions?
As for poor Syria, its future looks grim as hell. Assad has been left with a partitioned country and nothing much of a say in the future of it. The Kurdish have been increasingly turned into a proxy army for the US and their dependence on them was tested with the Turkish invasion of Afrin: it fell like a house of cards. Their enclave will be turned into a US protectorate in exchange of oil and military bases –which sooner rather than later will be officially sanctioned by the US, which will never allow a Turkish military incursion where their military bases are. Erdogan’s limits are not set by Russia, but by the US and Israel. Thus, all the transformative and emancipatory potential of the experience of Rojava, the only honourable page written in this senseless conflict, will come to nothing. The US will never allow any serious challenge to ‘capitalist modernity’ in their protectorate. They will possibly allow women co-chairs all over the place to prove the world how progressive Rojava is, same as Israel and their gay parade marches, proof that they are a “progressive” country, nevermind the plight of Palestinians. But to question class relations and imperialism in Rojava? To be serious about self-government? That is really difficult to happen under US sponsorship. Possibly far more pressure will be put on them to distance from the PKK which is getting shattered in Turkey and Northern Iraq. The Kurdish are prisoners now of US presence in Syria, and no amount of PR exercises will change the fact that if your autonomy depends on the presence of a foreign empire, it is empty chatter.
Was there another possible outcome? Yes. A pragmatic alliance between Assad and the Kurds, which would have allowed for Assad to remain as president and the Kurdish to get a degree of autonomy, stood a real chance of defeating Turkey and its proxies, while keeping a certain autonomy from their foreign patrons. A far cry from the scenario every party would have wished for, but no doubt the best possible scenario that could have come out of this absolute humanitarian disaster called Syrian Civil War. But precisely the proxy nature of the conflict didn’t allow anyone to see this chance. The Kurdish thought, and still think (surprisingly, even after Afrin), that the US is their friend. The Assadists thought that Russia was their friend. Imperialism has no friends, only interests. Whether it is the proper US imperialism, or the pathetically hallucinatory Russian imperialism, they only looked for their interests. Israel has won a weak neighbour unable to defend itself and under constant threat from the jihadists pockets kept live by Turkey. Turkey will manage to keep the Kurdish at bay and annex new territories in Idlib, Al-Bab, Jarabulus, and Afrin through proxies to feed the neo-Ottomanists dreams of its caliph. The US won oil and 14 military bases Russia keep their only military base in the Mediterranean, one which they can’t even defend. But there it is. And the Arab or Kurdish Syrians? Irrevocably partitioned into protectorates and unable to have a say in their own future. What a prospect!
Welcome to the New Middle East that Bush foresaw back in 2001.
Wed 24 Oct, 01:56
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