الخميس، 31 مايو، 2012

Syria Café: Blood and words on one table





Ali Hashem

My last visit to Syria was in 2010. I was on my way back from London to Beirut via Damascus where I had to attend a wedding.
Life then was different. People were not the same as they are today. None of those attending the wedding then thought, neither did I, that in less than a year some of them will turn to be renegades and others on the side of the regime.
Damascus 2012, I am in a different city where people’s daily bread is the talk of blood. The craft of political analysis is mastered by many, and everyone here claims to have the right version of what's going on.
Pro-regime Syrians strain to convince their listeners that all those who are opposing the rule of “Bashar Assad” are terrorist gangs and members of Al-Qaida. Furthermore, they give multimedia proof recorded from TV shows aired on state run or state controlled media, and whenever they are asked about the bloodshed around the country they blame it on the global conspiracy on their country because of its decision to back the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine against Israel.
Those who back the regime in Syria aren’t as many think a minority; they are the majority of all sects other than the Sunni majority. Most of the Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Shia back the Baath regime. Some are courageous enough to say they want Assad to stay not because they like him, rather it’s the uncertainty that pushes them to do whatever they can to prevent themselves from living under a theocratic regime. They defend their theory by giving examples from Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt.
In Damascus people are certain the regime won't fall, though it's obvious that Syria won't ever be the country it was before March 15, 2011, the day the revolution ignited.
Military presence and blockades dominate the scene in Damascus. Fears of explosions and car bombs that started to control the daily agenda had labeled several neighborhoods in it as red zones.
In fact, whole Syria is today a red zone, from north to south, from the borders with Lebanon and Jordan to the Turkish ones. Anti Assad activists are everywhere, even in his strongholds Damascus and Aleppo.
Peaceful and armed opposition control several suburbs in the capital, and dominate other main cities as Homs, Edlib, and Daraa, especially after thousands decided to desert the army and join forces with militants who chose to start their fights against the regime since the beginning of the revolution.
Today the army defectors are called the "Free Syrian Army", but they aren't the only armed party on the Anti-regime side despite being the main umbrella. Several militias are active around the country and have their names, some coordinate with the FSA and others work independently; therefore it's difficult to know who is doing what, and this situation fueled tensions between opposition fighters.
The clearest and strongest example was the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese pilgrims on their way back from the Shiite holy shrines in Iran to their homeland Lebanon in Aleppo. Neither the FSA nor the Syrian National Council was able to identify the captors who were claimed to be with the opposition. Even the Turks who back the FSA and the SNC failed to secure the release.
Armed opposition proved to be a hit to those backing peaceful moves, as people supporting the revolutionaries deserted demonstrations to join the fight. Moreover, they found that armed struggle is more efficient and capable than daily rallies, a finding that was faced by a counter debate that the regime is using the armament of the revolution as a pretext to hit strongly on one side, and on the other to say that the crisis in Syria isn't a popular revolution rather an armed insurgency.
Both Anti and pro Assad know that the war in and on their country wouldn't end soon. The country as most of them agree is divided, and as a result, this division is costing both nation and people who fear that their country might be going towards a fate similar to a shattered Lebanon or Iraq, especially with news of sectarian cleansing around the country getting common, and the rising level of hatred between people from different sects.
The Syrian war reminds me of a masterpiece by a famous Syrian director, Mohammed AlMagout. Thirty years ago, he directed a film titled "The Borders", a story about a taxi driver who was stuck in the middle of his divided country without a passport, where he had no chance to cross from one area to another. So, he built a coffee shop bringing together the soldiers fighting on each side to daily parties and helping them overcome the differences.
Today it's clear that AlMagout's movie became a real story with one missing element, "The Coffee Shop" that brought together his warring brothers.

الخميس، 24 مايو، 2012

نصر في وطن غائب


*نبيه عواضة

نصر مستريح فوق التلال، يلملم ضحكات القرى ويرميها صدى في الأودية... وجوه ناس فرحة تنثر مثل اشعة الشمس سمرتها في الحقول... أطفال يلهون في بقايا عتاد عسكري قرب شائك الاسيجة والصخر والعشب البري وقد تحرر من دوس الجرافات والدبابات والاقدام الغازية... وفي مكان اخر مدينة يلف ليلها الموت ويزيد من عتمتها دخان الحريق الاسود... طرقات مقفلة تقطع اوصال الوطن... حواجز مسلّحة تفرض خوتها على الاسفلت حتى... قرى غاضبة على حول غير حولها... لغة الرصاص تتكلم... كذبة جديدة تظهر...
نصر ايار، ملحمة نضالية لوطن مشقق... كيف نروي السيرة بعد اثنتي عشرة سنة على قيامة التحرير... هل نرويها بلسان الناس الفقيرة الرازحة تحت احتلال من نوع آخر، هو احتلال الفقر والعوز، احتلال القتل والاقتتال الذي يلوح كلما طلع نهار او غابت شمس لمجرد أن قول قيل او فعل حصل... أم نرويها شكوى من الدولة الغائبة المترهّلة العاجزة والفاسدة... فمن أين البداية؟
كيف لنصر بهذا الحجم ان لا يستطيع حماية رغيف الخبز من خطر التنحيف، وأن لا يصون حليب اطفالنا من فاسد، وأن لا يقدم لنا ممارسة حكومية تهتم بالمواطن وترفع الظلم عنه وتحرّره من كل صنوف الجشع.
كيف لنصر بهذا الحجم ان لا يستطيع حماية الوطن من التدمير، من الذهاب نحو الهلاك، حيث لا يبقى وطن ولا يبقى شعب يحتفل... فنسأل ؟
هل الانتصار لنا؟ هل هو لشعبنا وقد اغرقه الحكام الجدد والقدم على السواء بحال من الفوضى وقد جعلوه اسير المخالفات والتعصب، تعصب قائم على رفض الاخر، على قهره، نبذه وقتله.
نحن نتربع على كومة من الهموم فيما الانتصار معلق على الرايات ويصدح في المنابر... لماذا لا يكون لهذا النصر دولة تشبهه... دولة تناصره... دولة تكون بمستواه، وفي ابسط الاحوال دولة تحميه... دولة لا مزرعة يقتات خيرها سارق فيما الشعب جائع، دولة حرة يديرها من كانت يده نظيفة، لا مجموعة تجيد فن الكذب فهي تبدو امام الشعب حاقدة على بعضها البعض بينما هي في الحقيقة مجموعة متحالفة متآمرة فيما بينها عليه...
في نصر ايار... نعشق الرعب المسيطر على جندي صهيوني محتل يدنس ارض فلسطين في اقصى جنوبها، يصوب بندقيته نحو طفل يلهو عند حدود قطاع غزة او قرب مدرسة قريته بجوار الجدار العازل في الضفة الغربية المحتلة فيما هو يلتفت الى السماء خوفا من صاروخ ما قادم من لبنان... لكن يصيبنا ويقلل من عزيمتنا ويشعرنا بالضعف ازدياد الهوة بين الفقراء والاغنياء في وطننا، حيث الاقتصاد شركة خاصة محتكرة سياسيا يتقاسم منافعه زعماء الطوائف. وحيث الدولة بكل اداراتها ووزاراتها وخدماتها منقسمة بين ولاء وولاء بين نفوذ ونفوذ يصبح المواطن بين هذا الولاء وذاك النفوذ مجرد متسول.
في نصر ايار. يريحنا ذاك الرعب المسيطر على ذاك الجندي الصهيوني المحتل... لكن يرعبنا ويقضي على زهونا بالنصر والتحرير مشهد دمنا المهدور على الطرقات، مشهد موتنا القادم من ذرية البادية ونسب الجهل... جهل الامس واليوم والغد...
فهل لهذا النصر ان يحررنا من هذا الطغيان الجديد الذي يبدو الاحتلال امامه صغيرا وصغيرا جدا؟!

 نبيه عواضة أسير لبناني سابق في السجون الإسرائيلية *

منشورة في السفير

الثلاثاء، 22 مايو، 2012

القاعدة تؤكد وجودها في لبنان ووزير الداخلية ينفي

كتب حسين نورالدين

ان تنظيم القاعدة ليس حزبا له مركز وقيادة وبطاقة انتساب. ان تنظيم القاعدة ليس حزبا يترشح للانتخابات النيابية ضمن تحالفات سياسية وقوائم. ان وزير الداخلية مروان شربل ليس وزيرا بل هو "ابو ملحم" يدعو الى احتضان المقاتلين في طرابلس ويبرر فشة خلق الشباب في طريق الجديدة!!.
تصوروا لو ان نصف اللبنانيين ارادوا ان يفشوا خلقهم على غرار ما حدث واتاهم تبرير الوزير العبقري شربل، ففشوا خلقهم بنصف اللبنانيين الباقيين، واستمر الوضع على هذا الحال، املء الفراغ بالعدد المناسب: كم من اللبنانيين ذهبوا ضحية فشة الخلق؟ الجواب : .........
لست ابرر ما حصل على حاجز الكويخات ومقتل الشيخ احمد عبد الواحد ومرافقه لكن اقول ان امرا اتى قبل ايام للجيش اللبناني باطلاق النار على المسلحين وعلى من لا يمتثل للتوقف وتم تنفيذه والان نقوم بالمحاكمة؟
وفعلنا الامر نفسه لضابط الامن العام. السؤال هنا موجه باتجاهين : لو ان الجيش كان بهذه الجهوزية دوما واطلق النار على العدو الاسرائيلي في اي حادثة خرق للسيادة الوطنية بدل لقاءات الناقورة ؟
من ناحية اخرى : ماذا يفعل الجيش المكبل اليوم؟ وهل ندفع له ليأكل في الثكنات وليتبختر الضباط على المواطنين ؟
عجيب هو لبنان والاعجب هو شعبه.
تعالوا نتصور اسوأ الاحتمالات وهي اندلاع حرب اهلية جديدة. هل يعتقد اي شخص ان بامكان حزب الله الدخول الى الطريق الجديدة وحكمها؟ هل يعتقد ايضا احد ان بامكان اي من القوى الوطنية الدخول الى باب التبانة واخضاعه؟
من ناحية اخرى هل يعتقد حزب المستقبل ان بامكانه ان يحكم مدينة النبطية يوما ما؟ هل تعتقد القوات اللبنانية ان بامكانها النوم هانئة في بعلبك والهرمل؟
وهل يظن وئام وهاب ان مناصريه يمكنهم حكم امارة الشوف؟
تمت تجربة الحرب الاهلية في لبنان مع كل التبريرات التي تلتها والنتائج الكارثية عنها، هل نحتاج الى حرب جديدة والاف القتلى لنعود الى طائف جديد يعيد التركيبات السياسية نفسها برجالها وافكارها؟
لمن لم يقتنع ان الامر يتعلق بالمشروع الالغائي في المنطقة الذي يتلطى خلف ظلم هنا وهناك لتتربى في كنفه الحركات التكفيرية التي لم تصوب بندقية باتجاه اسرائيل.
ان اردتم مقاومة اسرائيل فانتم لا تحتاجون الى اذن، فالعقبة تبعد ثمانية كيلومترات عن ميناء ايلات، والاردن محاذ لاسرائيل وكذلك جبهة جبل عامل في جنوب لبنان. انطلقوا بتدبر وتنظيم وليس بغوغائية وصراخ ورايات.
اتسأل عن المبادىء التي قاتلت مع فلسطين حتى الموت ومن بعدها انقلبت لتؤمن بالسلام؟
اي سلام وعلاما استشهد الشهداء؟

الثلاثاء، 1 مايو، 2012

The Arab spring has shaken Arab TV's credibility


Twenty-two years ago my father, a Lebanese immigrant in Sierra Leone, bought a huge satellite dish with tens of channels to replace the radio that we had used to listen to the BBC's Arabic service. I was only 10 at the time but I remember people gathering at our place to see CNN's coverage of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. People always saw CNN as representing America, but still they wanted to know what was happening. This continued with the US-led intervention to liberate Kuwait.


In those days there were still no credible Arab channels to cover the war. We only had the state-run TV stations – those that would always follow their leaders' and kings' agenda, even if the whole universe was on fire.


A few years later things started to change, and the turning point was in 1994 when the BBC decided to launch its Saudi-funded Arabic TV. The project attracted tens of Arab journalists who thought for a while that they were on the threshold of a huge shift in the Arab media landscape.


Two years later the BBC-Saudi project faced a serious dilemma when the channel aired a documentary about a Saudi arms deal. Within weeks it was off air and its journalists were abandoned to their fate – though not for long.


In 1996 a new channel came to life. Qatar launched al-Jazeera and hired most of those who were dumped by BBC. This time they were assured that nothing would stop the new station, mainly because there were no limits, no red lines, and an unlimited budget. In the Arab countries, where people are used to listening on a daily basis to speeches by their leaders or members of ruling families, the new channel introduced counter-fire talk shows and documentaries from hotspots with an emphasis on controversial issues. For the first time, people saw opposition figures from around the Arab world saying in Arabic what they had only dared to say before on western channels in English or French.


Over the past 16 years al-Jazeera has emerged as the most credible news source in the region, though it was also joined by other channels such as al-Arabiya, Iran's Alalam, the American al-Hurra, Russia's RT and others.


The new Arab TV channels seemed to be flourishing and gaining credibility until the Arab spring came along and they began providing daily coverage of the revolutions. From Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, people expected TV stations to embrace their dreams and defend their causes, but it seems that major networks decided to adopt some revolutions and dump others.


One example was the way they dealt with the uprising in Bahrain. It was clear that Gulf-financed stations were more interested in regional security than Bahrainis' dreams of democracy and freedom and their revolt against tyranny.


Meanwhile, mainstream Arab channels gave the Syrian revolution a large portion of airtime, but things took a different path when they started interfering with the coverage. I was one of those who experienced it when al-Jazeera, the channel I used to work for, refused to air footage of gunmen fighting the Syrian regime on the borders between Lebanon and Syria. I saw tens of gunmen crossing the borders in May last year – clear evidence that the Syrian revolution was becoming militarised. This didn't fit the required narrative of a clean and peaceful uprising, and so my seniors asked me to forget about gunmen.


It was clear to me, though, that these instructions were not coming from al-Jazeera itself: that the decision was a political one taken by people outside the TV centre – the same people who asked the channel to cover up the situation in Bahrain. I felt that my dream of working for a main news channel in the region was becoming a nightmare. The principles I had learned during 10 years of journalism were being disrespected by a government that – whatever the editorial guideines might say – believed it owned a bunch of journalists who should do whatever they were asked.


Today, Arab media is divided. Media outlets have become like parties; politics dominates the business and on both sides of the landscape and people can't really depend on one channel to get their full news digest. It is as if the audience have to do journalists' homework by cross-checking sources and watching two sides of a conflict to get one piece of news.


The problem isn't who is telling lies and who is accurate. Media organisations are giving the part of the story that serves the agenda of their financier, so it's clear that only part of the truth is exposed while the other part is buried. What is obvious is that the investment in credibility during the past two decades has been in vain. The elite are once again dealing with Arab news channels the way they used to do with Arab state media.


Once again, people have started relying more on western media to know what's going on. That is reflected in the number of viewers the BBC Arabic TV channel gained during the past year – reportedly more than 10m while leading Arab channels have been losing viewers.


Governments who own media organisations in the Middle East, and impose their agendas, are pushing them towards journalistic suicide. They are taking the Arab media landscape back to the early 1990s rather than moving it forward.


• Follow Comment is free on Twitter @commentisfree

Al-Mayadeeen Feeds