Abu Hatab Sets Direction of Travel for New Interim Government

New head of the Syrian interim government Jawad Abu Hatab said that the interim government will work to provide services to the civilian population in the liberated areas, adding that he is keen to form a non-partisan technocratic government whose work will not be affected by political affiliations.

In a news conference in Idlib on Thursday following a meeting with representatives of local councils of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama, Abu Hatab said that the meeting discussed the formation of the new government, criteria for the selection of ministers, as well as the role of FSA groups in facilitating the work of the government.

Rather than ruling the Syrian people, the new interim government will work on serving the needs of the Syrian people and re-activating state institutions, Abu Hatab said. He pointed out that the new government will give special focus on education and help graduate students complete their higher education in order to create qualified cadres who will be essential to rebuild Syria.

Abu Hatab went on to say that the new government will prioritize rebuilding the health service and education institutions as well as supporting local councils.

“We will seek to secure funding for the new government. Our capabilities and our work will be key in securing the funds. Funding might be small to start with, but when the new government sets about working to implement clearly defined plans and programs, funding will be secured much more easily. We will seek to achieve financial independence. Regardless of the amount of financial support we manage to get in the beginning, we will continue to work hard as the Syrian people are able to find sources of funding,” Abu Hatab stressed.

Abu Hatab also said that “the FSA and rebel fighters will be our partners on the ground as they are giving their lives for the sake of the homeland. They also work hard to serve the needs of the people, and I am sure they will support the government and its work.”

The Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly elected Jawad Abu Hatab head of the Syrian interim government in a special meeting held on Monday. Abu Hatab will be forming a new government to be based in Syria to better serve the needs of the civilian population.

(Source: Syrian Coalition + Alahd Newspaper / 20.05.2016)

Zoubi: Political Solution Has Never Been Close Due to Regime Intransigence

Head of the opposition’s negotiation delegation Asaad Alzoabi said that the Syrian opposition, unlike the Assad regime and its allies, has always proved it is serious about reaching a political solution in Syria. He pointed out that a political solution in Syria has never been close due to the intransigence of the Assad regime.

In an interview with Shaam News Network on Wednesday, Alzoabi said that the statements made by the Assad regime and its allies on a political solution are just a smokescreen behind which they hide their real intentions and plans.

Russia has intervened in Syria to maintain its own interests in the region, while Iran is sending more militants to secure its interests, Alzoabi noted, adding that Russia and Iran have not intervened in Syria for the sake of Assad as a person.

In an interview with Alsharq Alawsat newspaper also on Wednesday, Alzoabi revealed ongoing plans to form a new rebel group in the north of Syria similar to the one operating in the south, which is known as the Southern Front. He referred to active efforts to unify the mainstream rebel and FSA groups in the north, alongside efforts to end the rebel infighting in eastern Ghouta.

Alzoabi pointed out that Iranian-backed and Hezbollah militias are being sent to Syria in increasing numbers, adding that more Afghan elements have recently began to arrive in Iran to receive military training to fight in Syria in return for money and promises of Iranian citizenship.

Alzoabi went on to say that statements made recently by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir about the need for alternative plans in Syria if Bashar al-Assad did not fully respect the truce have rekindled hope in the hearts of the Syrian people who were disappointed by the outcome of the latest Vienna meeting on Syria.

The new rebel military formation in the north will play a major role in the alternative plan if and when it materializes, Alzoabi said.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 19.05.2016)

Alabdah: Forming Transitional Governing Body ‘Core of Political Process,’ Humanitarian Demands Are Non-negotiable

President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah said that political transition and the formation of a transitional government body must be at the heart of the political process and its primary goal. Alabdah stressed that the Syrian Coalition “supports every effort aimed at creating the appropriate environment for the resumption of the negotiating process in Geneva.”

In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV channel on Tuesday, Alabdah said that the Coalition “has supported every possibility to reach a political solution since the revolution began over five years ago. We are willing to discuss this issue very seriously in order to protect our people and to end the bloodshed.”

Alabdah ruled out the possibility of initiating a transitional process in Syria in August 1, the date set by the US Secretary of State John Kerry as the “target” date for forming a transitional governing body during the ISSG meeting held in Vienna on Tuesday. Alabdah stressed that while appropriate conditions for forming this body are completely lacking, Kerry was just trying to keep alive the hope that a genuine political transition in Syria can be achieved.

“We have not seen any progress in relation to the humanitarian files since UN Security Council resolution 2245 was passed more than two months ago. No blockade on the besieged areas has been lifted since the truce went into force nearly two months ago.”

Alabdah stressed that the humanitarian demands are not subject to negotiations. “We are not the party to the conflict that has been besieging civilians; detaining thousands of people; and dropping barrel bombs on civilians, nor do we have surface-to-surface missiles or warplanes that bomb civilians across Syria,” he added.

Alabdah pointed out that the international community and the UN have an ethical responsibility to protect civilians in Syria, stressing that there would be no feasible, meaningful political process unless progress was made in this regard.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 18.05.2016)

Nakba without end: Memories of shattered Palestinian communities in Syria

A timely, much-needed ethnography of Syria’s Palestinian community, at a time when tens of thousands have been displaced once more

Displaced people from the nearby Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp queuing to receive aid from the United Nations Relief Work Agency in Yalda, south of Damascus

On 15 May 2011, thousands of Palestinian refugees from Syria are marching towards Syria’s long, quiet border with Israel. Even though the protests are not as big as the organisers promised, it is both a symbolic and physical statement.

Stones are thrown, tear gas fired in reply. Some actually make it across, welcomed on the other side by villagers from the Druze town of Majdal al-Shams. One Palestinian refugee, Hassan al-Hijazi, goes further, actually taking a bus to his family’s hometown, Haifa, and proclaiming it “his town”.

Although this is a detail from the early days of the Syrian uprising that often gets missed out, it was of obvious importance to Palestinian-Syrians at the time. The bodies of three martyrs – Obaida Zaghmot, Bashar al-Shihabi, and Qays Abu al-Hayjaa’ – sometimes called the “martyrs of return,” were taken back to their camps in Syria proper and carried aloft, mourned, lionised. Some observers – including former Yarmouk resident Nidal Bitari – have claimed this was a crucial stepping-stone in the Palestinian experience of the Syrian uprising and ensuing civil war. Although many felt compelled to maintain neutrality, people also felt used, Bitari has claimed. “A feeling began to emerge that the regime had used the Palestinians for its own ends, without regard for their safety, to deflect attention from the uprising then gaining ground.”

Each year on 15 May, Palestinians mark Nakba Day, commemorating the forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, in what became known as the nakba, or catastrophe.

Reading American University of Beirut (AUB) professor Anaheed al-Hardan’s recently published book, Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities (Columbia University Press, 2016) around this year’s Nakba Day, one is struck by the evolution of the Nakba — not only as a historical event, site of trauma, memory remembered, but also as a term, idea, theory that has developed considerably over time.

Based on 63 interviews conducted in formal or informal Palestinian camps and communities mostly around Damascus and rural Damascus during six months of 2008, the main part of Hardan’s book gives voice to the so-called “guardians of memory”: the “generation of Palestine” who witnessed 1948 first-hand as local residents and native Palestinians, then as refugees.

Hardan charts different categories of Nakba memories; for example, heroic memories, such as how the people of peasant farming village Lubiya (where some of Yarmouk camp’s residents can be traced back to) bought rifles in preparation for the Nakba; or ambivalent memories, that combine a sense of powerlessness with agency. Nakba memories are told and recounted in different ways, too. Hardan explores engendered re-tellings and how that impacts memory.

Nakba was a term first used to describe the events of 1948 by a Damascus-born educator, historian and theorist, Constantine Zurayk. However, it would not take on a fully Palestinian, rather than Arab, connotation until years later; not until the downfall of several  ancien regimes seen as responsible for their part in the catastrophe, as well as the advent of the anti-colonial, Palestine liberation movement during the late 1960s, in the form of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Even then, the present state of nakba – as an event to be remembered – may not have always been the same. Hardan writes how the Oslo Accords, and the realignment of Palestine’s centrifuge away from the diaspora and back to the PLO’s seat in Ramallah and the West Bank, created a sense of “fear” amongst diaspora communities, including Syria’s Palestinians. This fear of being denied the right of return, as it became clear the PLO were willing to give up on millions of Palestinian refugees outside Palestine, sparked what became known as the Right of Return Movement (RRoM) in Syria. We are introduced to some of the characters involved: the late Ghassan al-Shehabi, for example, or grass-roots activists who ran education and awareness days commemorating lost Palestinian villages within camps in Syria.

The RoRM were building towards something and yet – and it will not be the first time –  2011 makes its presence felt.

Introductions scattered through Hardan’s ethnographic studies provide the reader street-view recollections; it might be Hardan’s journey en route to an interview, her abiding memory about where an interviewee, an old woman, was sat on a little chair in the street. They combine past and present – like, “that’s how it was then and I wonder how it is for them now” – and compounds the palpable sense of loss that understandably pervades a book about 1948 and the Syrian conflict’s impact on its descendants.

Reflecting on a picnic near Deraa, en route to an interview, Hardan remembers two “third-generation Palestinian refugee women from Khan Eshieh who learned about the Nakba through schoolbooks, and who nonetheless chose to wear the kuffiya [Palestinian scarf] that day.” She is left wondering about “those who have left the camp, and the others who have seen their families torn apart and scattered by war yet again, some even arriving at the shores of the Ionian and Baltic Seas, to tell of the minute details of the horrors of war.”

We continue to wonder as we read. Last week, pro-government forces besieged 12,000 people in Khan Eshieh, including 3,000 children – with Save the Children warning on Friday that civilians were running out of food and medicine amidst barrel bombs and sniper fire, The Guardian reported.

Palestinian-Syrian displacement, memory and loss is not history, it is happening right now. In recent weeks and months, Yarmouk camp, the beating-heart of the Palestinian-Syrian diaspora, has seen some of its fiercest clashes, this time between Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, in years. Khan Eshieh is besieged. Many other Palestinian camps and communities have been badly damaged and rendered inaccessible, or simply decimated as a result of both internal and external displacement. The Palestinians have become refugees twice.

Reminding us about this is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Hardan’s book. It is an important and timely addition to the growing body of Nakba scholarship, although maybe in places more academic in tone than Dina Matar’s oral history, What It Means To Be A Palestinian: Stories of Palestinian Peoplehood (I.B. Tauris, 2011) or Diana Allan’s ethnography of Shatila camp, Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile (Stanford University Press, 2014).

Hardan is one of the few people actively talking about Syria’s Palestinian community and its post-2011 tragedy at maybe the most crucial time of all. Just last week, UNRWA stated that more than one-fifth of Syria’s Palestinians had now fled the country. Some estimates say as many as 100,000 have taken the death boats to Europe, while hundreds have died en route.

And by looking back at the changing Nakba and its implications on those who experienced it, Hardan shows us how the Palestinians of Syria have, since 2012 especially, experienced a continuation of nakba, a second nakba or, perhaps as Hardan writes in her conclusion, a “catastrophe that the displaced post-Palestine generations now insist far exceeds the Nakba of 1948”.

(Source / 17.05.2016)

Syrian Coalition Calls on ISSG to Form Task Force for Detainees & the Missing

The Syrian Coalition called upon the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to form a special task force, similar to the humanitarian and cessation of hostilities task forces, to deal with the issue of Syrian detainees and forcibly disappeared persons as well as to ensure the implementation of article 12 of UNSCR 2254 and the recommendations of the COI on Syria dated 27 January 2016.

In a letter by President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah to the ISSG ahead of its meeting in Vienna on Tuesday, the Coalition called on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to act as a guarantor to oversee the implementation of the agreement reached between the Assad regime and detainees in Hama Central Prison.

The letter demanded guarantees to protect detainees in the prison from regime reprisals against them or their families, adding that the plight of the detainees of Hama Central Prison constitutes the tip of the iceberg in the continued tragedy of Syrian detainees.

The Coalition also called on ISSG to work to guarantee that any political settlement reached in Syria involves assurances as to holding accountable those responsible for human rights violations and systematic torture and executions against Syrian detainees with the aim of combating the culture of impunity currently present in Syria and to lay the foundations for a new era based on justice and the rule of law.

Moreover, the Coalition demanded that ISSG put pressure on the Assad regime to immediately stop haphazard execution verdicts, abolish the court of terrorism and stop referring civilian detainees to military courts.

The letter also called for facilitating regular and repeated access of international independent inspection missions to civil prisons, detention centers, security centers and secret prisons.

The file of detainees in Syria is one of the most critical humanitarian issues, the letter said. Tens of thousands of detainees pay dearly everyday as serious efforts to reach concrete solutions for their situation are delayed, the letter added.

The Coalition said that it counts on the support of good friends in the ISSG to meet the legitimate demands of detainees and prisoners of conscience in Syria.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 17.05.2016)

Syrian Coalition Criticizes Attempts to Blackmail the Revolution & Keep Assad

President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah said that there are attempts to blackmail the revolution militarily and politically and to force the Syrian people into accepting the survival of Bashar al-Assad and the entire ruling clique as well as the preservation of the security and military institutions. He added that process for political transition is currently vague and lacks a clear timetable or an agenda for the transition.

“Thousands of displaced people and families of the victims and the wounded have not given us a mandate to sign off on surrender or defeat. They will not allow their aspirations for justice, equality and freedom to be defeated,” Alabdah said.

Alabdah spoke about “conspiracies being woven against the Syrian revolution, both on the military and political levels.”

“Foreign militias are flocking to Syria from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran to fight alongside regime forces under aerial cover by Russia. There are attempts to compel the Syrian people to agree to proposals for a political solution that allows the ruling family to stay in power at the expense of the Syrian people’s aspirations,” Alabdah said.

Alabdah added: “There are also plots targeting the representation of the Syrian people in Geneva as some have invented the so-called opposition bodies in an attempt to distract from the real essence of the conflict, which is a struggle between the majority of the Syrian people and the authoritarian regime.”

Alabdah was speaking during an event on Sunday where a number of Palestinian-Syrian activists announced the establishment of the Free Palestinian-Syrian Assembly in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

Alabdah welcomed the formation of the assembly, describing it as a step towards unifying the efforts of the Palestinian-Syrians who endorse the Syrian people’s demands for freedom in such a critical phase of the Syrian revolution.

“Damascus will always stand by the Palestine brothers in their struggle for freedom and justice. New Syria will not confiscate the Palestinians’ right to decide as was the case under Assad the father including his treatment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), his destruction of the Lebanese national movement, and his divisive polices in Lebanon and Jordan.”

Alabdah described the Palestinian-Syrians role as pivotal in shaping Syria’s future, adding that everyone in Syria including Palestinian-Syrians will have equal rights. He stressed that the Palestinian-Syrians are real partners in the future Syria.

According to its bylaws, the Free Palestinian-Syrian Assembly will be documenting and assessing human rights violations as well as material losses the Palestinian-Syrian community suffers in Syria.

The Assembly will also be working to achieve cooperation and coordination with local and international human rights and humanitarian organizations with the aim of establishing transitional justice and prosecuting regime officials and leaders of militias fighting alongside it.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 16.05.2016)

Bombing hospitals in Syria ‘an actual strategy of war,’ human rights group says

‘You can only infer that they are aiming to kill the maximum number of hospital workers and patients’

People carry medical supplies found under the rubble of a destroyed Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital hit by missiles in Marat Numan, Syria, in February.  Physicians for Human Rights says more than 730 medical staff have been killed since the war in Syria began in 2011.  Three health-care centres were recently attacked within one week in the city of Aleppo alone.

People carry medical supplies found under the rubble of a destroyed Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital hit by missiles in Marat Numan, Syria, in February. Physicians for Human Rights says more than 730 medical staff have been killed since the war in Syria began in 2011. Three health-care centres were recently attacked within one week in the city of Aleppo alone.

Bombing hospitals and targeting health-care workers has become “an actual strategy of war” in Syria, human rights groups say.

“It is truly alarming,” Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships with Physicians for Human Rights, told CBC News. “We have never seen [this] degree and severity in terms of both quantity and kind of attack on hospitals.”

Susannah Sirkin

Susannah Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights says a ‘grotesque practice’ known as ‘double tapping’, in which a hospital is bombed twice so medics rushing to respond are also hit, has become common in Syria. (Physicians for Human Rights)

Both Syria and Russia, blamed for most of the incidents, have denied targeting hospitals and health-care workers.

According to the advocacy group, which has been investigating and documenting the attacks, more than 730 medical workers have been killed and more than 350 medical facilities have been attacked since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 through the end of March 2016.

Those numbers do not include dozens more casualties from the most recent bombings of two hospitals in Aleppo at the end of April and beginning of May. A Canadian-supported medical clinic was also destroyed at the end of April, but no one was inside at the time it was bombed.

Physicians for Human Rights says its research indicates the vast majority of the attacks — “more than 90 per cent” —were carried out by “Syrian government forces and their Russian allies.”

Armed opposition and rebel forces have carried out about a dozen attacks on medical facilities, according to the group’s data. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was responsible for at least eight attacks on medical facilities and for killing more than a dozen medical staff.

‘Grotesque practice’

Diederik Lohman, interim director of health and human rights for Human Rights Watch, said there have been attacks on health facilities in other countries, including Yemen and South Sudan, but the war in Syria has marked a “real shift” away from compliance with international laws protecting health care workers and the neutral role they play.

Diederik Lohman

The Syria conflict has ‘really eroded respect’ for international laws protecting health-care workers and their neutrality in war, says Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch. (Human Rights Watch)

“The Syria conflict has really eroded respect for the rule,” Lohman told CBC News, noting thatthe United Nations Security Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution on May 3 condemning attacks on health-care centres sent the important message that “this is not normal” and “explicitly prohibited by international law.”

Amnesty International also has highlighted the trend of hospital bombings, issuing a report in March that accused Russian and Syrian forces of targeting medical centres.

Both Lohman and Sirkin said it’s hard to produce absolute proof the Syrian and Russian governments are ordering their pilots to target hospitals in airstrikes because there’s no paper trail. But the sheer number and pattern of attacks leads to a logical conclusion that the destruction of health-care facilities during bombings is intentional, they said.

Marianne Gasser, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria, condemned the “appalling acts of violence deliberately targeting hospitals and clinics” in a news release issued at the end of April after attacks on medical facilities in Aleppo. The ICRC said the clinics were on “both sides of the frontlines.”

Damascus and Moscow have both denied accusations that they carried out the April strike on the al-Qudos hospital in Aleppo that killed 30 people. Both said their airplanes were not involved in the bombing, claiming to have detected aircraft from an anti-Islamic State coalition.

But even if the hospitals hadn’t been explicitly targeted but were hit during bombings of the area around them, Lohman said, that could still constitute a war crime due to negligence or recklessness.

Sirkin pointed to a “grotesque practice” known to Syrian medics as “double tapping” as evidence attacks are likely intentional. It has become common, she said, for an airstrike to bomb a hospital once, then again after first responders have arrived on the scene to take care of people injured in the first attack.

“You can only infer that they are aiming to kill the maximum number of hospital workers and patients in these double-tap attacks,” Sirkin said.

‘Impossible to live’ when health services gone

Attacking hospitals and health-care workers is used as a war strategy in Syria, she said, because in the division between pro-government forces and opposition groups, as well as other parties like ISIS, “the entire population and its infrastructure is considered to be the enemy.”

“[There is] certainly the notion that … the doctor who treats my enemy must be my enemy,” Sirkin said. “The idea appears to be, you kill a doctor to intimidate them and their patients to cause people to flee, to destroy their ability to treat the injured and wounded.”

As this “strategy of war” continues, she said, the perpetrators destroy entire communities by eliminating health services, as well as the people who provide them.

“You’re emptying out hospitals, you’re making people afraid to go to the hospital for treatment, so they get sick or die elsewhere. You force doctors who are leaders of communities … to flee,” Sirkin said.

People living in conflict zones are already vulnerable to illness because of crumbling infrastructure and disruptions to food and water supply, as well as the threat of injury from the war itself, Lohman said.

If health services are destroyed on top of that, he said, “you essentially make it … impossible to live.”

(Source / 15.05.2016)

Terrorism in Syria–a comprehensive listing of 2016 terrorist attacks

Homes opposite the terrorist car bombing blast in al-Zahra’a, Homs (Dec 2015), Russia Today       © Eva Bartlett

Homes opposite the terrorist car bombing blast in al-Zahra’a, Homs (Dec 2015)

The Western Press does not have anything to say about terrorism in Syria. These acts are perpetrated by groups of foreign combatants, supported by a few Syrian collaborators, and armed and funded by Germany, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, the United States, France, Israël, Qatar, the United Kingdom and Turkey. Here is a list of the terrorist attacks of which Syrian civilians have been victims since the start of the year.

Voltaire Network | Damascus (Syria)

The cessation of hostilities came into force on the 27th February 2016 at midnight (Damascus time).

However, the civilian populations continued to be widely attacked by groups described as the «moderate opposition» who were invited to participate in the «inter-Syrian» negotiations in Geneva, and also by the jihadists of Al-Qaïda and Daesh.

List of the terrorist opérations from the 1st January to the 1st April 2016

31 December 2015 and 1 January 2016

- Several projectiles (mortars, rockets) landed in a number of neighbourhoods in the city of Damascus, injuring 10 persons and causing material damage to buildings and vehicles.
- Eight mortar shells landed in the Harasta suburb in Rif Dimashq governorate, killing two civilians, injuring two others and causing material damage.
- Several mortar shells landed in a number of neighbourhoods in Aleppo governorate, injuring five persons and causing material damage.
- A mortar shell landed in the village of Umm Batinah in the countryside of Qunaytirah governorate, injuring four civilians.
- In Homs, a civilian was killed and others injured when terrorist groups detonated two explosive devices.
- Four civilians were injured when 13 mortar shells landed in the Muhradah area and the village of Jinan in the countryside of Hama governorate.
- Terrorists detonated two explosive devices in two restaurants in central Qamishli governorate, killing 16 persons and injuring 35.
- A rocket landed in the Hammam neighbourhood in Ladhiqiyah governorate, injuring a civilian and causing material damage.

2 January 2016

- Several rockets landed in the city of Damascus and Rif Dimashq, as follows:

Location Number of projectiles Time Damage
Abbasiyin 1 1320 Material damage
Assad suburb, Jazirah B4 1 1320 One killed and material damage
Around the Dama Rose Hotel 3 1530 Material damage to vehicles
Ministry of Education 1 1530 Material damage
Behind the Russian Cultural Centre 1 1530 Material damage
Adawi 2 1530 Material damage
Assad suburb, B1 3 1530 Material damage
Assad suburb roundabout 1 1530 Material damage

Resulted in one death and material damage.

4 January 2016

- Several gas cylinder missiles landed in a number of neighbourhoods in the city of Aleppo, injuring 19 civilians and causing material damage.

5 January 2016

- Two mortar shells landed in Dar‘a, killing a child and inflicting shrapnel wounds on her sister, and causing material damage.
- A mortar shell landed in Rif Dimashq, causing material damage. A mortar shell was also launched at the Ibn Sina Hospital, injuring one person and causing material damage.
- Four mortar shells landed in the city of Jaramana, causing material damage.

6 January 2016

- Several rockets landed in the city of Damascus and Rif Dimashq, as follows:

Location Number of projectiles Time Damage
Roof of the Rif Dimashq Chamber of Commerce building (Baghdad Street) 1 1200 11 dead, 25 injured and material damage
Parliament compound 1 1200 One injury and material damage
Old fairground 1 1300 No injuries or damage
Behind the Real Estate Authority 1 1300 One civilian injured and material damage
Mu‘addamiyah, northern quarter 1 1345 Material damage

Resulted in 11 dead, 31 injured and material damage.

7 and 8 January 2016

- Three mortar shells landed at Salihiyah Gate, on Baghdad Street and on Thawrah Street in Damascus, killing 9 civilians, injuring 39 others and causing material damage.
- A mortar shell landed in the northern quarter of Mu‘addamiyah in Rif Dimashq, injuring four civilians and causing material damage.
- Two projectiles (gas cylinder missiles) landed at Suryan al-Jadidah in Aleppo, killing a female civilian and injuring five others. A civilian woman was also injured by shrapnel from a shell in Halab al-Jadidah.
- Terrorists taking shelter in Eastern Ghutah launched two mortar shells at the Harasta suburb. The terrorist attack killed one person and caused various injuries to six others, including two women. It also caused material damage to property.
- Mortar shells landed in a number of residential neighbourhoods in central Damascus.
- A civilian woman was injured in Manshiyah in Dar‘a governorate by shrapnel to the head from shells fired by terrorist groups.
- Three civilians were injured when a mortar shell landed at Hamdaniyah in the city of Aleppo, and material damage was caused to civilian property.
- Two persons died and three others were injured when terrorists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) organization fired two shells at the Jawrah residential neighbourhood in the city of Dayr al-Zawr.

9 January 2016

- A large number of rockets landed in the towns of Nubul and Zahra’, killing a civilian woman, injuring three civilians and causing extensive material damage to residential buildings.
- Armed terrorist groups launched two rockets at the town of Salhab in the Hama countryside, killing one person and injuring another.

12 January 2016

- A mortar shell launched by armed terrorist groups landed in the Manshiyah neighbourhood in Dar‘a, killing one civilian and injuring another.
- Two mortar shells landed at Ramusah in Aleppo, injuring three civilians. Several rockets landed on the towns of Nubul and Zahra’, killing a civilian and causing material damage.
- 94 shells were fired at the area surrounding the Harasta suburb in Rif Dimashq, causing material damage. Six mortar shells also fell in Wafidin camp and the surrounding area, causing material damage.

13 January 2016

- A landmine exploded in the village of Dawudiyah in the city of Hasakah, killing 2 children and injuring 10 others.
- Mortar shells landed in the besieged residential town of Nubul in the northern Aleppo countryside, killing one person, causing various injuries to others and causing material damage to homes.
- A gas cylinder missile landed at Ashrafiyah in Aleppo, killing a child and injuring two other persons.
- A round of sniper fire from armed terrorist groups at A‘zamiyah in Aleppo injured a girl who is now in critical condition.

14 and 15 January 2016

- An ISIL suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt in the village of Tawq al Milh west of the city of Hasakah, killing two persons and injuring others.
- An explosive device planted by terrorists under a vehicle in the Armenian quarter in Homs injured a woman and caused material damage to the area.
- Two mortar shells fell in the industrial zone of Damascus International Airport, causing material damage.

16 January 2016

- ISIL terrorists perpetrated a horrifying massacre against the people of the village of Baghiliyah in Dayr al-Zawr that claimed the lives of 300 civilians, most of them elderly persons, women and children.
- Five rockets were launched at the Bustan al-Zahrah, Mushariqah and Aziziyah neighbourhoods in Aleppo, killing 3 civilians, injuring 17 and causing extensive material damage to a number of homes.
- One person was killed and others wounded by rockets launched at the besieged town of Fu‘ah in the Idlib countryside.

17 January 2016

- Five rockets landed in Aleppo, killing two civilians and injuring one.
- Gas cylinder missiles landed in several parts of Aleppo, injuring six civilians.

19 January 2016

- Several rockets landed at Ramusah in Aleppo, killing 3 civilians and injuring 11 others, including five children.
- A projectile (gas cylinder missile) landed at Salah al-Din in Aleppo, injuring three civilians.
- Armed groups launched mortar shells at Masakin al-Ruwwad in Dayr al-Zawr, killing a civilian and injuring another.

20 January 2016

- Armed individuals fired at passing cars in the Barzah neighbourhood of Damascus, killing a civilian and injuring others.
- Six rockets landed in the Safirah area of Aleppo, killing four civilians and inflicting shrapnel wounds on five others.
- A gas cylinder missile landed in Aleppo at Hamdaniyah, injuring two civilians.
- A round of sniper fire from armed terrorist groups injured a civilian at Sulaymaniyah in Aleppo.

24 January 2016

- A motorcycle bomb exploded in Qamishli, killing 3 civilians, injuring 14 others and causing material damage.
- Two explosive projectiles (gas cylinders) landed in Masakin al-Sabil in Aleppo, injuring six civilians.

25 and 26 January 2016

- A terrorist suicide bombing in the Zahra’ neighbourhood of Homs killed 24 people and injured 100.
- ISIL terrorists shelled a number of areas in Dayr al-Zawr, killing 6 civilians, including a woman, injuring 12, including two children, and causing material damage to property.
- Several mortar shells landed in the town of Qarfa in Dar‘a, injuring three civilians.
- Gas cylinder missiles landed in Aleppo, injuring nine civilians.
- 10 mortar shells landed in the village of Tumin in the city of Hama, injuring a number of persons, including children.
- Several mortar shells landed in Aleppo at a number of locations, including Salah al-Din, Ramusah, Jam‘iyat al-Zahra’ and the Scientific Research Centre area, injuring a number of civilians.
- Several gas canister missiles landed in Aleppo, injuring two peaceable civilians.
- Sniper fire from terrorist groups in Aleppo in Ashrafiyah and Hamdaniyah injured two civilians.

27 January 2016

- Several mortar shells landed in Aleppo in the Aziziyah neighbourhood, Ugarit Street, Jamiliyah and Binyamin, killing a civilian woman and injuring 11 other civilians.
- A mortar shell landed in Dayr al-Zawr in the Tahtuh neighbourhood, killing a civilian.

28 and 29 January 2016

- A round of fire from terrorist groups in Dar‘a injured a child.
- A mortar shell landed in Qunaytirah, killing four civilians and injuring 14 others.
- A round of sniper fire at Sayf al-Dawlah in Aleppo killed a civilian.
- Five mortar shells landed at a number of locations in Aleppo, injuring nine civilians, including a woman.
- Gas cylinder missiles landed at a number of locations in Aleppo, killing two defenceless civilians and injuring four others.
- A mortar shell killed three children and injured another with shrapnel to the head in the Muwazzafin neighbourhood in Dayr al-Zawr.

31 January 2016

- Three terrorist bombings in the town of Sayyidah Zaynab in Rif Dimashq killed 60 persons and injured more than 110.
- Two mortar shells landed in Damascus, injuring two children.
- Mortar shells landed in several parts of Damascus, killing a child and injuring a woman.
- Mortar shells landed in Dayr al-Zawr, injuring four civilians, including a girl.

Monday, 1 February 2016

- Mortar shells landed on a school in the town of Buqayn in Rif Dimashq, injuring 14 female students.
- Eleven rockets landed in the town of Jubb al-Jarrah in Homs, injuring a child and causing material damage.
- Mortar shells landed in several parts of Aleppo, injuring three civilians.
- Mortar shells landed in the Thawrah neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr, injuring two civilians.

Tuesday, 2 February

- Gas canister missiles landed in several parts of Aleppo, killing a woman civilian and injuring six other civilians.
- Gunfire in the A‘zamiyah area in Aleppo injured a civilian.

Wednesday, 3 February

- One civilian was killed and two others injured when four mortar shells landed in the Harasta suburb in Rif Dimashq governorate.
- Rocket shells landed on the Police Command building in Dar‘a governorate, killing 17 civilians and injuring 100 others.
- A child was injured when a mortar shell landed in the town of Si‘in in Hama governorate.
- Mortar shells landed in several parts of Aleppo governorate, killing four civilians and injuring more than 10 others.
- Mortar shells landed in the Thawrah neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr, injuring a woman.

Thursday and Friday, 4 and 5 February

- Two mortar shells landed in the Sahnaya area of Rif Dimashq, killing three children and injuring four others.
- Mortar shells landed in the Harasta suburb in Rif Dimashq, injuring two civilians.
- A number of mortar shells and gas canister missiles were launched at several parts of Aleppo, killing a civilian and injuring 20 others, including children.

Saturday, 6 February

- Mortar shells landed in the Sabil neighbourhood and the airport in Dar‘a, injuring three civilians.
- Terrorist groups launched gas canister missiles at the Maydan area and the Sulayman al-Halabi neighbourhood in Aleppo, killing a civilian and injuring four others.

Sunday, 7 February

- Sniper fire from terrorist groups in the A‘zamiyah neighbourhood in Aleppo governorate killed a civilian and injured four others.
- Gas canister missiles landed in several parts of Aleppo, killing a girl and injuring another child.

Monday, 8 February

- Three mortar shells landed in the village of Jaba in Qunaytirah, injuring seven civilians, including three children.
- Three rocket shells landed in the city of Qardahah in Ladhiqiyah, killing two civilians and injuring three others. A shell was also launched at the village of Bishalama, killing a civilian and injuring two others.
- Gas canister missiles were launched at parts of Aleppo, injuring seven civilians, including children, and causing material damage.

Wednesday, 10 February

- Eight civilians were killed and 14 others injured when a car bomb exploded in the Masakin Barzah area.
- Seven mortar shells landed in the Sabil neighbourhood in Dar‘a, killing a civilian and injuring one other.
- Rocket shells were launched at the town of Jubb al-Jarrah in Homs governorate, injuring a civilian and causing material damage.

Thursday and Friday, 11 and 12 February

- A civilian was killed by sniper fire from terrorist groups in Harasta in Rif Dimashq governorate while travelling on the international highway.
- Mortar shells landed in the city of Dar‘a, injuring two civilians.
- A child died of injuries sustained from the explosion of an unidentified object left behind by terrorist groups in the Qusayr area in Homs governorate.
- Gas canister missiles landed in the Maydan neighbourhood in Aleppo governorate, causing material damage. A civilian was injured by sniper fire from terrorist groups in the Sulaymaniyah area. A civilian was killed, and four others injured, when a gas canister missile landed in the Hamdaniyah area.

Saturday, 13 February

- A girl was killed and 12 others injured when mortar shells landed in several parts of the city of Dar‘a.
- Armed terrorist groups launched rocket shells at the city of Safirah in the Aleppo countryside, killing two children and injuring three others.

Sunday, 14 February

- A mortar shell fell behind the Fayha’ sports complex in Damascus opposite the Russian Embassy, injuring two civilians.
- Mortar shells landed in the Harasta suburb in Rif Dimashq, injuring six civilians, including two children, and causing material damage to the site.

Monday, 15 February

- A mortar shell fell in the Duwayli‘ah area in Damascus governorate, injuring a civilian and setting fire to a vehicle.
- Some 23 gas canister missiles fell in several neighbourhoods of Aleppo governorate, killing two civilians and injuring nine, including women and children.

Wednesday, 17 February

- Gas canister missiles landed in the Ashrafiyah and A‘zamiyah areas in Aleppo governorate, killing a civilian and injuring six others.
- Explosive rounds landed on the university campus and the Furqan area in Aleppo governorate, injuring seven civilians.

Thursday and Friday, 18 and 19 February

- Gas canister missiles landed in the Mashariqah and Sayf al-Dawlah areas in the city in Aleppo, killing two civilians and injuring six others, including women.
- Terrorist groups in Aleppo launched mortar shells and gas canister missiles at several areas, killing 10 civilians and injuring 27 others.

Saturday and Sunday, 20 and 21 February

- Two terrorist car bombs were set off in Sittin Street in the city of Homs, killing 57 people and injured dozens of others.
- Three explosions in a residential area in Sayyidah Zaynab in Rif Dimashq — a car bomb followed by two suicide bombings — killed 83 civilians and injured 178 others, most of them seriously.
- Rocket shells landed in the village of Jurin in the Ghab district, injuring three civilians and causing material damage.
- Gas canister missiles and mortar shells landed next to the municipal stadium and in the Sulayman al-Halabi, Shaykh Maqsud and Jam‘iyat al-Zahra’ areas in the city of Aleppo, killing five civilians and injuring 19 others, including five children.

Monday, 22 February

- Armed terrorist groups detonated a military vehicle with an explosive device on the Sulaymah-Raqqah highway.
- Gas canister missiles landed in several parts of Aleppo, killing a civilian and injuring 27 others.

Tuesday, 23 February

- Gas canister missiles and mortar shells landed in Aleppo, killing 10 citizens and injuring 20 others.
- Mortar shells were launched at several neighbourhoods in the city of Dayr al Zawr, killing two civilians and injuring 14 others, including women and children.

Thursday and Friday, 25 and 26 February

- Some 13 mortar shells landed in the cities of Harasta and Kiswah in Rif Dimashq, injuring a civilian and a child.
- Mortar shells landed in Dar‘a, killing two civilians and injuring six others.
- Gas canister missiles landed in the Nubul village and Sayf al-Dawlah areas in Aleppo, injuring four civilians.
- A woman civilian was killed when a mortar shell landed in the Harabish neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr.
- On 26 February, rocket shells landed in the city of Damascus as follows:

Location Number of projectiles Time Damage
Assad suburb 7 0830 Material damage
Wafidin camp 3 1100 Material damage
Ashrafiyat Sahnaya 5 1340 Material damage
The Kuwaiti building 2 1350 Material damage and 1 dead plus gunfire
Abbasiyin 4 1400 Material damage
Abbasiyin 4 1745 Material damage
Kiswa 1 1900 1 injured

Saturday, 27 February

- A suicide terrorist blew himself up with a car bomb 1 kilometre from the eastern entrance to the city of Salamiyah in the Hama countryside, killing two people and injuring four others. A vehicle was also detonated by an explosive device in the city of Salamiyah, killing eight civilians and injuring two others.
- A number of mortar shells landed in the Abbasiyin area in the city of Damascus, causing material damage.
- One person was killed and two others injured in terrorist attacks in the Shaykh Maqsud and Sulayman al-Halabi residential neighbourhoods in the city of Aleppo.
- Three children and two civilians were killed and more than 12 injured when the terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched rocket and mortar shells at the Jurah, Qusur and Muwazzafin residential neighbourhoods in the city of Dayr al-Zawr.

1 March

- Eight shells were fired from inside Turkish territory at a group of foreign journalists who were in the Kinnisibba area in north-eastern rural Ladhiqiyah to cover the cessation of hostilities. Four journalists from Russia, China, Bulgaria and Canada were injured.
- Seven mortar shells and rockets struck the homes of residents of the Sabil and Matar neighbourhoods in Dar‘a city and caused material damage to property.

6 March

- Dozens of rockets and mortar shells rained down on the Shaykh Maqsud neighbourhood of Aleppo, killing 13 people and injuring over 40 others.
- A mine planted by terrorist groups in the Safirah neighbourhood of Aleppo exploded, injuring three civilians.
- Four civilians were killed and three others were injured by an explosive device that terrorist groups had planted in the Khanasir neighbourhood of Aleppo.
- Two children were injured by a mine and a bomb that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists had planted in the village of Hamar al-Sharqiyah and Shaddadah city in rural Hasakah.

7 March

- One woman was killed in Dar‘a by a mine that terrorist groups had planted near a Syrian Arab Army checkpoint.
- A mine planted by terrorist groups in Nawfaliyah village in Hasakah exploded, killing one woman and injuring three civilians.
- An explosive device that terrorist groups had planted in Quwwatli Street in Hasakah injured five civilians, three of whom were women.
- A mortar shell fell on the Shaykh Maqsud neighbourhood of Aleppo, killing seven civilians, including three women and three children.
- Mortar shells fell on the Qusur neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr, killing eight civilians and injuring 12 others.

8 March

- A gas cylinder missile fell on the Shaykh Maqsud neighbourhood of Aleppo, injuring one civilian.
- Three civilians were killed and two others injured by a mortar shell that fell on the Qusur neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr.

10, 11 and 12 March

- A group of ISIL terrorists infiltrated Ma‘arrat al-Bayda village in Dar‘a and slaughtered two civilians and injured two women.
- Six civilians, five of them women, were injured when ISIL fired 21 rockets at the Mafqar al-Sharqi and Suqaylibiyah I areas of Hama.
- Shells fell on several areas of Aleppo, injuring three civilians.
- A mortar shell fell on Jafrah village in Dayr al-Zawr, injuring one civilian.
- A civilian was killed by a mine planted that terrorist groups had planted in Umm Hajirah village in Hasakah.

13 March

- Nine mortar shells fell on various parts of Dar‘a, injuring a number of civilians.
- A civilian was injured by shrapnel when a gas cylinder missile struck the Shaykh Maqsud neighbourhood of Aleppo.
- Five mortar shells fell on the Qusur neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr, killing one girl and injuring two civilians.

14 March

- Ten mortar shells fell on Unq al-Hawa village in Homs, killing two women.
- Armed terrorist groups fired mortar shells at Mas‘udiyah village in Homs, killing one civilian.

16 March

- Armed terrorist groups attacked the town of Manin in Rif Dimashq, killing two civilians.
- A civilian was killed and two others were injured by shells that armed terrorist groups had fired at the Shaykh Maqsud and Ashrafiyah neighbourhoods of Aleppo.

17 and 18 March

- A gas cylinder missile fell on Aleppo, killing two children and injuring one civilian.
- A woman was killed and six others were injured by a mortar shell that fell on the Maydan area of Aleppo.
- Rockets fired at the Jam‘iyat al-Zahra’ neighbourhood of Aleppo killed one boy and one girl and injured several others.
- Two landmines planted by terrorist groups in Hasakah exploded, killing two civilians and injuring six others, including one girl and one woman.

19 and 20 March

- A landmine planted by terrorist groups in the town of Qarfa in Dar‘a exploded, killing three civilians.
- Several rockets struck Aleppo, killing four civilians, two of whom were girls, and injuring 12 others.
- A landmine planted by terrorist groups in Jabal Abd al-Aziz in Hasakah exploded, injured one civilian.
- Several mortar shells fell on Hasakah, killing one girl and injuring four other civilians, including two children.
- Armed terrorist groups infiltrated the Dawud neighbourhood of Hasakah and killed one woman and one boy.
- Terrorist groups directed sniper fire at the population of the town of Fu‘ah in Idlib, killing three civilians, including one woman, and injuring one civilian.

21 March

- Mortar shells fell on several areas of Aleppo, injuring one woman and two children.
- Four civilians, three of them women, were injured by two mortar shells that armed terrorist groups fired at the Harabish neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr.

23 March

- Mortar shells fell on the Harasta suburb of Rif Dimashq, injuring three civilians.
- Fifteen civilians, some of whom were children, were killed in armed clashes between ISIL and Nusrah Front terrorists in the town of Jallayn in Dar‘a.
- A civilian was injured by a landmine planted by armed terrorist groups in rural Hasakah.
- Several mortar shells fell on Dayr al-Zawr, injuring four civilians.

24 and 25 March

- A gas cylinder missile fired from the Amiriyah neighbourhood of Aleppo struck the Salah al-Din neighbourhood, injuring one woman.
- A gas cylinder missile fired from the Bani Zayd neighbourhood of Aleppo struck the Shaykh Maqsud neighbourhood, killing one civilian.
- A terrorist group in Aleppo fired gas cylinder missiles at several areas, killing two civilians and injuring five others. A civilian woman who had been injured by shell fragments in Hamdaniyah was admitted to Aleppo Hospital.

27 and 28 March

- One woman was injured by a mortar shell that fell on the Jam‘iyat al-Zahra’ neighbourhood of Aleppo.
- One civilian was injured by a landmine that had been planted by terrorist groups in Aleppo.
- Armed terrorist groups fired a rocket at a passenger bus, injuring two civilians.
- A woman was killed and 10 other civilians, seven of them women, were injured when nine mortar shells fell on the Harabish neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr.
- A civilian was injured by a landmine that had been planted by armed terrorist groups in Khama’il village in Hasakah.

31 March and 1 April

- – A civilian woman was injured when a terrorist sniper fired at a microbus on the Harasta highway in Damascus.
- Two mortar shells fell on the Harasta suburb of Rif Dimashq, injuring one civilian.
- Several civilians were killed and injured by several shells that fell on the Shaykh Maqsud neighbourhood of Aleppo.
- Two civilians were injured by a landmine planted by armed terrorist groups on the Hasakah-Dayr al-Zawr highway.
- One child was killed and 21 other civilians, four of them children, were injured by explosive devices in several areas of Homs.
- A rocket fired at the Harabish neighbourhood of Dayr al-Zawr killed one woman.
- A gas cylinder missile fell on Aleppo, injuring one civilian woman.

(Source / 15.05.2016)

Sabra: Assad & Iran Crimes Won’t Weaken the Opposition in Geneva Negotiations

Member of the Syrian Coalition George Sabra said that the crimes committed by the Assad and Iranian regimes will not break the will of the Syrian people or force them to succumb to the regime in the Geneva negotiations. On the contrary, these crimes will bolster the Syrian people’s resolve to topple the Assad regime and regain freedom and dignity, Sabra added.

In meeting with President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in the French capital Paris on Friday, Sabra said that during consultations with the local council of Daraya, which has been under crippling siege by regime forces for over three years, council representatives urged him not to yield to the regime in the negotiations. “Do not worry about us or the blockade imposed on us. Think about the revolution and the fate of the people,” Sabra quoted Daraya local council as saying.

Sabra, who is also deputy head of the opposition’s negotiating delegation in Geneva, pointed out that the population of Daraya decreased from 80,000 to just around 8,000 as a result of the siege and constant bombardment by regime and militants of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Nonetheless, the people of Daraya have not allowed their city to fall in the hands of the enemy.

Sabra stressed that the battle for the Syrian and Iranian peoples against the terrorist regimes in Damascus and Tehran is one and the same, adding that the Iranian resistance and the Syrian revolution share common goals and values.

Sabra praised the decades-long struggle of People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) against the Iranian regime, saying this struggle is rich in useful lessons and experiences.

For her part, Mrs. Rajavi highly commended the unrelenting revolution against the Assad regime, saying: “We in the Iranian Resistance share with you all the pain and suffering you have endured in the battle against Assad. Your victory against Assad, which we see as inevitable, is a victory for the Iranian people and the Iranian resistance.”

“The steadfastness and determination shown by the city of Aleppo is a source of pride for all mankind and will always live on as a symbol for resistance and determination to defeat dictatorship and tyranny,” Mrs. Rajavi said.

“Solidarity between the Syrian and Iranian peoples in these difficult times will undoubtedly speed up the overthrowing of those thuggish regimes in Damascus and Tehran and will spare the two peoples much blood,” Mrs. Rajavi added.

Mrs. Rajavi referred to the humiliating defeats recently suffered by the IRGC militias around Aleppo, stressing that the Iranian regime is now in an untenable position and will eventually lose the battle against the Syrian people.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 14.05.2016)

Who are Syria’s Alawites?

An Alawite falconer is pictured in Baniyas, Syria, between 1939 and 1945

LATAKIA, Syria — As an anonymous group of self-professed Alawite leaders recently declared their independence from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — himself an Alawite — it seems appropriate to get to know more about the somewhat obscure sect sometimes known as the third branch of Islam.

Many Alawites are unwilling to discuss their beliefs openly because their foes consider them apostates who believe Imam Ali is God. The Alawites consider these characterizations to be fabrications. Though some Alawites and Shiite scholars try to portray Alawites as Twelver Shiites, the anonymous group says Alawites are an independent, third sect of Islam who follow a mystical interpretation of the Quran.

On April 3, the anonymous Alawite group dared to issue a controversial declaration designed to “reform” and clarify Alawite identity. For example, the document calls for ending the practice of “taqiyya.” (A simplified explanation of taqiyya describes it as the belief that Muslims may use deception to protect their knowledge or escape a situation in which they feel threatened.) The document emphasizes that Alawites are neither Sunni nor Shiite and rejects the tradition of the “salvation sect,” under which some Muslims believe their sect is the only true way to salvation, and all other sects are apostates. According to the declaration, Alawites believe there are good people in all religions and sects.

Ahmad Adeeb Ahmad, a Syrian Alawite religious scholar, told Al-Monitor, “Faith and salvation, according to our beliefs, are not tightly linked to a sect, but to loyalty. So we acknowledge the existence of good and faithful men everywhere.”

The Alawites claim to belong to the line of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (599-661), the fourth caliph who was the cousin and brother-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Alawite sect originated in Iraq and soon moved to Aleppo in Syria under the rule of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani (890-1004), an Alawite who helped spread the doctrine. He followed a senior Alawite scholar, Hussein bin Hamdan al-Khusaibi (874-961), the founder of Alawi religious practice.

The Alawites were persecuted by the Umayyad, Abbasid, Mamluk and Ottoman states, which carried out massacres against the Alawites after occupying the Levant in 1516. The Alawites fled to the Latakia mountains after a large massacre in Aleppo in which thousands of them died.

Hanbali theologian Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) issued fatwas in the early 1300s deeming Shiites, Alawites, Druze and Ismailis to be apostates. The Mamluk and Ottoman authorities used these fatwas as religious justifications to kill Alawites. This persecution deeply affected Alawite society, which resorted to taqiyya in religious practice and to nationalist, leftist and secular ideologies in political and partisan work.

The April 3 declaration states, “Alawite mysticism is not a secret religious practice” but a way to divine the true nature of the miraculous secrets of creation, not to hide a religious belief.

Ahmad rejects the call to end taqiyya because Ali specifically told followers to use taqiyya to protect their religion and religious knowledge, he said. Ahmad explained that secrecy “does not mean hiding our teachings from others, but is about theological knowledge and secrets that are obtained by those who have dedicated their souls to God, who opened up to them and gave them the mystical knowledge, which they protected from falling into the hands of renegades who would distort them.”

Some Muslims accuse Alawites of deifying the imam, a charge Alawites deny. Ahmad said Ali is the guardian and Muhammad is the prophet and no one can determine the link between them. Ahmad quoted Muhammad as saying, “I am from Ali, and Ali from me.”

An Alawite scholar based in Latakia, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor that while Alawites do not deify Ali, they have overstated his position due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine. Alawites’ perception of Muhammad and Ali goes beyond the traditional view; they see the two as a manifestation of the creator, while all the prophets are a single person who appears at different times and the messages they reveal are several springs that originate from one source, God.

Ahmad, however, rejects the idea that the prophets are one person, saying, “The prophets in our belief are not mortals, but they are lights of God.”

Alawites share some common beliefs with Twelver Shiites (the oneness of God, justice of God, prophecy of Muhammad, divine leadership of the 12 imams and the day of judgment), and also some differences as a result of the philosophical and mystical dimensions of the Alawites.

The Alawites believe in the transcendence of God in his entirety and manifestations. Ahmad said Alawites see God expressed in the Quranic al-Noor verse: “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brightly shining star.”

Ahmad added that Alawites’ view about Tawhid, the oneness of God, is expressed in the Quranic Ikhlas verse: “He begets not, nor is He begotten, and there is nothing at all like Him.”

The April 3 declaration said Alawites believe in the mystical interpretation of the Quran. Ahmad explained that the Alawites say, “The Quran has visible and invisible faces. We consider all of them.”

The document states that Alawites drew from other monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Christianity and that this is a source of completeness and richness for them. Ahmad, however, said that claim is “an attempt to distort the Alawite way and accuse us of introducing Israeli matters into our beliefs. This is pure fabrication. But we believe in the words of Moses, Issa [Jesus], Solomon, David and all the prophets. We cite their words and we are committed to their teachings.”

Muslims of other sects oppose the Alawites’ belief in reincarnation, saying it is contrary to Islam. But Ahmad explained, “Reincarnation does not mean a random movement of the soul between two bodies without order. It is a religious and scientific fact that we have a lot of evidence for. It is not incompatible with the principle of punishment on judgment day and it does not deny the existence of heaven and hell, because divine justice requires that no one can achieve his full self and purify himself in one life.”

(Source / 13.05.2016)