This is the hideous reality of what has been unleashed on the famously tolerant and educated people of Syria. It didn’t come out of nowhere. And it isn’t native to Syria. Our government, along with the US and France, has ordered this and paid for it!
The imperialists, while bragging at home about their ‘progressiveness’ will actively bankroll and support all kinds of mediaeval barbarity if it serves their purposes. This bloodthirsty backwardness is not inherent to the Middle East. It would not even exist in today’s world if it wasn’t for the financing and arming that fundamentalist nutcases have received from the US and Britain over the last 30 years.
And yet the ’socialists’ of the SWP still try to tell the British people that the death squads in Syria are a ‘people’s revolution’ setting up ‘workers’ councils’. And our ‘anti-war’ leaders are more bothered about accidentally looking like they support the Syrian people’s legitimate government than about opposing these horrific crimes and sabotaging the imperialists’ dirty war on Syria.
Time for an anti-war movement that is worthy of the name, and a leadership that is actually representative of British workers, rather than the cosy little clique of careerist scum dishing out jobs to each other we’re saddled with right now.
No cooperation with British war crimes!
By Franklin Lamb in Damascus, via Al Manar
Reports from across Syria, increasingly arriving from such diverse locations as Aleppo, Qalamoun and Reqaa, lay bare massive crimes now being perpetrated against the Syrian people in areas under salafist control.
A recent German domestic intelligence service annual report describes salafism as the fastest growing Islamic movement in Syria. And indeed, interviews conducted by this observer recently in Damascus indicate that mainstream salafism, with its emphasis on adherence to the Koran’s principles and standards for correct behaviour towards humanity, is being deeply subverted in the Syrian Arab Republic by forces organised from outside this country.
Historically, salafi methodology has been respected among scholars of Islam. It is a school of thought named after the ’salaf’ or ‘predecessors’ among the earliest muslims, individuals widely considered to have been examples worthy of emulation.
At the same time, the salafist movement is often thought of as related to, or even synonymous with, Saudi wahhabism, or is perceived at least as a hybrid of it. It is only since the 1960s that salafism has become widely known among muslims, and some attribute this phenomenon in part as the result of the zionist occupation of Palestine and other projects of western hegemony.
These developments have led to a revising of some claimed interpretations of Islam, resulting in the adoption of views more common during periods of history when Islam was threatened. Salafism presents to its followers a literalistic, strict, puritanical interpretation of the Koran. Particularly in the West, and increasingly in Syria, some salafist jihadis espouse violent jihad against the public, even muslim civilians, as a legitimate expression of defending Islam.
Though salafis claim to be sunni muslims, some authorities interviewed by this observer, including scholars at Damascus’ famed Omayyad Mosque as well as sunni sheiks based in Damascus, say that salafis are a sui generis sect, and are thus apart from traditional sunni muslim Koranic interpretations and practice.
One professor of Islamic studies, representing perhaps the minority view, looks upon salafis and wahhabis as essentially the same. The basis of the claim is that salafis do not acknowledge or follow any of the four schools of thought to which other sunni muslims adhere, but rather have their own beliefs and laws, their own leaders and social systems.
It is a theological adherence entailing strict and widely rejected extremist practices, including the commission of crimes targeting civilians, including fellow muslims, for political and financial reasons.
One currently ascendant salafist group in Syria, among more than a thousand or so competing for weapons and fighters, is ‘Daash’. The word is an acronym whose letters stand for ‘the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’.
Daash appeared on the scene about a year ago, and some local observers believe it arrived via Iraq, with large amounts of funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, and with the latter, especially, facilitating its weapons, supplies and access to the north of Syria via Turkish territory. Daash membership figures have expanded recently, partly because it pays its recruits nearly four times the going gunman wage here, or approximately $500 per month, as it competes with Jabhat al Nusra and others to impose some of its frankly bizarre interpretations of Islam.
Damascus presently is awash in tales coming in from Daash-controlled areas – areas around Aleppo and elsewhere. What is being told of is a sheath full of fatwas and orders posted on walls laying down what is expected of the local civilian population.
Reports, some of which have been verified, indicate that the group acts with brutality in enforcing its edicts. A sunni law student from Damascus University Faculty of Law, who has compiled research on the subject over the past few weeks, calls it “an insane frontal assault on Islam by criminal acts against muslims and others of the Book’.
On 27 November, a young lady arriving at the Dama Rose Hotel reported to this observer that in parts of Raqaa, Aleppo and other Daash-controlled areas, if a man from Daash covets something, such as someone’s new car or another man’s wife, he must only say “Allah Akbar” three times. The personal property or the targeted women then belong to him, and he can beat the wife and rape her with impunity.
This latest fatwa obviously causes serious problems both within Daash as well as with other militias. The young lady, who comes from a prominent Dasmascene sunni family, reports that Daash members are currently taking gas, oil and bread at will from non-Daash villages for distribution to members of their cult of approximately 5,000 members.
Also according to recently televised reports, it is now permissible for Daash members to rape any woman who is not muslim, as well as muslim women who support the Assad government.
Some recently reported Salisfist practices spreading in Syria include, but are not limited to the following:
· Females in Daash-controlled areas of Aleppo and elsewhere are being prevented from wearing jeans and sweaters and must wear only the islamic dress Abaya and Barkaa. They are forbidden from putting on any make-up, and now, as of two weeks ago, to even leave their homes without a male escort. Some women in parts of Aleppo and Raqaa now refer to their neighbourhoods as Tora Bora, Afghanistan, given the similarities of repression between Taliban and salafist treatment of women.
· As of 15 November, force is used to prevent smoking and use of arguila (water pipes) by men and women in some villages.
· Some barber shops for men are being shuttered in order to prevent the shortening of hair and ‘modern’ haircuts. Barrettes for young people are also forbidden.
· It is now forbidden in Daash areas to display any sign or advertisements for cosmetics and skincare products in women’s hairdressing shops. Violators are subject to penalties of 70 lashes. Any business that employs women must have two work-day shifts, one for men and a separate one exclusively for female employees.
· No women’s clothing can be displayed in shop windows. In the event a woman should enter a tailor’s shop, the shop must shut its doors to men until she leaves.
· The Daash militia has long prevented women from seeking medical attention from male doctors, but recently it put into place prohibitions against women visiting doctors of either sex. Also it is not permissible for a woman to wear orthodontic devices such as teeth braces because straight teeth might attract men, and in any case their bodies are under the stewardship of their husbands or fathers only.
· Daash has proclaimed that women who swim in the sea are in fact committing ‘adultery’, even if they wear a hijab. This is due to the fact that Arabic nouns, as in the case with many other languages, are gender specific. ‘Sea’ is masculine, and when water touches the woman’s vaginal area she becomes an ‘adulteress’ and must be punished.
· Women are also forbidden from eating certain vegetables or even touching cucumbers, carrots or bananas due to their phallic imagery, which may tempt them to deviate. It is also unacceptable for women to turn on their air conditioning at home when their husbands are absent as this could be a sign to neighbours that they could commit adultery with her.
The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm in its 15 November edition reported that Daash-variety fatwas regard women as strange creatures created solely for sex, and that the organisation’s members consider the voices of women, their looks and presence outside of their homes as an ‘offense’ – while some salafists regard women in general as ‘offensive’.
Among the practices permitted by Daash is the widespread acceptance of wives lying to their husbands concerning politics. Daash believes that if the husband forbids her from being supportive of their agenda and control of Syrian villages in Aleppo and Raqaa, for example, she may then, through dissimulation, support them while pretending to be against them.
During interviews in Syria, one religious advisor to Daash opined to this observer that marriage to ten-year-old girls should be allowed in order to prevent their deviating from the correct path.
Needless to say, school attendance by girls is also prohibited, even if the school is close to their homes, and one Daash fatwa states that a marriage is annulled if the husband and wife make love with no clothes on, while another sanctions the use of women and children as human shields in violent demonstrations and protests on the grounds that these are jihads to empower Islam.
Yet other fatwas forbid muslims from greeting christians or forbid muslim cab drivers from transporting christian priests. And still others criticize Egypt’s Al Azhar, considered by many to be one of the oldest and most prestigious Islamic universities in the world, for withdrawing its fatwa that instructed women to ‘breastfeed’ male acquaintances, thereby making them relatives and justifying their mixed company.
Men are now being physically assaulted by Daash milita on the street if they are clean shaven or wear tight trousers. Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction can, however, watch pornographic movies provided that the participants in the porno flicks are islamists.
Education is focused on boys in Daash areas, where schools, at both the elementary and secondary levels, are being run like Pakistani madrassas, with education limited to memorising every word of the Koran while severely limiting any instruction in the sciences or secular subjects – this in a country heretofore acknowledged as having particularly high standards of education.
Last month a new Daash fatwa proclaimed that “all those who support Bashar al-Assad, even the word, or who are in favour of the National Coalition or agree to a dialogue with him, must have his head separated from his body, including the beheading of all members of the coalition favouring Geneva II or dialogue”.
One much respected sunni sheik from Tripoli, Lebanon currently residing in Damascus and with whom this observer has become friends over the course of many visits to Syria, is Sheikh Abdul Salam El Harrach, Symposium Coordinator of Muslim Scholars in Akkar, in north Lebanon. Sheik Harrach is a strong supporter of the Hizbollah-led resistance to the zionist occupation of Palestine, as well as an advocate for the Syrian people. He favours dialogue – and he has run afoul of Daash.
Sheik Harrach is hopeful about Geneva II and believes that the settling of some of the existing problems between Iran and the US could bear fruit for Syria. Moreover, he argues that the Syrian people must decide in the coming presidential election who their leaders will be – not those countries sending militias to create chaos in the country while turning a blind eye to salafist, un-islamic criminal campaigns.
As a result of his political stances, the sheikh has been targeted for assassination more than once by Daash/al Qaeda types, and is rumoured to have a large bounty on his head from Jabat al Nursa, Daash and others in Tripoli who oppose sunni-shia rapprochement, either in the Levant or globally.
One assassination attempt, which wounded his son Wael, took place in the north Lebanon town of Aaat during a Ramadan Iftar event held in tents outside his home. Some blamed the March 14th coalition and extreme islamic elements.
Sheik Harrach offers the view that the assault on his son and other such armed attacks are perpetrated against a background of incitement against sunni muslims from extremist elements. Some of these, he concludes, have the complicit backing of some of the security services.
But it is his endorsement for reform and development in Syria under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad that has turned him into a target, he believes – this along with his support for the resistance and his outright rejection of the US and zionist project for Lebanon and the region.
To his credit, and in solidarity with the people of Syria, Sheik Harrach vows to continue working with the growing sunni/shia joint resistance to Daash and like-minded salafist militias until they are expelled from Syria. He insists that if someone wants to learn about Islam they need only come to Syria to study, and that they need not fall victim to ‘Islamic instruction’ from foreign-manipulated fanatics/fundamentalists seeking the establishment of a Levant-wide or global Caliphate.
Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University for the 2013/14 academic year. Lamb volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Programme (sssp-lb.com) and is reachable c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.