The Legacy of Omar Aziz: Building autonomous, self-governing communes in Syria

This article was first published at Fifth Estate.

“A revolution is an exceptional event that will alter the history of societies, while changing humanity itself. It is a rupture in time and space, where humans live between two periods: the period of power and the period of revolution. A revolution’s victory, however, is ultimately achieving the independence of its time in order to move into a new era.”
—Omar Aziz [1]

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Omar Aziz

Omar Aziz was in his sixties when he returned to Syria in 2011. He’d been working for an information technology company in Saudi Arabia but now he wanted to participate in the uprising raging against the four-decade dictatorship of the Assad family. Together with other activists, Aziz began distributing humanitarian assistance to displaced families from the Damascus suburbs under attack by the regime. He was inspired by the ongoing protests in the face of regime bullets and tanks, yet believed that demonstrations alone were not enough to break the regime’s dominance, and that revolutionary activity should permeate all aspects of people’s lives. Continue reading

The Sectarianization of Syria

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Fighters from the FSA’s Southern Front: “Syria is for all – Druze, Kurds, Alawi, Assyrians, Sunni, Christians”

This article originally appeared in The New Arab. Here is the unedited version …

As the brief lull in Russian bombing comes to an end, Aleppo is entering its biggest and perhaps its last battle. For most people in the liberated east of the city this is a battle of survival against a genocidal regime, and a battle for democracy too, because in their hard-won liberty they have built democratic councils and a free media. Yet Aleppo often looks to the outside world like a battle between sects, and with good reason. A small proportion of the city’s defenders are Sunni Jihadists with previous links to al-Qaida. On the Assad regime side, up to 80% of fighters are foreign Shia Jihadists organised, trained and funded by Iran.

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London Anarchist Bookfair

Today I was invited to speak at the London Anarchist Bookfair, an event I was excited to attend, to talk about the situation in Syria. Unfortunately the event did not take place.  We were shut down by a guy called Amir Taaki (a British-Iranian who claims to be a developer of Bitcoin and someone who apparently Forbes magazine considered ‘their top 30 under 30 list for 2014’ as he had previously proudly told me by email) along with around seven of his friends (one dressed in full military garb, a real revolutionary maybe?)

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كسر حصار حلب

Here are Arabic, French and Spanish translations of my blog ‘Breaking the siege of Aleppo’. Many thanks to the team at GlobalVoices for the translations.
French and Spanish follow Arabic.

كسر حصار حلب

ترجمة: رامي الهامس

احتفل الناس في شرق حلب في 6 أغسطس/آب بعد كسر الثوار للحصار الذي فرض عليهم من قبل النظام السوري وحلفائه منذ 17 يوليو/تموز في مناطق المدينة التي يسيطر عليها الثوار منذ يوليو/تموز 2012 كسجن كبير لأكثر من 300 ألف نسمة عملوا على تخزين المواد الغذائية خوفًا من الموت جوعًا.

احتاج الأمر لجهود جبارة من الثوار مع أسلحتهم المحدودة لكسر الحصار. انضم القوميين الديمقراطيون للجيش السوري الحر إلى الميليشيات الإسلامية وجبهة فتح الشام، المعروفة حتى وقت سابق من هذا الشهر باسم جبهة النصرة، التابعة لتنظيم القاعدة في سوريا. Continue reading

Daraya

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‘Daraya: the spirit of the Syrian revolution, and the heartbeat of every rebel’

Four years following its liberation, the predominantly agricultural town of Daraya, strategically located near the capital, has fallen to the regime. A deal was reached to evacuate the 4,000-8,000 civilians remaining from a pre-uprising population of 80,000. The local fighters who defended their town so courageously will go to Idlib and join the resistance there. Continue reading

Breaking the siege of Aleppo

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The first aid convoy entering Aleppo after breaking of the siege – sent by the  people of Idlib

The people of eastern Aleppo celebrated on Saturday after rebels broke through the siege that had been imposed on them by the Syrian regime and its allies since July 17. For almost a month, the areas of the city held by the revolutionaries since July 2012 had been turned into an open-air prison where some 300,000 people stockpiled food and supplies for fear of starvation.

It required a great feat of unity for the rebels, with their vastly inferior arsenal, to break the siege. The democratic nationalists of the Free Syrian Army joined together with Islamist militias and, crucially, Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, which until earlier this month had been known as the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Continue reading

Syria’s forgotten revolutionaries

I was interviewed by Patrick Ward for Bookwitty  about why contesting the prevalent narratives on Syria is so important …

Why did you write Burning Country?

There was a lot being written about Syria, a lot being written about Syrians, but very little that actually spoke to Syrians and asked them how they themselves define what’s happening in their country. So we really wanted to bring Syrian voices to the forefront, and to speak with people who had been involved in the revolution and see how they felt, to hear their story and to enable other people to hear their story. Continue reading