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Posts Tagged ‘Syria

After Fifteen Years Why Has the Stop the War Coaliton Foundered?

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After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?

Lindsey German of the revolutionary socialist group Counterfire and the Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) writes today.

Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.

If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.

The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.

It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’  but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.

Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.

Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.

Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.

But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.

Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…

Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..

Who are also…

Well, we could go on.

And on.

Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.

StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.

But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…

The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both  au-dessus de la Mêlée  and anti-imperialist.

But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.

But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Most people have simply walked away from this crew.

Let the Festivities Commence!

It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.

In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,

We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.

But no, let us continue churlishly.

In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand  people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.

One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.

And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:

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Irrelevance.

The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is  as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.

Another is that  the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’  feels free to expound on a variety of issues  with a less than direct link to war.

It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:

Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité…Unless You’re a Muslim Woman

These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.

German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.

She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”

France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.

Without going into great detail about  the issue we simply note.

  • It was not the French ‘state’ which tried to ban the burkini, but right-wing local authorities on the country’s coastline.
  • The French ‘state’ in the shape of the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State, the clue being the second part of the name…) overturned the ban. It said it was incompatible with human rights.
  • It was kind of German to express concern for the mass murders carried out by Daesh supporters in France. But perhaps something a little more forthcoming than a reference to “increases in the level of terrorism” linked to “interventions in Muslim countries” might have been more appropriate for those close to the victims in  Nice, Paris and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, to cite but the most recent atrocities.

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution, *US* Socialist Worker Debates the Issues.

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The US Socialist Worker (long divorced from its British parent, and the paper of the International Socialist Organization, ISO) has carried an important debate on Syria in the last week.

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution. Ashley Smith

THE SYRIAN Revolution has tested the left internationally by posing a blunt question: Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?

Tragically, too many have failed this test.

From the very beginning of Syria’s revolution–even before the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front some years later–a whole section of the left opposed the popular uprising against the Assad dictatorship that began in early 2011, part of the Arab Spring wave of popular rebellions against dictatorship and repression.

Since then, they have turned a blind eye to Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians, and his regime’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and barbaric sieges of cities like Aleppo. Today, 11 million people–half the country’s population–have been displaced, with the Assad regime responsible for the lion’s share of the death and destruction.

The author criticises the “campist” belief that, ” there is only one imperialist power in the world–the U.S.–and that it is an all-powerful manipulator of international events.”

The U.S. does remain the world’s dominant imperialist power, but as a result of its failed war in Iraq and other factors, it has suffered a relative decline in strength. Washington is now challenged internationally by imperialist rivals like China and Russia, as well as regional powers. In this new imperial order, the U.S. is less capable of controlling world events–it fears popular revolt all the more.

This is perhaps a more specifically US stand,

The campist misreadings, however, have led them to the conclusion that the U.S. government is pulling the strings in the rebellion in Syria. Some have gone so far as to argue–absurdly–that the U.S. backs ISIS against Assad. Ironically, this puts the campists in agreement with Donald Trump, who, in his latest ravings, claims that Obama and Clinton were “founders” of ISIS.

One of the most striking paragraphs is the following,

A genuine internationalist left must stand with Syria’s popular resistance to Assad, which began as a nonviolent uprising against the dictatorship–and against intervention by American and Russian imperialism, as well as by the region’s main powers.

This stands in clear contrast to the entire strategy of groups in the UK, notably the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) , which  claims not to “take sides”.

The STWC’s John Rees’ states,

The STWC has never supported the Assad regime. Just as we never supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi. Only in the minds of ‘them or us’ pretend patriots does the opposition to our own government’s wars mean support for dictators or terrorists. Our case has always been that war will worsen the problem and not solve it. We were right in that analysis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

There is no group, in other words, that they do stand with.

This is Smith’s conclusion,

No one committed to solidarity with the Syrian struggle can align themselves with either wing of the U.S. imperial establishment. Instead, the left must reject imperialism in any form, including Russia’s.

Rather than look to imperialist powers or dictatorial regimes in either camp, the left should stand for workers’ struggle across borders and in defense of oppressed nations and their fight for self-determination.

In Syria, the revolution has suffered a defeat for the time being. While civil society activists continue to seize every opportunity to assert their goals, their forces have been ravaged by counterrevolution–in the form of the Syria regime and its international allies on the one hand, and the Nusra Front and ISIS, which was particularly eager from the start to target the rebels than regime forces, on the other.

But as Gilbert Achcar argues in his book Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising, this setback, however devastating, comes amid a long period of revolutionary crisis in Syria and the whole region.

The task of the international left today is to oppose intervention by any of the imperialist and regional powers, reject the tyranny of the Assad regime itself, demand the opening of the borders to those fleeing the violence and chaos, collaborate with Syrian revolutionaries–and win people away from campism to the politics of international solidarity from below.

There is nothing specific about the Kurdish YPD and their alliances, nothing specific about the very special threat to progressives and democrats posed by Islamic State, – with all the international echoes that Jihadism poses.

Some will welcome (despite scepticism about how it will work out) US backing for the democratic Kurdish forces and be concerned about Turkish intervention.

Others will point to the specific threat created by the  Jihaist genociders of Daesh and the international volunteers for their death squads not least from Europe.

The debate that the article has caused has unfortunately focused on the role of the US rather than such issues. One reader commented, ” “Assad must go!” is the mantra not of the left, but of the Western imperialists.” Another states, “no to U.S. militarism being used to put in place a government that becomes a U.S. pawn.”

Perhaps the UK SWP reflects this debate by publishing the following today,

Turkish and Syrian socialists issue joint statement against intervention

The US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and all the others must keep their hands off Syria.

All support given to the Baas [Assad] regime must be stopped in order for the war to come to an end.

The Syrian people must decide their own future.

Turkey must immediately cease military operations in Syria, stop its enmity against the Kurds, and open its borders to Syrian refugees.

We call all the revolutionary Syrian forces to unify their struggle against: the dictatorship, the foreigners regional and imperialist interventions, and against the reactionary forces.

We believe that the victory of Syrian people on all these counter revolutionary forces, demand the unity of all the revolutionary forces of all the Syrians.

Long live peace, long live the revolution!

Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (Turkey)

Revolutionary Left Current (Syria)

Now the this Blog has serious disagreements with the ISO, not least on issues which cross over to this searing problem, such as  its refusal to back secularists, like the French ligue de droits de l’homme, in France, against both Islamist and Nationalist-racist bigotry.

Bbut this debate is highly welcome.

Details on quite how anybody is going to stop foreign intervention in Syria and help the Syrian democratic cause win is perhaps too much to ask.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Internationalist Volunteers Fight with Kurds Against Islamic State Genociders.

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Internationalists Back the Fight Against Daesh.  

There are many people, genuine internationalists, humanitarian progressives, those simply motivated by the need to defend humanity against the Islamist genocides of Daesh, fighting with the Kurdish forces in Syria.

This hit the headlines a few days ago.

British man Dean Carl Evans killed fighting with Kurds against Isil in Syria

Mr Evans, from Oxford, later added in a second posting: “I would like to say a massive big thank you to all my friends and family who sent their condolence for the loss of my son.

“He would have been very proud and would have regarded you all as his brothers and sisters, thank you again.”

Dean Evans was one of many foreign volunteers who joined the People’s Defence Units (YPG), the Kurdish military force fighting in northern Syria.

In a statement, the YPG described Mr Evans as a “martyr” who had a “revolutionary and combative spirit on the front lines and always fought without hesitation to protect the people of this region”.

He joined a unit of Kurdish fighters taking part in the Manbij offensive alongside Syrian Arab rebels and with the support of US airpower and Western special forces.

Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, was described as a “martyr” by Kurdish forces in Syria, who called him a “daring and courageous companion”.

The former Royal Marine – who was of British and Greek nationality – travelled to Syria in 2014 to “fulfil his humanitarian goals”.

Mr Scurfield, who had appeared in the long-running TV drama Hollyoaks after launching an acting career, fought with the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, known as the YPG, for three months before being blown up.

He had been part of a rescue operation that saved the lives of thousands of Yazidi people stranded on Mount Sinjar.

An inquest held in June heard that Mr Scurfield died while helping rescue refugees from an ISIS stronghold on March 2, last year.

British People’s Protection Units (YPG) volunteer Macer Gifford, who is on his second tour of Rojava, has sent a message about developments in Manbij, the strategic town being liberated from Islamic State (IS/ISIS) by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Manbij Military Council (MMC) fighters.

In his message from the front line Gifford asks for urgent aid from Britain, Europe and America and calls for borders to be opened to Rojava.

Below we are publishing Mr Gifford’s message, which he shared with his followers on Facebook on 2 August 2016.

……

Low food and water, mixed with the stench of those that have died amongst the rubble is a morale drainer. It’s amazing to see SDF fighters coming off the front, to be given their first proper meal in weeks and then share that food with civilians leaving the city. There is a wonderful, ‘we are in this together’ feeling between the fighters and the civilians. It’s amazing to see civilians flash the victory sign at us and shout their thanks. People literally weep with relief when they get out of the hands of ISIS and into the care of the SDF. This is despite no help coming from any major charity or country.

We have to get British, European and American aid here now! We need the borders to open to all traffic, both economical and charitable.

There is not a tabur (battalion) in Manbij that isn’t fighting. The diverse peoples of Rojava will never give up and will never relent in the struggle to liberate Syria. ISIS are trapped like rats, the SDF noose is around their necks and I can feel their desperation as we squeeze it a bit tighter every night.

Manbij was a test case for both the SDF and ISIS. Although the fight continues, victory for the SDF Alliance is certain. The loss of this major city (twice the size of Kobane) proves that nowhere is safe for Daesh’s (ISIS) murderous thugs.

More on Kurdish Question site.

One cannot but be impressed by the simple courage and decency of those willing to risk everything for the cause of humanity.

These volunteers (below) are overtly left-wing and have shown true internationalism.

International Freedom Battalion

The International Freedom Battalion (Turkish: Enternasyonalist Özgürlük Taburu, Kurdish: Tabûra Azadî ya Înternasyonal‎) is an armed group consisting of leftistforeign fighters fighting alongside thePeople’s Protection Units in the Syrian Civil War in support of the Rojava Revolution and against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[1][2][3] The formation of the International Freedom Battalion was announced on 10 June 2015 in Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ayn). The Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (Turkey/Northern Kurdistan) had been the main force behind the establishment of the group. Inspiration for the group came from the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War.[4] The political ideologies among many of the fighters include Marxism–Leninism, Hoxhaism, Maoism, and anarchism.

Keep in touch with the fight of the YPG  and the Kurdish forces by reading the Kurdish Question.

This is what they are fighting:

The clear difference between Muslims and the corrupt and deviant Jews and Christians is that Muslims are not ashamed of abiding by the rules sent down from their Lord regarding war and enforcement of divine law. So if it were the Muslims, instead of the Crusaders, who had fought the Japanese and Vietnamese or invaded the lands of the Native Americans, there would have been no regrets in killing and enslaving those therein. And since those mujahidin would have done so bound by the Law, they would have been thorough and without some “politically correct” need to apologize years later. The Japanese, for example, would have been forcefully converted to Islam from their pagan ways. Had they stubbornly declined, perhaps another nuke would change their mind. The Vietnamese would likewise be offered Islam or beds of napalm. As for the Native Americans: after the slaughter of their men, those who would favor smallpox to surrendering to the Lord would have their surviving women and children taken as slaves, with the children raised as model Muslims and their women impregnated to produce a new generation of mujahidin. As for the treacherous Jews of Europe and elsewhere — those who would betray their covenant — then their post-pubescent males would face a slaughter that would make the Holocaust sound like a bedtime story, as their women would be made to serve their husbands’ and fathers’ killers.

Furthermore, the lucrative African slave trade would have continued, supporting a strong economy. The Islamic leadership would not have bypassed Allah’s permission to sell captured pagan humans, to teach them, and to convert them, as they worked hard for their masters in building a beautiful country. Notably, of course, those of them who converted, practiced their religion well, and were freed would be treated no differently than any other free Muslim. This is unlike when the Christian slaves were emancipated in America, as they were not afforded supposedly government-recognized equal “rights” for more than a century — and their descendants still live in a nation divided over those days.

All of this would be done, not for racism, nationalism, or political lies, but to make the word of Allah supreme. Jihad is the ultimate show of one’s love for his Creator, facing the clashing of swords and buzzing of bullets on the battlefield, seeking to slaughter His enemies — whom he hates for Allah’s hatred of them.

Ross Wolf at the Charnel-House who publishes these words, from the Daesh publication, Dabiq, comments,

Much of this is clearly meant to serve a propaganda function, the group’s genocidal aims laid out matter-of-factly, in keeping with their apocalyptic imagery. It would of course be foolish to dismiss it all as empty posturing. Daesh actually does systematically murder, enslave, and rape within its shrinking territory. Some of the lines excerpted here seem almost designed just to scandalize mainstream liberal sensibilities, which are identified with the West. For example, the standard boilerplate complaint about “political correctness” is something one frequently sees on Alt-Right and RadTrad forums and message boards. Here IS is daring them to take the green pill instead of the red, an even more heady traditionalist concoction than the one they’re already accustomed to fantasizing about.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Campaign to recognise Islamic State ‘genocide’ .

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Defend our Sisters and Brothers from Daesh Genocide.

The Guardian reports.

A cross-party group of peers is stepping up its campaign to have the persecution and killing of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria declared a genocide with an amendment to the immigration bill. A vote to decide is expected on Monday.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said last week that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others, and there was a unanimous vote along similar lines in the European parliament last month.

The UK government has refused to make such a declaration, insisting it is a matter for international judicial bodies. Its position is “morally indefensible”, said Helena Kennedy, one of those backing the amendment in the House of Lords.

Dozens of peers have backed the amendment but the government is instructing its members to vote against it.

The amendment says that a person seeking asylum in the UK, who belongs to “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” that is subject to genocide as defined under international law, should be presumed to meet the conditions of asylum. Crucially, it adds that a supreme court judge should adjudicate on whether genocide has been committed “after consideration of the available facts”.

As well as Lady Kennedy, others peers supporting the amendment include Michael Forsyth, Emma Nicholson, Caroline Cox and David Alton.

In a letter sent to peers urging their support, Cox said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving foreign secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”

Letter (Catholic Herald):

A cross-party group of peers is pushing for a judge to determine whether ISIS are carrying out genocide in the Middle East

The British Government is facing increasing calls to recognise that ISIS’s attacks on Christians, Yazidis and others should be declared genocide.

A cross-party group of peers is moving an amendment which could trigger a legal process obliging the Government to fulfil its obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention.

If the amendment passes, a judge – possibly from the High Court or Supreme Court – will examine the evidence and decide whether ISIS’s actions count as genocide.

That would force the Government to take concrete steps to protect the victims of ISIS and seek to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Government has so far refused to make a declaration of genocide, saying that such decisions are a matter for the judicial system.

In a letter to peers asking them to support the amendment, Baroness Cox, one of the group, said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving Foreign Secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”

The peers moving the amendment to the Immigration Bill include Baroness Kennedy (Labour), Lord Forsyth (Conservative) and Baroness Nicholson (Lib Dem).

The Government is whipping against the amendment, which will face a Lords vote on Monday. If it passes, it will then come to the Commons.

It comes after the US House of Representatives voted unanimously by 393-0 to declare that ISIS is committing genocide. The State Department has pledged to announce by tomorrow whether it classes ISIS’s actions as genocide, though the decision may be delayed until next week.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the United States Foreign Affairs Committee, and the European Parliament have all said that ISIS is committing genocide.

A recent report from the Knights of Columbus, Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East, lists 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed between 2003 and 2014, and documents hundreds of attacks on Christians and churches.

One of those leading the Lords campaign, the Catholic crossbench peer Lord Alton, told the Catholic Herald that there is a “Catch-22 situation” in which the Government says declarations of genocide are a matter for the judicial system, but the judicial system is not obliged to examine the evidence. The amendment could oblige the Government to act.

Lord Alton said that although the UK is one of over 140 signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, “as things stand, it doesn’t seem to be worth the paper on which it’s written”.

If the judicial system does make a declaration of genocide, Lord Alton said, the definition “obliges us to both punish those who are responsible for genocide and to protect the people who are the victims”.

This would lead to a prioritising of asylum for victims of genocide: notably Christians and Yazidis, but also possibly others such as Mandaeans, Turkmen, and some Shia Muslims.

Lord Alton said: “To prioritise people who are the victims of genocide – the crime above all crimes, after all – would mean that you would then have a pathway where you would take people because they are the clear victims of what is underway. Rather than people who may be amongst the perpetrators of those events.”

He also hopes that Britain would table a resolution at the UN Security Council calling for the International Criminal Court to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. “Simply saying that we deplore what they do is not enough,” Lord Alton said. “You must always seek to bring people to justice.”

David Cameron said last year that Christian persecution was a “crucial” issue, adding: “We must stand together and fight for a world where no one is persecuted because of what they believe.”

In a letter last month, senior lawyers including four QCs asked the Prime Minister “to reconsider its position and to clarify why it operates a policy of refusing to recognize acts of genocide”. A similar letter was sent to the Prime Minister in December by over 60 parliamentarians.

Kennedy has cited the evidence of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP in Iraq. “Her testimony is like a knife in the heart. Her voice shakes as she describes the slaughter of hundreds of men and boys, the kidnapping of women and girls from their families, who are then raped and raped again continuously over months, their vaginas and uteruses torn and shredded by [Isis] men who treat them like animals. Some of the girls are as young as eight and nine,” said Kennedy.

“A few who have escaped are suffering such severe trauma that doctors visiting the refugee camps are in despair. Vian describes the mass graves, the beheadings of children, the crucifixions. She cannot understand why western governments are doing nothing to help them when barely a day passes without news of further genocidal atrocities.”

According to Alton, a campaigner against the persecution of Christians, actions committed by Isis include “assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike”.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2016 at 1:30 pm

US Says, Daesh is committing Genocide in Syria and Iraq.

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Genociders. 

This declaration should be supported by all progressive humanity:

John Kerry: Isis is committing genocide in Syria and Iraq

The US secretary of state said extremist group is responsible for acts of genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims amid mounting global pressure.

John Kerry on Thursday declared that acts committed by Islamic State against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria are genocide.

The US secretary of state did not say how such a declaration would affect US involvement in areas controlled by Isis.

“My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group. “Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, in what believes and in what it does.”

The announcement came amid mounting global pressure to declare the acts against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide.

The BBC reports:

Islamic State ‘committed genocide’, says US.

The US says the Islamic State (IS) group has committed genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said IS was “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”.

He also said the group was responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.

“Naming these crimes is important, but what is essential is to stop them,” Mr Kerry said.

Mr Kerry admitted that a lack of access to IS areas meant the US did not have a “complete picture” of the atrocities that had been carried out.

He said the “full facts” must be sought by an independent international investigation.

The US, he went on, would “strongly support” efforts to collect evidence of IS atrocities and brings those responsible to account.

“The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians, Yazidis because they are Yazidis, Shia because they are Shia,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

“This is the message it conveys to children under its control. Its entire world view is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology.”


Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Les Salafistes and the Horrors of the Islamic State.

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Ce documentaire montre de façon brute et sans voix off l’idéologie, le quotidien et la violence des djihadistes d’Aqmi. Certains lui reprochent son manque de décryptage de l’image.

Image from «Salafistes» Libération.

In France the film, Les Salafistes, has created intense controversy. At one point it seemed as if it might be banned. Now the documentary has been released, with a certificate than denies cinema entry to under-18s. In Saturday’s Guardian Natalie Nougayréde discusses the picture, which includes videos from Daesh (Islamic State – IS, also ISIS) and al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI), with interviews with Salafists (rigorist Islamists) and jihadi leaders (Les Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.)

She states, “The most gruelling moment comes when an Isis propaganda films shows a line of captured men walking towards the banks of a river; jihadi militants then shoot them in the head, one by one. The waters of the river start flowing with blood. And we see the pleading, panic-stricken faces of Isis’s victims, filmed close-up just before they are killed.”

Nougayréde considers that Les Salafistes “opens our eyes to a fanatical world”, that we “need to understand that ideology, however twisted and repulsive” Claude Lanzmann – the director the monumental film on the Holocaust, Shoah, she notes, has defended the film and asked for the age limit to be withdrawn. The screen shows better than any book the reality of the most fanatical form of Islamism. Lemine Ould M. Salem et François Margolin, have created a “chef d’oeuvre”. Its formal beauty brings into sharp relief the brutality of the Islamists, and “everyday life under the Sharia in Timbuktu, Mauritania, in Mali, Tunisia (in areas which have been under AQMI occupation or influence), and in Iraq. The age restriction on entry should go.  (Fleur Pellerin, ne privez pas les jeunes du film, Salafistes! Le Monde 29.1.16.)

Lanzmann also argues (which the Guardian columnist does not cite) that Les Salafistes shows that “any hope of change, any improvement, any understanding” with the violent Islamists it portrays, is “futile and illusory”.

In yesterday’s Le Monde (30. 1.16) there is a fuller account of Les Salafistes and the controversies surrounding it, as well as on Made in France a thriller that imagined a jihadist cell preparing an attack on Paris. With a planned release in November, as the Paris slaughters took place, it was withdrawn and now will be available only on VOD (View on Demand).

Timbuktu not les Salafistes.

Saturday’s Le Monde Editorial recommends seeing the 2014 fiction Timbuktu rather than Les Salafistes. The Islamic State has already paraded its murders and tortures before the world. Its “exhibitionnisme de l’horreur” poses a serious challenge to societies that value freedom of expression. In the past crimes against humanity, by Stain, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Pol Pot or Pinochet, were carried out in secret. The Nazis or the Khmer Rouge’s propaganda was designed to hide the reality of genocide; Daesh’s videos are explicit and open,  produced to terrorise their enemies and to rouse the spirits of their supporters. Margolin and Salem’s film does not, the Editorial argues, offer a sufficiently clear critical approach for a non-specialist audience. The victims only speak under the eyes of their butchers. The drama Timbuktu, where ordinary people in the city of that name are shown grappling with the everyday despotism of AQIM occupation – the rigorous application of the Islamists’ version of the Sharia, is a better way of thinking through the phenomenon of Jihadism. Its quiet and subversive message, the simple acts of playing prohibited music and smoking (banned), many would agree, unravels the absurdity and cruelty – the callous stoning of an ‘adulterous’ couple – of Islamism on a human scale.

Le Monde’s account of the controversy (La Terreur passe mal sur grand ecran) also observes that books about the Islamic State have reached a wide audience. They offer a better way, less influenced by the emotions that the cinema screen arouses, to understand Jihadism. It is equally the case that, through the Web, a substantial number of people have already seen the kind of horrific scenes Les Salafistes brings to the big screen.

The Empire of Fear.

Empire of Fear. Inside the Islamic State (2015) by the BBC correspondent Andrew Hosken is one of many accessible studies that have reached a wide audience. It is a thorough account of Daesh’s origins in the Al-Qaeda milieu and how it came to – separate – prominence in the aftermath of the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq. Hosken has an eye for detail, tracing out the careers of key Daesh figures such as Zarqawi and Baghdadi. He challenges for example the widely claim that Islamic State leader Baghadadi and ‘Caliph’ was “radicalised” in a US prison in Southern Iraq in 2004. In fact “hardening evidence” indicates, “Baghdadi may have started his career as a jihadist fighter in Afghanistan and may even have known Zarqawi there.” (Page 126)

The failure of the occupation to establish a viable state in Iraq, the absence – to say the least – of the rule of law, and the importance of Shia mass sectarian killings of Sunnis in the Islamic State’s appearance. The inability of the Iraqi army to confront them, culminating in the fall of Mosul, were conditions for its spreading power, consolidation in the Caliphate, in both Iraq AND Syria, and international appeal.

Empire of Fear is valuable not only as history. Hosken states that by 2014 it was estimated that there were between five to seven million people living under Islamic State rule. “The caliphate has not delivered security, human dignity, happiness and the promise of eventual pace, let alone basic serves, but it has produced piles of corpses and promise to produce piles more.” (Page 200) He states that the “violent Islam-based takfirism” – the practice of declaring opponents ‘apostates’ worthy of death – has taken its methods from former Ba’athist recruits, always ready to slaughter opponents.

The suffering of those under the rule of Daesh is immense. “Men and children have been crucified and beheaded, homosexuals thrown to their deaths from high building and women stoned to death in main squares.” (Page 228) The Lion Cubs of the Khalfia, an army of children, are trained for battle. Even some Salafists initially allied with Daesh – with counterparts in Europe still offering succour to the dreams of returning to the golden days of the prophet, have begun to recoil. Hosken observes “..they have ended up with Baghdadi and his vision of an Islamic state with its systemic rapes, its slaves and concubines, child soldiers, murder, torture and genocide.” (Page 236)

Totalitarian Islamism.

The Islamic States efforts to capture more territory and people will continue with or without Baghadadi. The film title Salafistes reminds us that the Islamic State’s totalitarian Islamism is not isolated. It is connected to a broader collection of groups preaching rigorist – Salafist – Islamism, not all users of extreme violence, still less the public glorification of murder. The creation of all-embracing State disciplinary machines to mould their subjects to Islamic observance is a common objective of political Islam, from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to Daesh’s mortal enemies in Iran. The religious cleansing of religious minorities, Yazidis and Middle Eastern Christians continues under a variety of Islamic forces. Yet the degree of oppression and genocide marks the Islamic State out.

The recent Channel Four Documentary The Jihadis Next Door indicated that there is a European audience, however small, for Daesh’s genocidal propaganda. In Britain alone up to 700 people have been attracted enough by Islamic State death videos to go and join their ranks. One can imagine that amongst them some will be capable of watching Les Salfistes in a spirit far from the critical intentions of the film’s directors. It is to be doubted that they would have been reached by the scorn for Islamist rule and the resilience of humanity displayed in Timbuktu.

Hosken concludes, the “group may end up destroying itself or being destroyed by its many enemies. However, whatever happens, its virulent ideology looks likely to survive in a Middle East now riven by sectarian division, injustice, war and authoritarianism,” (Page 257)

The British left, with no government at its command, is not in a position to negotiate in efforts that try to bring “security, justice dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region”. We have little leverage over Bashar Assad’s own despotism in Syria. But we may be able to help Syrian democrats, and those fighting the Islamic State, to give our support to those fighting for dear life for freedom – from the Kurds to Arab and Turkish democrats – by ensuring that there is no quarter given to Daesh’s Salafist allies in Europe and totalitarian Islamists of any kind, independently and against those who see the Syrian Ba’athists as an ultimate rampart against IS.

To defend human rights we need to align with the staunchest adversaries of all forms of oppression, the secularists, the humanists, the democratic left, and, above all, our Kurdish and Arab sisters and brothers who, with great courage, face Daesh every day on the battle field.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2016 at 2:27 pm

On The Jihadis Next Door.

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The Jihadis Next Door was not pleasant, but nevertheless, was essential viewing last night.

It featured interviews with Abu Rumaysah, who’s believed to appear in an Isis execution video.

 The former bouncy castle salesman – whose real name is Siddhartha Dhar but is now more commonly known as Jihadi Sid since he fled the UK for Syria and issued a chilling threat against the UK – features in The Jihadis Next Door for Channel 4 .

“My name’s Abu Rumaysah,” he says in the first trailer for the documentary. “One day when Sharia comes, you’ll see this black flag flying everywhere,” he added as he poses next to a black flag.

Mirror.

The Independent reports,

The extraordinary footage of Abu Rumaysah, who fled the UK to join Isis in 2014 having previously been arrested six times, was shot by the film-maker Jamie Roberts for a Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, screened on Tuesday night.

Channel 4 has declined a Metropolitan Police request for a pre-broadcast viewing of the film, in which two other activists already known to the authorities, Mohammed Shamsuddin and Abu Haleema, laugh while watching an Isis murder video and speak of recruiting fellow British Muslims through “brain-washing”.

Abu Rumaysah, real-name Siddhartha Dhar, has not been officially confirmed as the masked figure in the video, released a couple of weeks ago, which shows the murder of five men accused by Isis of spying for the UK.

In the Guardian Sam Wollonstan was struck by the giggling and smirking of the pair,

Haleema and Shamsuddin were and what they believed. But no, they’re watching a brutal Isis video. People are being drowned in a cage. Others have explosive belts wrapped around their necks which are then detonated. “The guy’s foaming at the mouth, wow!” laughs Shamsuddin. “And I’m eating, hahahaha.”

There were some memorable scenes when Pakistani worshipers at a Mosque confronted, with great anger, this bunch protesting at celebrations of their country’s Independence day and when a Muslim man denounced them as ISIS recruiters in Oxford Street.

Amongst the reactions to the programme most have made the point, amply proved, that these are a very small fringe group.

But there are  over 700 people from the UK who have travelled to the Middle East to join the Daesh Einsatzgruppen.

The scale of the mass killings, the slavery, the oppression of people by the Disciplinary Machine of the Islamic State, the cleansing of religious minorities, means that people across the world are justifiably concerned at the activities of their supporters, wherever they may be, and however marginalised they are.

All of these bigoted supporters of mass murder spoke perfect English – so much for plans to make ‘language tests’ part of the  ‘anti-extremist’  Prevent strategy. Indeed the idea of subjecting people to this, apart from the obvious fact that the government has cut funding for English language teaching for adults, is more than patonising: it is setting up a criterion that’s designed to label and exclude a group of people.

For once we agree with the SWP.

Though we have to add this.

There was one word the Islamists in the documentary  used, ‘kufer‘ which though formally meaning ‘unbeliever’ has come to signify something in the same category as ‘nig-nog’ ‘yid’ or ‘wog’. That is, a racist term.

It is surprising that the word is not treated in the same way as plain racialist abuse.

The scenes of merry laughter at videos of torture and slaughter, a lot more than this case of hate-speech, means that The Jihadis Next Door raises some weighty issues.

The principal one is: how can the Daesh supporters be fought?

They are part of a wider, fractured Islamist movement, some of which is as violent as they are, others are ‘conservative’, and pursue their aims without overt coercion. All gravitate around the idea that the ‘law’ of ‘god’ has priority over human law – and therefore human rights and democracy.

It would be better if the left, while rightly criticising the government’s Prevent strategy, had something of its own to offer that defended human rights.

We would suggest that this should start with alliances not with “Muslim” groups with a ‘moderate’ agenda, but with those people who openly stand for freedom and secularism, such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy.

Internationally we could not do better than backing the Kurdish people in their life and death struggle against Daesh and the repression of the Turkish state.

Just as we should ally with the left and liberals in countries where Islamists pose a real threat to all, we should be working with their generous, courageous and open-minded counterparts here.

As indeed some of us already are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 20, 2016 at 12:13 pm