Sakr,and Al Hariri asked to buy the recordings




His press conference lexicon was rich in expletives and insults, but all this impudence served only as a smokescreen to mask his lies.

After Al-Akhbar published authenticated recordings that documented Future MP Okab Sakr’s role in providing arms to Syrian rebels, the MP has concocted his own recordings. With the help of audio experts, Al-Akhbar easily confirmed that Sakr’s recordings, which portray him as the humanitarian savior of Syrian revolutionaries, can hardly pass muster.

By fabricating his own recordings to counter those obtained by Al-Akhbar, MP Okab Sakr wants to delude the public into believing that the recordings published by Al-Akhbar were “doctored.” Yet Sakr initially acknowledged the authenticity of the published recordings, even offering to buy them to prevent them from going public.

On Thursday, 6 December 2012, Sakr held a press conference of sorts, but the spectacle that ensued was unfortunate. He thought that by shouting at Al-Akhbar and his political opponents, he would be able to conceal the facts surrounding his actions. To be sure, Sakr never dared before to say one word to counter the media of the West.

A simple look at the audio file played by Oqab Sakr at his press conference in Istanbul shows a disparity between the original clip released by Al-Akhbar and the additional parts played by Sakr.

When the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Times, The Guardian, and Le Figaro, all ran stories confirming that “Saudi Arabia’s man, Okab Sakr,” was supplying Syrian militants with money and weapons, Sakr remained silent. He swallowed up his bile, only to vomit it out on Thursday, in the form of 15 words of folly, ten words of lies, eight words of sheer stupidity, and four words of blind hatred.

His press conference lexicon was rich in expletives and insults, but all this impudence served only as a smokescreen to mask his lies.

Sakr wanted to convince the audience that he was not panicked by Al-Akhbar’s possession of the incriminating recordings. In fact, when this newspaper offered to jointly publish them with a number of television networks in Lebanon, Okab was tipped off.

The Future Movement MP was quick to contact officials in one of these networks (before the recordings were advertised) – using whatever favor he enjoyed with the TV network to offer the following: “You buy the recordings, and Sheikh Saad Hariri will pay you double what you paid, provided that you don’t broadcast them.”

The offer still stood last week for the unpublished recordings, even after some of the recordings were published by Al-Akhbar.

During the conference, he exhibited a misleading sense of self-confidence, just like he did back when he appeared on Paula Yacoubian’s show “Interviews.”

That day, he made a finger gun with his hand and pretended to shoot himself in the mouth on television. He said that he was going to commit suicide, but everyone understood that he was jesting. Nevertheless, Sakr came across as a ‘charmer,’ but one lacking charisma. He is a man who knows the ins and outs of the game. He knows the audience, how it thinks, and what it likes to hear.

The fact of the matter is that there is no battle taking place, even if Sakr has sought to portray things otherwise. For one thing, the recordings published by Al-Akhbar were clear and unambiguous.

No one knows this better than Sakr and nothing confirms their authenticity better than his own acknowledgment. So, what how do Sakr’s own recordings hold up?

In the recording where Sakr asks for “more advanced weapons,” published by Al-Akhbar on Friday, 30 November 2012, Sakr spliced in two technically different audio segments at the beginning and at the end of the published recordings. The gaps are noticeable when the segments are joined together, albeit this cannot be detected directly by ear without certain equipment.

Al-Akhbar spoke to sound engineers about Sakr’s recordings. The audio experts preferred to remain anonymous because they feared “getting involved in something this big,” one said.

But MP Sakr must have known that a “scandal” such as this would not go unnoticed. Consequently, the Future Movement MP’s recording was not aimed at sound engineers or even Al-Akhbar.The audio experts said that Sakr’s recordings were “doctored more than they needed to be.” Technically speaking, anyone can consult any engineer he likes and compare the recordings published by Al-Akhbar, which, once again, Sakr has acknowledged were authentic, and the recordings he peddled as his irate press conference.

Of course, the audio experts’ opinion needs some explanation. The figure above shows an analysis of the recording presented by MP Sakr, which had a total duration of five minutes and 12 seconds.

The sound analysis shows that the recording contains crossfades, that is, gradual transitions between two consecutive segments, appearing at 2:30 in the clip. It is a slight and inaudible “interruption,” or more precisely, a “sound gap” that can only be discerned by means of an audio analysis, according to the engineers we spoke to.

For the one minute and seven seconds that followed the section published by Al-Akhbar, which starts with “Allo, Allo, yes brother,” variations in the timbre, a measure of sound quality, are clear.

Similarly, the drop signal and the intonation are different. The first has to do with the distance between the speaker and the recording device, while the second is related to the tonality of the speaker’s voice, which is affected by his “posture” as well as other factors.

In other words, the audio experts are certain that the section which begins with the words “we need machine guns” in the recording Sakr presented at his conference, is technically different from Al-Akhbar’s clip.

In Sakr’s recording, up to the 2:30 mark, his voice had different characteristics from the subsequent one. Evidently, the first segment was added in later to Al-Akhbar’s clip. The same goes for the last segment.

From the 3:36 mark until the end of the clip, the audio characteristics are nearly the same as those of the first segment, which Sakr added to the recording. Indeed, the audio analysis shows that Sakr’s recording is divided into three segments, with crossfades added in twice.

The first crossfade appears at the beginning of the segment published by Al-Akhbar while the second can be discerned at the end of the same segment. Sakr’s clip is thus divided into three segments: the first from 0 to 2:30 (the part published by Al-Akhbar); the second from 2:30 to 3:36; and the third from 3:36 to 5:12.

The audio experts have no doubt that the clip presented by Sakr, in which he asks for machine guns, and which contains no mention of milk and blankets as he claimed, has different audio characteristics and properties, as we detailed above, and which are clearly illustrated by the figure above.

In summary, the experts concluded that Sakr added “a segment in the beginning and a segment in the end,” leaving the part published by Al-Akhbar intact, which was the only authentic segment. According to the audio experts, the least that can be said about this fabrication is that it is “not so smart.”

But MP Sakr must have known that a “scandal” such as this would not go unnoticed. Consequently, the Future Movement MP’s recording was not aimed at sound engineers or even Al-Akhbar.

So, why did Okab do it? Does he want to lure the public into the trap he claimed to have set before the recordings went public? Or maybe the man thought that games like this would be easily camouflaged by bringing the issue of the Lebanese abductees in Azaz back to the limelight?

On Friday, Sakr “gathered” some of the hostage’s relatives, with whom Sakr now has close ties, so that through them he can lash out against Al-Akhbar and OTV. Then in the evening, Ali Zugheib, one of the Lebanese hostages, appeared in a recording and read a speech written for him, where he spoke about high gasoline prices in Azaz, and claimed that there were secret detention facilities in Lebanon where Syrian and Arab prisoners of conscience are being tortured, using the same methods of the Syrian regime.






Terrorist Admit to Destroying A Secular Syria in the Name of Islam




Sky’s Tim Marshall gains rare access to a prison where he finds evidence that international jihadists are operating in Syria.

Interviewing people who, under different circumstances, might kill you, is a strange experience.

To the soundtrack of multiple rocket launchers and small arms fire, I met six men who the Syrian authorities told us were jihadist rebel fighters captured by the army.

We were in a Ministry of Interior prison near Damascus in an area now close to the front lines.

The men, four Syrian, an Iraqi, and a Turk, said they had indeed been in the jihadist movement fighting President Assad’s forces, but now renounced the armed struggle even though they continued to espouse Salafist ideology. All are awaiting court appearances.

Jamil Us Turk, Ahmed al Rabido, Hamid Hassan al Attar, Bahar al Bashah, Ali Hussein and Mahmoud al Ahab said they were happy to be interviewed and had not been badly treated.

At one point I asked the guards to leave, spoke with the men alone and checked them for obvious signs of mistreatment, which were not apparent.

As far as I could ascertain, the men were who they said they were. The Turkish man spoke Turkish, the Iraqi had an Iraqi accent, they displayed religious knowledge of the sort taught to those with a Salafist mindset.

The Syrian authorities are keen to promote the view that they are fighting an al Qaeda type force which partially explains why, after much pushing, we were allowed rare access into the jail.

Mahmoud al Ahab, who described himself as a Palestinian Syrian, told me he was in the al Nusra Front which he said was an al Qaeda group. He had sworn an oath of allegiance to al Nursa but now felt this was a mistake.

Ahmed al Rabido, a 48-year-old Syrian, said he was a religious leader, a Mufti, in the Free Syrian Army.

“I joined because I wanted to demolish the secular state… I don’t believe in this anymore because the country is being ruined,” he said.

Bahar al Basah, 35, another Palestinian Syrian, told me he was influenced by the writings of Abu Qatada, the radical cleric currently under house arrest in the UK.

The men only became animated when I showed a little knowledge of Salafist ideology and brought up the works of Islamists such as the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb.

This led to a question about the future of Syria’s minorities such as the Christians. Ahmed, Basah, and Hamid Hassan all agreed – Christians could only live there if they either converted, or paid the ‘Jizyah’ – a special tax levied on non-Muslims in previous centuries in the Middle East. If not said Bahar, they could be killed.

When asked why, the answer was, to them, quite simple – because the Prophet Mohammed said so. I was then invited to become a Muslim.

The conversation verged on the surreal. There we were talking in a quite friendly manner, with the occasional joke, about killing people because they wouldn’t pay the Jizyah, which critics regard as effectively obtaining money through menaces.

The interview ended with Ahmed volunteering that eventually Muslims must reclaim Andalucia in Spain for the Islamic Caliphate.

His logic, that it was justified because Spain used to be under Islam, was somewhat undermined when he went on to say that Islam should move on to bring the UK under its control and indeed, eventually, the whole world.

The men are not representative of the FSA, indeed many militia units are deeply suspicious of the jihadists’ aims.

However, it appears that a lot of the best weapons are reaching the jihadist groups, and they are using these to gain influence and territory.

Even if the rebels overthrow the government, they won’t just have a problem dealing with militia from the minority groups, they will have problems with each other.

As the men left to go back to their cells, we shook hands.

Two of them were still trying to convert me, asking me, with a smile, to say the Shahada ‘La ilaha il Allah’ – there is no God but Allah.






Former Powell adviser ‘skeptical’ of ‘politicized’ US intelligence on Syria




Syria will never use chemical weapons against its own people, Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired US Army Colonel who was Chief of Staff to Colin Powell told RT. Instead, the reality is that US is “preparing the ground to intervene in Syria.”

An act which would lead to a conflict “that would take at least a decade to settle – and there aren't going to be too many victors at the end of that decade, just losers,” Wilkerson says, as Washington's ultimate aim is to overthrow the Iranian leadership.

Simultaneously, some members of Congress are talking about "impeachment" of the US president for not consulting Congress before involving the country in conflicts.

RT: You were Colin Powell's chief of staff when the decision was made to invade Iraq. In 2003, Powell made a speech that laid out the case for that war. Let's take a listen to what he said. You helped prepare that speech, and have since described it as the biggest mistake of your life. Why?

Lawrence Wilkerson: Primarily because we – to the American people, to the international community and of course to the members of the US Security Council – presented that speech… it was not accurate, it was not true, it was not valid. We did not know that, but it was not just an intelligence failure. It was also the massive politicization of intelligence by the leadership in Washington.

RT: We're currently seeing very similar rhetoric in the US in relation to Syria.  Will it end in war again?

LW: I would be highly skeptical of any of the intelligence rendered by the $140-billion-plus US intelligence community as to weapons of mass destruction in possession of another country. Period.

And I think we're looking into Syria and Iran being a combination that we would then take on – and you're talking about a conflict that becomes regional and maybe even wider, because we've got Russia, we've got China, we've got other players; as I've just mentioned, the Turks. We've got a significant interest in that region if Iran and Syria are seriously threatened by the US invasion. And I think, you're looking at a configuration that would take at least a decade to settle and there aren't going to be too many victors at the end of that decade – just losers.






Aljazeera is no longer preferred choice




Cairo – The active role played by al-Jazeera television network during the 25 January 2011 Egyptian revolution led to sentiments of solidarity following the torching of the news channel’s offices around two weeks ago on 22 October 2012.

This support for the channel did not stop activists from criticizing al-Jazeera’s weak coverage of the Final Warning Million March last Tuesday.

Al-Jazeera’s Live Egypt station is no longer the preferred choice of revolutionaries now that there are alternative Egyptian stations in abundance following the revolution. It also didn’t help that the channel’s coverage of the recent “million person” marches and major protests left much to be desired since this time, the million was surrounding the presidential palace of Mohammed Mursi.

Ever since the removal of Hosni Mubarak, the channel has been accused of bias in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Mursi’s political current.

The angry protesters maintain that Qatar’s support for Mursi has influenced the channel’s direction.This never stopped the protesters in Tahrir Square from welcoming the Qatari news channel and its correspondents, who are the most popular among the revolutionaries, compared with other Egyptian channels.

The latter were accustomed to providing insipid coverage of major events, especially those where the conflict is between the street and the regime, whether the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) or Mursi, who today represents the MB in the Egyptian presidential palace.

Last Tuesday, however, the picture began to change. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marched from all over Cairo to al-Ittihadiya presidential palace in Heliopolis north of Cairo. They wanted their voice to reach Mursi in his own home after he refused to listen to their demands from Tahrir Square.

Al-Jazeera decided to cover the protests in a detached manner, relying mostly on in-studio discussions. It wasn’t interested in the protesters or broadcasting their positions on air. This would have meant that Mursi would have to listen to what he did not want to hear. His detractors, sheltering under Tahrir’s legitimacy, are still very angry at his political decisions.

Moreover, an al-Jazeera correspondent decided to play the devil’s advocate in his interviews with some protesters. He asked, “Did you read the constitution?” Of course, the answer was, “No.” The correspondent replied, “So why doth thou protest?”

The correspondent said this in full knowledge that neither the constitution’s supporters nor the opponents had read the document because the disagreement is centered on the way it was drafted. The actual flaws have yet to be considered by the people due to the current clash with the regime and lack of time.

The angry protesters maintain that Qatar’s support for Mursi has influenced the channel’s direction. It even impacts the location of its camera in Tahrir Square, to make it look empty or full.

The disappointment was not just expressed at the screen. Activists clashed with al-Jazeera’s news presenter Jamal Rayyan over Twitter after the latter surprised everyone with statements opposing the demonstrations against the constitutional declaration.

The Jordanian-Palestinian presenter wrote, “If I was in the place of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, I would have done what US president George Bush Sr. did when he deployed the army in Los Angeles to put a stop to the chaos.”

Private Egyptian television channels, feeling the threat of Mursi’s regime, were eager to cover the Ittihadiya protests.Rayyan attacked Egyptian media networks, saying they were out of control and responsible for inciting tumult, the same accusation thrown at al-Jazeera during the early days of the revolution.

Private Egyptian television channels, feeling the threat of Mursi’s regime, were eager to cover the Ittihadiya protests. The screens were split once again, with windows to Tahrir Square, the presidential palace, and Maspero – the site of Egypt’s official television, which became the latest target of demonstrations due to its continued favor towards the the regime.

For the very first time, Egyptian channels used methods that were once only available to al-Jazeera: cars drove alongside the demonstrations, carrying processions live while other reporters covered events at the presidential palace, awaiting a confrontation that ended with the protesters easily reaching the palace gates.

Channels such as ONTV, al-Nahar, and CBC were able to endure the task and cover the events. Not many viewers cared much for the SMS messages in support of Mursi that were scrolling at the bottom of al-Jazeera Live Egypt’s screen.

Its presenter, Ayman Azzam, found some balance. When one of the callers told him that the volume of support messages reaching the channel is a reflection of Mursi’s popular support, Azzam replied that this should not be taken as an indicator, since someone has been sending dozens of messages from the same phone number.

A while ago, it was claimed that al-Jazeera allowed tampering with its online opinion polls about the Egyptian constitution on its website. It immediately announced that its results were inaccurate.

Egypt’s official channel, on the other hand, attempted some balance, but kept failing in regaining viewer trust, especially after allowing calls that reminded Egyptians of those that were fabricated by Mubarak’s people during the revolution.

One example is a phone call to Nile News by an amateur sheikh who said that as a graduate of al-Azhar, one of the major Islamic schools in the region, he does not believe Mursi broke his oath to respect the law and constitution.

He said that Mursi’s latest decrees “are meant to uphold the law, from the point of view of the president who is charged with protecting the country.”






71 journalists in prison, union says




Seventy-one journalists still remain behind bars in Turkish prisons, journalists from the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) said, adding they were concerned about the current state of press freedom in the country, during a meeting of the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) held Dec. 5.


Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP) speaker Peter Preston said he had been closely following Turkey’s steps in the democratization process for the last 25 years. Preston is also the secretary general of Ankara Journalists Association and a columnist for The Guardian and The Observer. “I think the speed of [Turkey’s] democratization process has slowed down. The things I heard worry me,” Peterson said, adding that they met government authorities and the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Ankara, demanding the release of the arrested journalists.

According to data gathered by the association, 71 journalists are still in prison, while the trials of those released are ongoing.

TGC deputy chair Turgay Olcayto, IPI’s Turkey Executive Board member Ferai Tunç, Turkish Journalists Syndicate chair Ercan İpekçi were among the meeting’s speakers.

Olcayto commented on the fourth judicial package, which is mainly focused on eliminating the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) rulings that concern the violation of human rights in Turkey and is expected to pass Parliament soon. “Unfortunately, I am not very hopeful about this package,” he said, adding that the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law must be immediately reformed. “Those incidents are a shame for Turkey,” Olcayto said.






Opposition Using Children in Conflict




(New York) – Armed opposition groups fighting in Syria are using children for combat and other military purposes, Human Rights Watch said today. Children as young as 14 have served in at least three opposition brigades, transporting weapons and supplies and acting as lookouts, Human Rights Watch found, and children as young as 16 have carried arms and taken combat roles against government forces. Opposition commanders should make public commitments to end this practice, and to prohibit the use of anyone under 18 for military purposes – even if they volunteer.

Human Rights Watch interviewed five boys between the ages of 14 and 16 who said they had worked with the armed opposition in Homs, Daraa, and Khirbet al-Jawz, a small Idlib town near the Turkish border. Three of the boys, all age 16, said they carried weapons. One said he received military training and participated in attack missions. Two boys – ages 14 and 15 – said they, together with other boys, supported opposition brigades by conducting reconnaissance or transporting weapons and supplies. In addition, Human Rights Watch interviewed three Syrian parents who said their sons under 18 had remained in Syria to fight.

“All eyes are on the Syrian opposition to prove they’re trying to protect children from bullets and bombs, rather than placing them in danger,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “One of the best ways opposition military commanders can protect children is to make a strong, public commitment against use of children in their forces, and to verify boys’ ages before allowing them to enlist.”

In some cases, boys interviewed said that they had volunteered to fight along with older siblings or family members. In other cases, they said opposition soldiers asked them to participate. In all cases, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, to which Syria became party in 2003, states that, “Armed groups, distinct from the armed forces of a State, should not under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.”

The Syria Violations Documenting Center, a Syrian opposition monitoring group, has documented the deaths of at least 17 children who fought with the FSA. Many others have been severely injured, and some permanently disabled.

Ongoing initiatives to have armed opposition groups adopt and enforce codes of conduct that promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law should include provisions making clear that children should not participate in the armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said.

“Majid,” a 16-year-old boy from Khalidiya, Homs, told Human Rights Watch that he participated in combat missions in Syria. “I used to carry a Kalashnikov…. I used to shoot checkpoints … to capture [them] and take the weapons.” Majid added that his battalion, which he said had more than 2,000 fighters, gave him combat training. “They taught us how to shoot, how to dismantle and put together a weapon, how to target,” he told Human Rights Watch. He volunteered along with his older brother and other relatives, he said.

“Haitham” and “Qassim,” two sixteen-year-old boys from Daraa province currently living in Jordan, told Human Rights Watch that they had voluntarily joined a local brigade, though they did not participate in attacks and had not received training. “The FSA just gave us weapons, there wasn’t any training,” Qassim said, referring to the Free Syrian Army. “We had Kalashnikovs, but we had only 30 bullets. I did reconnaissance, [and] we would guard the village at night. When someone came, we would inform the others…. [But] we didn’t go on missions because we were too young.”

“[The FSA] is accepting people from 16 and up,” Haitham told Human Rights Watch. “They’re under a lot of pressure [to win battles].” Majid from Homs also indicated that the FSA accepted children, despite their age. “The job you have depends on you,” he said. “If you have a brave heart, they’ll send you to fight checkpoints.” He added that while he held a combat post for several months, his commanders eventually told him to leave the unit because of his age. “They said we need older guys – you’re too young,” he said.

“Raed,” 14, told Human Rights Watch that he transported weapons, food, and other supplies for opposition fighters in Khirbet al-Jawz, near the Turkish border. Raed and his brother had camped out on the border when their town in northern Syria came under attack. He told Human Rights Watch that fighters asked him to assist them by carrying supplies across the border:

We would help the FSA by bringing them … supplies from Turkey, weapons. We would bring bullets and Russiyets [Kalashnikovs]. All of the kids were helping like this. We were 10 boys between 14 and 18 years old. I know the guys in the FSA and they asked me to help in this way. I did this for four or five months.

In June 2012, government forces began shooting at the border area where Raed and his brother were sleeping, near a group of FSA fighters. “[My] grandparents were at home, but we slept at the border with the FSA,” he told Human Rights Watch. “The day I got shot was the first time that I slept at the border. When I was shot, I was running, and I was shot from behind. The army was about 100 meters away.” Raed received medical treatment in Turkey, but he suffered permanent damage from his injury. “The bullet hit my nerves,” he said. “I feel my leg but I can’t move it. I’ve had four surgeries and have three surgeries left…. I don’t know if I will walk again.”

“Karim,” 15, told Human Rights Watch that before he left Homs in June or July, he and his friends used to climb trees to scout for the Free Syrian Army. “I used to go into the trees,” he said. “I would hide there to see the situation on the ground. We used to help the FSA this way.”

International law sets 18 as the minimum age for participation in direct hostilities. Under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, it is a war crime for armed forces or groups to conscript or enlist children under 15, or to use them “to participate actively in hostilities.” According to definitive interpretations of the statute, active participation in hostilities does not only cover children’s direct participation in combat, but includes activities linked to combat such as scouting, spying, sabotage, and the use of children as decoys, couriers, or at military checkpoints. The prohibition on active participation also includes use of children in “direct” support functions, such as carrying supplies to the front line.

In August, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued a report in which it “note[d] with concern reports that children under 18 are fighting and performing auxiliary roles for anti-Government armed groups.” It added that, “The commission received assurances from Colonel Riad al-Asaad that an FSA policy not to use children in combat is in place. There is evidence to suggest, however, that this policy is not uniformly being adhered to by the FSA and other anti-Government armed groups.”

“Even when children volunteer to fight, commanders have a responsibility to protect them by turning them away,” Motaparthy said. “Children are easily influenced by older relatives and friends, but their participation in armed hostilities places them in grave danger of being killed, permanently disabled, or severely traumatized.”

Countries financing or supplying arms to opposition groups should urge the FSA to prohibit the use of those under 18 for military purposes, whether as active combatants or in support roles, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch found that refugee boys in neighboring countries remain vulnerable to recruitment and participation. In three group interviews with Syrian refugees, older men, including FSA fighters on leave, asked children in the group what army they supported and showed Human Rights Watch photographs or videos of children carrying weapons and chanting FSA rallying cries. On at least two occasions while interviewing refugees, Human Rights Watch witnessed men encouraging boys to join the armed opposition. Human Rights Watch also reviewed several YouTube videos, including videos on FSA brigades’ Facebook pages or YouTube channels, featuring former child combatant “martyrs” or children who say they hope to be martyred.

“We’ve watched men urge boys to support the FSA and join the fight,” Motaparthy said. “Particularly when their older family members fight with armed opposition groups, or have been killed by regime forces, boys can face pressure to pick up weapons and fight back, sometimes even at very young ages.”

Boys who served the armed opposition groups interviewed by Human Rights Watch came from particularly vulnerable segments of the Syrian population. Three of the five boys interviewed said they did not know how to read, and four had worked full-time before participating in FSA activities. None were attending school at the time they joined the FSA, as even those who formerly attended stopped because schools had closed in their community or because their families deemed the security risk too great.

Some of the boys interviewed by Human Rights Watch outside Syria said they had left Syria only to bring their female relatives to safety, while others said they had left temporarily but planned to return. Majid said that while he had been discharged from his battalion because of his age, he had come to Jordan only to drop off his female family members. He planned to travel to Daraa with a friend to try to enlist in a different unit. “Maybe it’ll be different [and they will accept me] there,” he said.

Haitham and Qassim said they also planned to return to Syria and continue fighting. “[My unit had] a weapons shortage,” Qassim said. “I am waiting for a call telling me they have more weapons, then I will return.” Raed said that he and his older brother accompanied their family to a refugee camp in Turkey, but then returned to Syria and joined the FSA, with whom he worked until he was shot in the leg.

“The FSA comes to the [Zaatari] camp and spreads the message that it is not acceptable to stay in the camp while others are fighting in Syria,” one international organization representative working with Syrian refugees in Jordan told Human Rights Watch. While Syrian refugees have been allowed access to school in host communities, and schools have been established in refugee camps, space remains limited.

“Many older children are choosing not to go to school,” Motaparthy said. “They have missed as many as two years of school inside Syria and they say they don’t see the value any longer. Humanitarian groups working with refugees should work to prevent recruitment in the camps and communities and ensure that all children have access to education

Human Rights Watch





West’s policy on Syria crisis, Unethical: Analyst




An analyst says the approach adopted by the Western powers toward the crisis in Syria is “unethical” as the West always “takes interests over values”.

At least 15 Syrian civilians were killed and 24 others injured in a car bomb attack in the western city of Homs on Sunday. Last week, Syrian newspaper Al Watan published the names of 142 foreign militants from 18 countries, who were killed while fighting against the government. Almost 50 of those named were Saudi nationals.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Danny Makki, co-founder of Syrian Youth in Britain to further discuss the issue. He is joined by two additional guests: Ala’a Ebrahim, journalist and political analyst from the Syrian capital city of Damascus and Jihad Muracadeh, political analyst from Lebanese capital city of Beirut. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Almost on a daily basis there are terrorist attacks and bombings in Syria and usually some civilians are killed. Of course Damascus says that insurgents are behind it and then the opposition says that the government is responsible; but let us look at it in general. We have to always look at which side, actually, benefits, if you want to say benefit, from these types of daily acts of violence there in your perspective?

Makki: well, to start off, not the Syrian government nor the opposition are really benefiting from what is happening. What we are witnessing now is a continued indefensible criminal act of terrorism. This is the new phase of Syrian crisis and this is what the armed opposition are perpetrating against the Syrian population and the Syrian government.

The latest of which was the explosion in Homs which killed up to 15 innocent individuals. We have to understand and comprehend that the majority of the people who are dying in this conflict are civilians and these terrorist attacks against the Syrian infrastructure are directly targeted at killing innocent civilians and this is both reprehensible and can be deemed as a war crime but the biggest problem is we have to hold the regional powers, who support and arm the Syrian opposition, responsible for these acts of criminality and when I say this I mean Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Turkey who through the funding of these armed militias and these al-Qaeda rebels in Syria are essentially continuing the Syria crisis.

The so-called Syrian"rebels", who are also supported by regional actors and regional powers, who also have foreign fighters and jihadists, have been targeting schools, hospitals, civilian infrastructures, government infrastructures, government institutions; they have been executing civilians, they have been executing journalists and they have been executing every person who does not support their criminality.

This is very clear and we can also point to the presence of foreign fighters as the external factor within the Syria crisis. The Syrian government has been killed recently up to 150 foreign fighters who were not Syrian.

Even Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and the Arab League peace envoy to Syria, has stated that there are up to 5000 foreign fighters fighting in Syria. So this is not necessarily a struggle within Syria, an ethnic or a sectarian struggle, it is a regional struggle between the regional powers and the fact that this terrorism is happening is because the direct support for the armed opposition by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

Press TV: Our guest in [Jihad Muracadeh] is saying that the majority of the people in the world or countries in the world do not even recognize the legitimacy of the Syrian government. Your take on that?

Makki: Let’s just be very, very honest. The Syrian government is not bombing peaceful pro-democracy protesters who are holding olive branches; they are bombing rebels who are supported by regional powers, who have very strong links to al-Qaeda, who have very strong links to all the Islamist groups in the region, who are funded and armed and backed by the West and who seek…, some seek an Islamic state, some seek the destruction of the Syrian government.

Jibhat al-Nusrah is essentially a branch of al-Qaeda which is working within Syria and we have seen lots of terrorist atrocities, which have been taking place by Jibhat al-Nusrah and have been claimed that this is an act of Jibhat al-Nusrah.

Most of the explosions in Damascus have been carried out by extremists. The majority of the suicide bombers who are blowing themselves up on Damascus are not Syrian but are sent from other Arab countries, who are jihadists, and we have to comprehend the hypocrisy of this, because this is terrorism and they should be recognized, internationally, as acts of terrorism and the hypocrisy of the Western states in dealing with this is the fact that the West waged the ten-year war against terror in the name of humanity and in the name of fighting al-Qaeda ….

Press TV: What about that [what the previous guest from Damascus just mentioned] Mr. Makki? Looking at that division, what do you think is the goal behind of trying to divide Syria? Because as our guest in Damascus [Mr. Ebrahim] said there have been reference to this by many different entities. What do you think the overall goal of this would be?

Makki: First I agree with your guest in Damascus and I would just like to say that dividing Syria has been on the West’s agenda for the last 40 years, not necessarily throughout the Arab Spring or before this, it has been there for over 40 years because Syria has not submitted to Western hegemony, because Syria has not submitted to the rule of the West and does not have a moderate pro-Western government which allows the American interests in the region.

If we look at the Middle East, almost every single state is under the auspices or the hegemony of the United States of America apart from the Syrian state, because the Syrian state is a revolutionary state against the Western imperialism and against Western hegemony.

It is against post-colonialism and it is essentially a state which supports its own sovereignty. It is the only state in the Middle East which actually does submit to the aspirations of its own people but I just like to make one point, which you made previously; the West waged a ten-year war against terror in the name of fighting al-Qaeda. They killed millions in the process of doing this, yet they support the same terrorists in Syria. Is not this a hypocrisy of the great scale or magnitude?

I mean if we had armed groups in America going round, executing people and chanting Allahu Akbar [Arabic term meaning God id great] would the American government not act, would something not be done?

What we have to comprehend is that the West when they deal with the Syrian crisis, they have an unethical foreign policy because they always take interests over values. Now of the West truly adheres to democracy and humanitarianism within Syria, they would stop the funding and arming of these armed groups and take a stance, which is based on values…