Thursday, March 26, 2015

Christians support Assad but Harper doesn't

According to today's (26 March 2015) Ottawa Citizen ragspaper, P. #A1, "Prime Minister Stephen Harper brushed aside questions Wednesday about Canada's legal right to bomb Syria, ridiculing the opposition by saying he wasn't worried about "lawmakers from ISIL taking the government of Canada to court." and "The government says it will not seek the Syrian government's permission to drop bombs, given its view that Bashar Assad has lost legitimacy as Syrian president."

But, according to the report found here: - all the Christian Arabs remaining in Syria support Assad.

A Syrian rebel looks at damaged display cases inside a former church turned into a film museum that was shelled by government forces in Aleppo's old city, Jan. 17, 2013. (photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Aleppo's Christians see regime as last hope

The conflict in Syria entered its fifth year this month, and many parts of the country and their inhabitants are hardly recognizable. This is true of the war-torn city of Aleppo, my hometown, with its mosaic of religious, social and ethnic groups who have all had to deal with the harsh realities and horrors of war on a daily basis. To gauge the sentiment of one such community, I paid a visit to a quaint part of town. Siryan Adeemeh, or Old Siryan, is an elevated area in the regime-controlled west of Aleppo. A working-class neighborhood home to Christian Arabs of several denominations, Siryan Adeemeh is also inhabited by a sizable Muslim and Kurdish population. It's one of the few areas of Aleppo where churches outnumber mosques, and communal relations had always been jovial and friendly, as could be seen while strolling its maze-like narrow streets, lined with markets, cafes, sandwich shops, bars and liquor stores. But as the conflict took its toll, the atmosphere grew perceptibly edgier and increasingly paranoid.

Siryan Adeemeh sits within sight of the rebel-held areas of Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafieh, less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away, and has been on the receiving end of indiscriminate rebel shelling, the most recent of which killed and wounded several people last month. The fear of shelling is ever-present, but just in case one briefly forgets about it, loud explosions and gunfire from the nearby fronts are there to remind you. The din of generators and stench of diesel fumes are your constant companions here, as is the crazy driving of the military pickups rushing dangerously along the main road.
Against this backdrop I went to see Abu Fadi, a middle-aged man, tanned with silver hair and sharp dark eyes — a striking appearance to match his striking personality. He was the de facto mayor of his neighborhood, the go-to guy for news, stories and gossip, a figure much liked and respected by his Christian community and beyond.
As we sat on chairs and wooden stools in one of the back alleys that crisscross this peculiar neighborhood, a few of Abu Fadi's neighbors, mostly middle-aged men, joined us. The mood was gloomy as darkness fell. This was the way the residents had always socialized, sitting together outside their homes, their front doors open. But all talk and gossip these days is about the war — and rumors, lots of rumors. Abu Fadi did not need much prodding. He talked candidly, almost continuously. "We no longer fear speaking out — that was long ago,” he explained. “And we have no other way to express our frustration.”
I asked Abu Fadi about the impact of the conflict on his community, and the prevalent sentiment. “Everything has changed,” he replied, his tone more somber. “Before the war, we [the Christians of Aleppo] were secure as a community, but now we live in fear for our continued existence in Syria. It has never been this way, not in anyone’s living memory. We are feeling persecuted in our own country.”
“So many of our young people left. There are only children and old people now, but can you blame them? Look at the situation here, the conditions are awful. It is dangerous. There are bombs and bullets falling everywhere, and there is no work and no money and everything is so expensive. Is this a proper and dignified life? The young have ambitions, while we are glued to our land and resigned to our fates. They want to go to Europe to start a new life and have better futures. Our community is dying out. If the war doesn’t kill it, emigration will.”
I asked him how he felt about the warring camps in Syria, whom he supports and why. He answered, “There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.”
“Why do you feel this way? Aren’t there armed groups and an opposition that are not extremists and represent other Syrians and their legitimate interests, too?” Al-Monitor asked.
"No, not anymore," he said. "You see, at the beginning, some welcomed the protests because they felt it might get the government to fix the problems, you know, like the corruption and other important issues and reforms, like an alarm bell to wake them up. But we soon saw this is not what it was about. They just wanted to take power at any cost; they will destroy Syria to do that. They soon showed their true faces, the religious extremism they were hiding. Anyone who took up arms against the state is wrong.”
“Is this just the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda and the foreign fighters, or all? Many groups are local ones,” Al-Monitor said.
“You mean the local ones throwing their rockets at our houses?” he laughed, mockingly. “What difference does it make? Look, we are targeted now as a religious community; this is very clear to us. They want to get rid of us, drive us from our lands that we have inhabited for centuries. They have destroyed churches. Look at Kassab and Maaloula, do you need further proof?”
“In that case, why do you not take up arms to defend yourselves, like the Assyrians did in Hasakah?”
“It is a different case,” he replied. "There they are fighting IS, so there is acceptance for them to form their own militias. They will even get international support for doing this. Here, it is different in Aleppo. If we want to fight we must join government formations and we are called shabiha thugs. It’s all about global politics. But many have joined up anyway.”
Abu George, a neighbor, cut in, “My nephew died fighting for the government and defending Aleppo against those terrorists. We consider him a martyr and a hero, even if those countries outside and the UN consider him a regime shabiha.” Judging by the nods around him, this seemed to be a widely shared view.
"What do you think the future holds for your community?” Al-Monitor asked.
“We are not optimistic. Even if the war ends, the scars will not heal and trust will not come back. Life will not be normal again, and those who left will never return. I just hope to die and be buried on my land, and not be driven out. This is all I want now.”
As I bid the group of men farewell, I could not help but think that despite what Abu Fadi had said about no longer fearing speaking out, this was not really the case, at least not if you’re criticizing the government in public. It was clear enough, though, that people here genuinely felt the incumbent regime was their last hope.
Regardless, hints of dissent and disillusion were always present in the conversation, from the sarcastic ridiculing of the ineptitude and corruption of the city’s officials, to the vitriol about shortages and corruption in distributing rations and skyrocketing prices.
Not surprisingly, this anger was seldom, if ever, directed at the top of Syria’s ruling hierarchy. Interestingly, very little was spoken about the menacing presence of the many non-local armed men and their armed trucks that now dot the area. Abu Fadi did concede they were a problem — an annoyance, as he put it — but said the worst they do is take items from shops without paying. Maybe he considered this an informal war tax to which they had begrudgingly acquiesced.

Read more:

Besides, who is Stephen Harper to unilaterally declare a foreign government has "lost legitimacy!"?

Is Stephen Harper the United Nations by himself? Is he imitating Barry "Let's illegally bomb Libya!" Obama?

And exactly who in the region does Harper believe may have gained "legitimacy" in Assad's stead - ISIS itself, or maybe some mythical band of "Free Syrian Army Moderates"?!

Since Harper still manages to get some things right at least half the time (he's taking some action in Syria, after all, compared to the socialist Mulcair's outright refusal, and Trudeau's insistence we only for instance send ISIS' Yazidi rape victims some blankets and counsellors to help them deal with their situation after the fact) so it's likely he's only stupid, and not fully evil as they are.

Stupid people get some things right on occasion, just by accident, while evil people remain 100% wrong.

It's a sad day indeed when Canadians must choose between the stupid and the truly evil to 'lead' us.


More (And another HT to 1389Blog) from here:

Religious leaders say Isis persecution of Iraqi Christians has become genocide

Calls for UK to give asylum to those fleeing violence come as Syrian Kurdish fighters resisting jihadist attacks appeal for help

Patriarch Louis Sako
 The Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic church, Patriarch Louis Sako, says Iraqi Christians face a 'human catastrophe'. PR

Isis's persecution of Iraqi Christians, which has already forced tens of thousands of men, women and children to flee for their lives, is fast becoming a genocide, religious leaders have warned.
Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that Isis's capture of Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city, had marked a turning point for Christians in the country.
"Now we consider it genocide – ethnic cleansing," he said. "They are killing our people in the name of Allah and telling people that anyone who kills a Christian will go straight to heaven: that is their message. They have burned churches; they have burned very old books. They have damaged our crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary. They are occupying our churches and converting them into mosques."
The archbishop, who leads the Syriac Orthodox church in the UK, urged the UK government to open the country's doors to those fleeing the violence. "We are dying, 100%," he said. "The British government needs to help people and to give them asylum. If they stay here, they will be killed."
His pleas were echoed by Patriarch Louis Sako, the Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic church, who said that about 100,000 Christians had abandoned their villages in the Nineveh plains earlier this week after Isis launched mortar attacks. He asked the EU and the UN to help them before it was too late.
"They fled their villages and houses [with] nothing but … the clothes on their backs," he said in a statement to the charity Aid to the Church in Need. "[It is] an exodus, a real via crucis; Christians are walking on foot in Iraq's searing summer heat towards the Kurdish cities of Irbil, Duhok and Soulaymiyia, the sick, the elderly, infants and pregnant women among them. They are facing a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide."
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, described Isis's treatment of Christian, Yazidi and other communities as "a persecution of immense proportions" and urged the UK government to act.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also called on the UK to follow other European governments by helping to protect Iraq's Christians and other minorities.
"It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety," he said.
"I believe that, like France, the UK's doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history."
However, Wilson Jaso, president of the UK Assyrian Society, was deeply pessimistic about the international community's slow response to the persecution.
"If we're not protected soon, there'll be none of us left in the country – which is our country – and no churches," he said.
"Obama has to act, as simple as that. The problem is that the Christians don't have oil. If we had oil, everyone would protect us."Urgent appeals for help also came from the leader of the Syrian Kurdish party whose fighters are resisting jihadist attacks in northern Iraq.
Saleh Mohamed, co-president of the Democratic Union party who is in London for meetings this week, said the DUP was "begging for any kind of support from anyone who can help us".
Syrian Kurdish fighters, who control the north-east of the country, have sent units across the border into neighbouring Iraq where they are supporting tens of thousands of refugees from the Yazidi minority community who have fled into the mountains near Sinjar.
The military wing of the Syrian Kurds, the Peoples Protection Units, had crossed over, Mohamed said, to help local Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Iraq who are facing Isis jihadists.
"These people want to change everything back to the way it was 1,500 years ago," he said. "We knew it was dangerous for Sinjar and the Yazidis. Isis fighters view them as unbelievers but the Kurdish regional government [in Irbil] withdrew their forces."
He said his party had warned the US and the UK six months ago that Isis was planning attacks. "No one took us seriously. [But] now the jihadists have advanced weapons and money, they can do what they want on their own."
Things had reached such a critical point that his organisation was know seeking support from anyone who was willing to step in, he said. "Without political conditions, we will accept help from anyone if they have an interest in defending freedom and humanitarian values. We have asked the Foreign Office in London for help."
Save the Children described the speed of the displacement caused by the Isis advance as unprecedented, adding that thousands of families had entered the Kurdistan region of Iraq from Qaraqosh in the last 48 hours. That exodus came days after almost 200,000 people fled Sinjar. According to the charity, 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced in the past two months since the fighting began, placing the humanitarian relief effort under huge pressure.
"I have never known such a rapid moment of displacement," said its Iraq country director, Tina Yu. "We're seeing children and families who've fled their homes, often in the middle of the night, fearing for their lives and with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
"When they find somewhere safe to shelter they often don't have the means to buy basic necessities like food and medicine, and they don't know if their lives will ever be the same again."