[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Syria and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Syria Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week`s roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday night of every week.]
Regional and International Perspectives
Geneva II (The second round of talks began on 10 February)
No Stability in Syria Without Political Change Thomas Pierret explains why the results of the Geneva peace conference “are meager. Despite an evacuation of civilians from Homs, there has been no visible progress on the issue for which the conference was officially convened: negotiating a “transitional governing body” able to move Syria from rule by President Bashar al-Assad and his family toward a more inclusive and internally stable political system.”
Exclusive: Opposition plan for post-war Syria ignores Assad Khaled Yacoub Oweis reports that “the Syrian opposition called on Wednesday for a transitional governing body to oversee a U.N.-monitored ceasefire across Syria and expel foreign fighters, in a paper that avoided any mention of President Bashar al-Assad.”
Boxed-in over Syria Brian Whitaker explains why Russia “is now playing down expectations regarding its influence in Damascus.”
Who’s to blame for failed Syrian peace talks, and what’s next? “Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma join Jeffrey Brown to discuss their reactions to the first round of Syrian peace talks, the delays for the Assad regime in destroying chemical weapons and what’s next for both diplomacy and the war.”
Russia’s Influence in Syria: The Million Ruble Question Aron Lund says “there is little evidence, and less likelihood, that Russia could force Assad to resign if the Syrian president makes it clear that he would rather bring the regime down with him than leave office.”
Geneva II: The Popular Reaction and Bloody Results for Syrian Civilians The Syrian Observer points out that “hungry and exhausted families in the besieged areas were following Geneva conference as a ray of hope”
The Paths of Geneva 2 and its Talks Louay Hussein writes: “The outcome of Geneva 2 could be summarized in only one result: talks without a clear topic between the regime and a weak delegation representing the Syrian National Coalition.”
Spotlight on Geneva while Syria Sinks in the Quicksands An Arab Reform Initiative report prepared by Bassma Kodmani and Félix Legrand.
Geneva II: Change in Light of Continuity In this piece from al-Hayat translated by the Syrian Observer, Ibrahim Hamidi says “the U.S. and Russia have agreed on what`s needed, but it is up to the Syrian parties to find out how to get there”
Syrian Torture: What the US Must Do David Luban says “the report’s release just as the Geneva peace talks began seems like a move to weaken the Syrian government’s bargaining position.”
Interview: British Envoy Says Syrian Unity Is Priority “With the next round of talks at the Geneva II conference just around the corner, Al-Akhbar interviewed John Wilkes, Britain’s envoy to Syria, during his visit to Beirut.”
The Useful Failure of Geneva II: Washington Finds Alternative to Assad Sami Kleib argues that “the most important result of Geneva II is its failure. Now, it is time to prepare better for the second round of negotiations, which might fail, too. The failure will likely continue until Russia and the United States agree on what the political solution will look like. Until the solution is ripe and ready, it is alright to administer some over-the-counter pain medicine and pretend that the cancer is being cured.”
Syrian opposition adds rebel figures to Geneva delegation, which now includes “the Syrian Rebels Front, led by Jamal Maarouf, which has been active against the al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Syria, and rebels from the southern province of Deraa”
NCC at the Station: Shall we take the train to Geneva? “Observers note that the "expansion of the opposition`s delegation" is for various reasons, starting with the delegation`s inadequacy and its weak representation,” writes Elie Hanna.
Syrian opposition cites `momentum` after Geneva talks reports Antoun Issa.
Geneva II: The popular reaction and bloody results for Syrian civilians “Hungry and exhaused families in the besieged areas were following Geneva conference as a ray of hope,” says the Syrian Observer.
How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp Mac McLelland offers a detailed and rather positive review of the conditions found in the Syrian refugee camps in Turkey.
NGOs Open Special Schools for Syrians in Turkey Mehveş Evin points out that more resources are needed to cope with the massive number of refugees.
Syrians in Jordan Face Hardship Being Assimilated Milia Eidmouni writes about the discrimination Syrians suffer from in Jordan.
Syria’s Civil War and the World’s Oldest Refugee Behzad Yaghmaian meets with a 107 year-old Syrian refugee now residing in Athens after a perilous journey at sea.
A Refugee Story: Abu Majd “Refugees from the Golan, Abu Majd and his family have moved from Lebanon, to Egypt. He tried smuggling to Europe, only to arrive in Turkey where he is still looking for work,” reports the Syrian Observer.
Armenians in Syria, After the Conflict Racha Abi Haidar provides a glimpse into the lives of Syrian Armenians, many of whom have fled to Armenia.
Isolating the Islamic State Aron Lund explains how “senior militants and clerics are now lining up to isolate and undermine the ISIL in a drastic shift brought about in part by a junior Saudi jihadi preacher by the name of Abdullah al-Mohaisany.”
Al-Qaeda disavows ISIS in Syria Aron Lund offers his analysis following the Al-Qaeda statement, and suggests that “this split between the ISIL and the Nusra Front, which took place in April 2013, set in motion the process that now, after almost a year, has resulted in brutal infighting in northern Syria, with the ISIL and the Nusra Front on different sides. But it also forced al-Qaeda to finally come clean about what may have been the reality for quite a while: it no longer seems to have an Iraqi wing.”
A Public Service Announcement From Al-Qaeda A summary by Pieter Van Ostaeyen, which includes the Al Qaeda statement, translated by Iraqi Witness.
The Assad Regime and Jihadis: Collaborators and Allies? Aymenn al-Tamimi offers his analysis on the allegations that the jihadi groups in Syria are collaborating with the Syrian regime.
Inside Baseball on syrian Rebel Infighting Aron Zelin suggests tat “the infighting could become a larger liability for the rebels who are actively fighting on two fronts with enemies that play by their own rules. Expect more infighting, with ISIS as a leading actor trying to force ceasefires on its own terms, even if ostracized.”
“Does the Truce Between ISIS and Suqour al-Sham Mean an End to Syria’s Inter-Rebel War?” By Daniel Abdallah, who asks: “Has the newly brokered truce between rebel militias in Syria ended the fighting that began in earnest on 3 January 2014?”
Syrian Kurds recruit regime loyalists to fight jihadists, reports Andrea Glioti.
Syrian Kurds Want to Sell Oil Via Turkey Namik Durukan interviews the co-chair of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Syrian Kurds Courting Turkmens Amberin Zaman argues that the future role of Syrian Turkmens depends their on alliance with Kurds.
By Royal Orders: Saudis Abandon Their Fighters Fouad al-Ibrahim says this is a “decidedly serious indicator of the extent of pressure exerted by the United States, including the threat to cancel the expected visit by President Barack Obama to the kingdom. Yet the story has another dimension: the return of Saudi fighters to their home country.”
Syria Drawn Into Turkey’s Crisis Bayram Balci reflects on the tensions between AKP and the Gulen community, suggesting that, “since December 17, many pro-Gülen media outlets—like the influential daily Turkish newspaper Zaman and its English version Today’s Zaman—have become more critical of Turkish involvement in Syria.”
Turkey-Syria Border Remains Vulnerable According to Tülin Daloğlu, increased patrols along the Turkey-Syria border do not provide full security.
Turkey, Iran Seek Workaround on Syria “Ankara and Tehran are attempting to normalize a relationship put off track by Syria,” writes Fehim Taştekin.
As Syria Crumbles, Israel Woos the Golan Druze Tobias Lang explains how “More than thirty years after its annexation of the Golan Heights, the civil war in Syria seems to have presented Israel with a chance to draw the Druze population of the Golan Heights closer to itself.”
Syria chemical weapons: Kerry asks Russia to hasten removal
Revealed: how Syrian rebels seek medical help from an unlikely source in Israel A report by Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh
Special Report On Hezbollah`s Role In The Yabrud Offensive Brown Moses features “a special report by Elijah J Magnier on the Yabrud Offensive, originally published in Arabic here”
Sectarianism and the Arab revolutions In this piece “Lebanese socialist Bassem Chit rejects claims that sectarianism is a "pre-modern" force and argues it is rooted in the pattern of capitalist development and crisis in the region.”
What can the Syrians learn from the Lebanese? Khalil Gebara argues that “the fact that the Sunnis are a clear majority in Syria is not a major obstacle to reaching a power-sharing agreement similar to the Taif Accord of 1989”
No One is a Winner in War says Rym Ghazal
Orwell was hailed a hero for fighting in Spain. Today he`d be guilty of terrorism George Monbiot writes about “the arbitrary nature of our terrorism laws, the ring they throw around certain acts of violence while ignoring others, the risk that they will be used against brown and bearded people who present no threat.”
“In a special series, Al-Akhbar shares the tales of a few Syrians who have had first-hand experience with the brutal, labyrinthine process of detainment by the regime`s security apparatus, as well as stories of those who have been kidnapped and suffered horribly at the hands of armed groups opposed to the regime. Al-Akhbar cannot independently verify the following accounts.”
PART I Former Syrian Prisoners: In Their Own Voices Yazan al-Saadi recounts the story of Mohammed, “a 35-year-old freelance journalist from Damascus. He was arrested by Syrian security forces in March 2012, and kept in detention for approximately a year and a half. Once he was released in the autumn of 2013, he left to Lebanon.”
PART II Former Syrian Prisoners: In Their Own Voices “Ahmad Zaghloul, 29, is from Damascus. He was working as a purchasing officer for a company before the uprising began in Syria. During the first year of the uprising, he quit his job in order to help the opposition movement. He was arrested twice, and put in detention for approximately three months respectively.”
PART III Former Syrian Prisoners: In Their Own Voices “Keffah Ali Deeb, 32, is an award-winning artist and writer from Damascus. She had been working with the internal opposition organization, the National Coordination Body, during which she was arrested and detained on four separate occasions. After her final arrest, she left Syria and went to Lebanon.”
PART IV Former Syrian Prisoners: In Their Own Voices “Sohaib al-Zoabi, 23, is a dentistry student from Damascus, who was studying at Damascus University. He was arrested by security forces on 15 December 2012, and released more than a year later. He is currently unemployed and residing in Lebanon.”
PART V Former Syrian Prisoners: In Their Own Voices “Yara Saleh, 27, is from Tartous. She is a reporter for ‘al-Ikhbariyah’, the Syrian News Channel. She was kidnapped on 10 August 2012 not far from Damascus by radical armed groups opposed to the Syrian regime. She was held for six days before she was able to escape.”
One on One: Martin Chulov, Middle East Correspondent, The Guardian The Beirut-based journalist speaks to Syria Deeply about “the differences, in both security and narrative, between his first post-conflict trip to the country, in early 2012, and his latest, this past September.”
Starvation: a Twisted Example of the Assad Regime’s Terrorism Matthew Barber provides a news roundup of articles and videos that reveal how starving civilians is being used as a weapon of war.
The early reversal on minorities in Syria Yahya Alsous claims that “during the first two years of the Syrian Revolution, the regime treated the minorities like a polite child who did not make problems.”
Do Young Syrians Still Love? Souad Khibyeh from the Syrian Observer speaks with Syrians and asks them about love under siege conditions.
The Deal in Yarmouk: End of the Tragedy or Empty Words? Racha Abi Haidar reports from Yarmouk.
Syrian Opposition Militants Holed Up in Krak des Chevaliers “Waiting for their Turn” Radwan Mortada reports that “the militants occupying Krak des Chevaliers, the famed crusader castle between Homs and the Mediterranean coast, are anxiously following the battles in the town of Zara, as if they are waiting for their turn to come”.
Syria’s Valley of the Christians Under Fire Firas Choufi reports on the events.
Inside the hellhole of Yarmouk, the refugee camp that shames the world Christopher Gunness, “spokesman for the UN relief effort, says humanitarian aid must be stepped up.”
Syria conflict: Homs aid convoy comes under fire “An aid convoy bringing supplies into the besieged district of the central Syrian city of Homs has come under fire, leaving at least one person hurt.”
Renewed Syria fighting breaks cease-fire in Homs Diaa Hadid reports on how “renewed fighting broke a cease-fire in the embattled central Syrian city of Homs and halted a plan to evacuate civilians and bring supplies into rebel-held areas under siege, an official and activists said Saturday.”
Men Questioned After Escaping Besieged Homs
Homs: Syrian revolution`s `capital` In light of the dangerous developments in Homs, the BBC provides a useful recap of what the civilians have been through since the beginning of the uprising.
Fate of Hundreds of Men Evacuated From Homs and Detained in Doubt Sam Daher reports from Homs, and claims that the men “were transferred to a school called Andalusia in a regime-controlled section of the city. Wives and children of some of these men accompanied them to the school. The men are interrogated by Syrian security forces only to assess the extent of their links to the rebels and whether they have committed any crimes, according to the government.”
Assad Intervenes to Try to Salvage Homs Humanitarian Mission Reporting from Homs, Sam Dagher says “ the mission has been beset by deadly violence, and concern is mounting over the fate of hundreds of men detained by the regime upon their evacuation because they were between the ages of 16-54 and presumed to be combatants.”
Syria: Evacuation in besieged Homs continues amid cease-fire Patrick J. McDonnell also reports similar developments in Homs.
Mutual Anxiety between Displaced and Residents in Tartous Sadeq Abdelrahman explains how, “many IDPs in Tartous live in relatively safe conditions, but from time to time they are exposed to harassment from security forces and militias due to problems connected to aid and the deteriorating economic situation.”
Arts and Social Media
Novelist Khaled Khalifa on breaking the barrier of fear Jana el-Hassan speaks with Syrian author Khaled Khalifa, who won the 2013 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his latest work “No Knives in This City’s Kitchens.”
Social Media Analysis Reveals The Complexities Of Syrian Conflict Researchers suggest that “social media activity in Syria is considerably more convoluted than reported in many other studies of online political activism that find a straightforward polarization effect.”
Yarmouk-Vocal “Reem Kelani was commissioned to write the music for the film "Les Chebabs de Yarmouk" by French director Axel Salvatori-Sinz for Adalios productions.Here is the song as it appears in the film, involving Bruno Heinen on piano and Omar Puente on violin, and including vocals by Reem. The lyrics are by Palestinian poet and son of Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Iyad Hayatleh.”
Syrian Screenwriter Tells Refugees to Stay in Syria Wissam Kanaan is referring to the controversial statement by Halla Diyab on BBC, which can be viewed here. He concludes that “the Syrian crisis proves that some so-called artists don’t mind exploiting the suffering of their own country for a bit of fame, even if it comes with insults and curses.”
The Runaway Minister The Syrian Translators website republishes the encounter between Rami Jarrah and Syrian Information Minister, Dr. al-Zoubi”.
The Syrian Opposition Is Disappearing From Facebook Mike Pizzi on the closure of various Syrian opposition pages.
Policy and Reports
Month-by-Month Summary of Developments in Syria (Updated) The International Crisis Group’s monthly update
Polio and Politics Collide in Syria: Interview with Annie Sparrow, a pediatrician and public health expert who has worked in numerous conflict zones over the last 15 years”, who is worried about this dangerous public health development in Syria.
Economy and Agriculture
Moscow Extends Domination Over Syrian Markets According to Iqtissad, a Syrian economic magazine, “Russia and Syria [are] to sign new billion-dollar deals to finance the export of commodities and oil derivatives”
Announcing the Launch of Syria Studies (Peer-reviewed Open-access Journal) The journal can be accessed here, while the first on-line issue can be read here.
ثلاثة غيلان.. إجرام النظام والسلفيون والجوع - يوسف عبدلكي: ليس في معرضي صراخ سياسي
Ahmad Bazzoun interviews recently released Syrian artist Yousef Abdelki about his latest exhibition which started last wednesday in Beirut.
يوسف عبدلكي في بيروت
Osama Ghanam reflects on Yousef Abdelki’s paintings in his exhibition in Beirut.
"حلب "بوابة الجنة
Rabie Barakat compares the current situation in Aleppo to Berlin in the 60s, when the wall divided the city into West and East Berlin.
مسار التفاوض الموازي
Munther Khaddam writes about two parallel lines of negotiations between the regime and the opposition, one public and the other secretive.
كسب الطرفان وخسرت سوريا
Samir al-Aitah on the success of both sides of the negotiations in Geneva 2 in promoting their image to their respective audience, while Syria remains the loser in the equation.
وسام فايز سارة عُذب حتى الموت في سجون النظام
Annahar reports on the death of Wissam Fayez Sarrah, son of prominent opposition figure Fayez Sarrah, while being tortured in prison.
«إلى أن يحين موعد الجولة الثانية من «جنيف 2
Maataz Hisso is not optimistic about the outcomes of the first round of negotiations in Geneva 2, and on to the next round.
ليس كل ما يلمع ذهباً: تغطية الصحافة الغربيّة للصراع في سوريا
Asad Abukhalil criticizes western media outlets and personnel that are valued and given importance in the Arab media, especially in terms of their coverage of the struggle in Syria.
«وفدا النظام السوري والمعارضة يستأنفان محادثات «جنيف 2
The regime and opposition delegation resume negotiations in Geneva 2.
امتحان جامعة دمشق لطلاب الفنون: أرسم جندياً يرمي قنبلة وبوطاً عسكرياً
Activists have circulated pictures of exam papers given to 4th year Arts students at the University of Damascus. The tasks in the exam included the drawing of a regime soldier throwing a grenade and a military boot.
من داريا إلى «داعش»: صناعة التطرّف الفاحش
Iyad Sharbaji writes about the history of Islamic extremism in the city of Darayya, not very far from the Damascus Rif.
النظام يدير حملة «شعبية» في مناطقه لتأييد بقاء الأسد في السلطة
The regime leads a “popular” campaign calling for the support of al-Asad’s remainder in power in the regions that are under his control
ميشيل كيلو يكشف حقيقة حوار خطير مع بثينه شعبان في حوار جريء جدا بعد مؤتمر جنيف
Michel Kilo reveals an alarming dialogue with Buthayna Shaaban after Geneva 2.
عنزة ولو طارت.. أرابز غوت داعش - الموسم 2 / الحلقة 2
An episode of season two of a show on Youtube called “Anzeh Walaw Taret” (a sheep, even if it flies away). In this episode the host criticizes the practices of ISIS.