BBC: New Protests in Hama after Syria’s Crackdown leaves hundreds dead

 

Tens of thousands of people have protested across Syria, days after the bloody crackdown on the city of Hama where the opposition had taken control. Video said to be of Damascus showed crowds in a central district chanting: “Hama, we are with you until death” and “[President] Bashar [al-Assad] leave”.

In a suburb of the city, at least four protesters were shot dead by security forces on Friday, reports say. In a broadcast from Hama, State TV said the city was under government control.  Hama residents and human rights groups accuse the army of killing more than 100 civilians in a bombardment of the city, a focus of the protests against Mr Assad’s rule.

As many as 2,000 people may have been killed by security forces since opponents of President Assad’s autocratic rule took to the streets in March. Protesters were inspired by the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Mr Assad has promised reforms, but blames the violence on “armed criminal gangs” backed by unspecified foreign powers. Access to events in Syria has been severely restricted for international journalists and it is rarely possible to verify accounts by witnesses and opposition activists.

Marching in the heat

Activists had called for more protests after prayers on Friday, with one web user posting a message saying: “God is with us, are you?” Video posted by activists purports to show protesters marching through the Midan district of the Syrian capital, close to the Old City. Clapping their hands, they chanted, “We don’t want you Bashar”.

In another district of the capital, Qadam, protesters carried a banner reading: “Bashar is slaughtering the people and the international community is silent.”  Security forces opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas in several cities, activists said.  At least four people were reportedly killed in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, with a further 10 wounded.

Abdel Karim Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, told AFP news agency that 30,000 people had marched in the city of Deir al-Zour despite extreme heat. Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused security forces of killing some 2,000 people since March. Residents of Hama, which has become a focal point of protests, told reporters that there had been more gunfire and shelling early on Friday.

Snipers and tanks have been firing on civilians and food and medicine supplies are running low, witnesses say. But the Syrian TV report showed pictures of armed men hiding behind cars and claimed the army had quelled a rebellion. The report showed deserted streets with flimsy barricades and piles of rubble. Later, the reporter went into buildings that appeared to have been destroyed in an explosion.

The UN Security Council issued a statement this week condemning the crackdown.  Russia, traditionally an ally of Syria, also joined the criticism, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying Mr Assad would “face a sad fate” unless he urgently carried out reforms and reconciled with the opposition.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says Mr Medvedev’s statement may give the government pause for thought, but there has been no change in the attitude on the ground.

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INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO: Rhymefest- Stolen

Lyrics:
In London I met a rebel leader from Sierra Leon
Told me he like 50 Cent and ask what was he on
I don’t really know him fam, but what you doin here, damn!
He said he was a student, came to London after the war
Shortly before the peace began.
He was only like 5’10’ but you could the shit he had been
Long-sleeve, short-sleeve severed the head
City of God City of Man
Mother raped in front of his eyes his father had his face smashed in
 
In London I met a rebel leader from Sierra Leon
Toald me he loved Jay-Z and asked what was he on
I only met him once or twice, I couldn’t even tell you what he like
This dudes eyes wasn’t white,  they was yellowish
From the deeds that he done that was devilish
Raping village, gutting babies like jellyfish
For the diamonds that I wear what kind of hell is this!
 
After my show I met a girl from Rwanda who was a Tutsi
She said that she loved my swag, real tall pretty nose like a pose
But when she met my homey she got mad
I asked, how you feel inside?
She said have you ever been through a genocide
Have you ever been through a genocide,
Hiding in the closet with the devil on the other side
Your people cant breath cant move,
Dirty clothes, no watter no food,
Death rules consume you, God endooms you,
And one little closet entombs you
You wouldn’t know unless it happened to you too
Why all your fuckin friends look like Hutus
 
But could that really be called war
 if we was colonized by a country from offshore
Occupied by a people we all for
Uncertainty what you getting this start for
Its no way, no answer no lies, just questions WHY?

NY Times: In Libya, Boys try to join fight against Gaddafi


RAS LANUF, Libya — The bullet the boy held was bigger than his hand. He said he was 15, but then admitted he was 14, and frankly, he looked a year or two younger than that. When an enemy warplane approached, sending the gunmen around him scrambling for cover, the boy, with placid poise, stood and watched. His friends called him the “smallest soldier.”

“I got here yesterday,” Ali Abdul Karim said Wednesday, after the threat of an airstrike had passed. He left home in Benghazi this week without telling his mother and hitched a ride south with some fighters. At a rebel checkpoint here — one of the most dangerous places in Libya — he sat on the porch of a mess hall and played in the dirt with his bullet, near boxes of ammunition and an antiaircraft gun.

As Ali watched, men with machine guns drove pickup trucks toward the battle with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s troops. “I’m hoping to fight,” he said.  Dozens of Libyan teenagers traveled to Ras Lanuf this week, trying to help rebel fighters with their ultimately failed attempt to keep control of this oil town, a strategic prize. Among the doctors and former policemen who made eager volunteers and the stoic soldiers, the youngsters searched for Kalashnikovs and a way to get to the front lines.

This was no lark. In its opening moments, young men fueled the Libyan revolt, facing Colonel Qaddafi’s guns with stones from Tobruk to Tripoli. This week, with the revolution threatened and the rebels losing ground on two fronts, the young men said they felt needed again, even if there was really no way to help.

Like older brothers, adult fighters told boys to stay away from the front. Jomaah Attiya, 15, sat at the hospital in Ras Lanuf as a young medical student checked his pulse. The boy, woozy with a headache, had spent the day at the entrance to the city, with the fighters, after leaving his home near Benghazi without a weapon or a word to his family.

The medical student, Abdel Karim Talhi, had also come to fight, but said there was no way Jomaah was going forward. The boy, who wore an olive drab sweater, had other ideas. “It’s not dangerous,” he said. “I’ll go if God says yes.” Outside the hospital, near lists of dead resistance fighters taped to a window, a group of young men from Benghazi sat on a wall, as if they were loitering back in their neighborhoods and not sitting a few miles away from approaching artillery shells. They had been in Ras Lanuf for four days. Unable to join the battle, they simply channeled the weariness and bravado of fighters. One of them said he could use a shower.

Another young man had brought a knife. “This, I’ll put in Muammar,” said Mohammed al-Aguilli, 21. Next to him, Yussuf Fargui, 17, said he had bid his mother goodbye before he left home on the outskirts of Benghazi. A deep anger brought him to Ras Lanuf; his father had been a political detainee at Abu Slim prison in Tripoli, killed along with more than a thousand other inmates by security forces in 1996.

“I’m not afraid,” he said. “Someday, I’ll die.” By the front doors of the hospital, Ajdallah Awad, 18, watched over a 16-year-old friend. “We started with peaceful demonstrations,” he said. “But this wasn’t Tunis or Egypt. Hopefully, God is with us.” Inside the hospital, even the doctors seemed too young. Dr. Salem Al Warfalli, 24 and just out of medical school, roamed through a gynecological clinic that had been turned into a trauma center. It was emptied of patients early Wednesday after the nurses fled and water to the city was cut off. He had treated bullet wounds and seen amputations. “I came from Benghazi to help the doctors,” he said. “We all want Qaddafi to leave us.”

Hours later, the hospital was filled with fighters again. By Thursday, boys watching Al Jazeera in a Benghazi cafe were learning that the rebels were losing Ras Lanuf. Ignoring the latest soccer results and their girlfriends, they huddled together, making grave plans. They would need cars, weapons and stories to tell their distraught parents. Boys and young men, some too young to drive, marry or work, prepared themselves to die.

Anas al-Bakoush, 22, said the latest news had left him “broken and depressed.” He and his friends had spent the morning at the courthouse in Benghazi, the headquarters of the resistance. After coffee, they would head back to the courthouse, in a cycle of protest and respite that marked their days. Mr. Bakoush, in his second year in college, said he might fight if his older brother went. At the same time, he worried about leaving his parents and his younger brother.

Nearby, Hamza Mahfoudh, 27, and his brother, Taher, 22, had both made visits to Ras Lanuf. Both wanted to return, though Hamza said he would try to prevent his brother from going. He understood why that would be hard to do. “It doesn’t feel right to just stay here,” the older brother said. “He’s scared for me,” Taher said.

Like all of their friends, their lives were being transformed, their conversations now filled with the details of battles over faraway ground. A month ago, Hamza Mahfoudh worked in a Taco Bell in Missouri and was studying for the G.M.A.T., the Graduate Management Admissions Test. “I came back for a visit, and I got stuck,” he said. “I couldn’t leave my family.”

But he planned to, as soon as he found weapons and a car. “It’s everyone’s duty to go,” he said. On a street near the courthouse, a group of children tagged along after a soldier who was riding on the back of a pickup truck, his hands wrapped around the handles of a large machine gun.

Nearby, there were signs of normal teenage life. Boys huddled around an area for women in front of the courthouse, flirting with some girls there. Elsewhere, teenagers tried to make a few dinars hawking flags and revolutionary stickers. Mustafa Amdawij, 57, walked near the courthouse with two of his sons. He lived in the city of Brega, near Ras Lanuf, and had brought his children because he “needed them to see this festival.

It’s freedom,” he said. “I was born in 1954. I’ve already enjoyed it. They don’t know it.” His eldest son, a 21-year old, was not with them, because he had gone to Ras Lanuf to fight. “I encouraged him to go,” his father said. “If these young men don’t go, who goes?”

Radical Squatters: Libyan and English Protestors take over Gaddafi’s London Home

Saif Gaddafi's house in Hamsptead seized by protesters

What does a dictator’s house look like? In a leafy Hampstead cul-de-sac, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi owns a £10m mansion. The London base of the Libyan dictator’s son is held by a company based in the British Virgin Islands for tax reasons, and boasts a swimming pool, a private cinema – and, now, a dozen activists squatting in the living room.

Yesterday, with more reports coming in of government thugs spilling rebel blood on the streets of Zawiya, a group of young people entered the empty mansion. They secured the entrances, taped up a notice stating their right to hold the property under British common law, and moved in. They flung banners from the windows reading “solidarity” in English and Arabic.

“We’re opening this space as an embassy for the Benghazi government, and as a place to house refugees fleeing the tyranny,” one activist told me. “How long are we going to be here?”, said another young man in the darkened front room. “As long as it takes.”

The occupation of space has gone way beyond a student prank, although there is an element of mischief to it. The young people who have taken Gaddafi’s gaff are a loosely affiliated group of radicals calling themselves Topple the Tyrants. They include student protesters, Libyan citizens and members of UK Uncut. “We are not here to cause any damage,” said a Libyan occupier. “Why would we? It’s our house! It belongs to the Libyan people. We’re here to make sure it isn’t sold to finance more killing.”

For months, activists across Britain have been reclaiming the dead investment space of the wealthy, setting up refuges, community centres and free schools in empty properties including a London mansion belonging to film director Guy Ritchie. Starting with the university occupations in November, the political appropriation of space has become a great deal more serious, from temporary symbolic occupations of town halls and bank branches across the country by local people protesting against public service cuts, to longer term projects.

Organising online, these activists are gaining skills and building networks at great speed. With ruling elites across the world ensuring there is no room for the young, the poor and the unemployed in their own cities, the drive to reclaim space has now become a global movement. A number of Libyans are now living in Gaddafi’s mansion, along with British students and workers.

Many of these radical squatters see themselves as offering a moral and practical response to a government that consistently values private property before people. Much of the media has portrayed them as spoiled kids, selfishly inconveniencing hardworking home owners with their high jinks. That argument becomes harder to make, however, when the homeowner in question has financed his property empires by exploiting a population which is now being slaughtered with British-made weapons. Now, more than ever, it is clear that not every property tycoon deserves his bounty.

Squatting empty buildings is legal, although the government is keen to criminalise it. It is also a reasonable course of action in a country where almost a million properties are empty, and a million citizens are homeless or precariously housed. Until now, the police have largely refused to see it that way, and thrown their weight behind evictions of the new occupation movement.

This time the police have given the squatters little trouble, writing off the matter as a civil issue. If the dictator’s son wants his house cleared, he will need a court order. Meanwhile, inside the mansion, dissidents from the Libyan international solidarity campaign are calling their families in Tripoli in gleeful tears, telling them that activists across the world are on their side, and this occupation proves it.

 It is hard to imagine who would tell bailiffs to drag Libyan citizens out of the private property of the Gaddafi regime – particularly at a time when our government is kicking sand over its catalogue of fawning support for the dictatorship. The occupation of private property is one of the proudest traditions of resistance in Britain.

In 1649, the Diggers occupied St George’s Hill in Surrey, declaring that they would no longer allow landowners to fleece the poor. “By theft and murder they took the land,” sang the Diggers. Watching protest banners flapping from the window of the Libyan dictator’s occupied mansion, those words echoed in my mind.

Out of Libya, out of London!” screams one banner, weighted down with coat hangers that clatter in the wind. For men like Gaddafi and his supporters in the British government, the hoarding of profit and property is a global business. Now, solidarity and resistance have also gone global.

Sovereigns of the Week: Indian Students from Bihar India

As reported on BBC.

Devendra Ram was overjoyed when he first saw a factory being built near his village in Bihar.  It was an asbestos factory and the villagers were told it would provide jobs in Muzaffarpur district, an area where farm incomes had long been dwindling. But then the children of the village got involved.

Mr Ram’s teenage son, Hare Krishna, told him about what he had learned in school. In his biology and chemistry lessons at the government-run school, he found out about the harmful effects of asbestos. On hearing that an asbestos factory was going to be built in their village, Hare Krishna and other students launched a protest. They told their farmer parents about the potentially deadly nature of asbestos.

Then they too got involved in the campaign against the factory. The protests against the factory have been so fierce that construction work has come to a temporary halt.

Protest movement

It has been an acrimonious battle. Police fired on protesting villagers last month, injuring three farmers. More than 24 people have been injured in baton charges. Campaigners say this could be the first time that students have launched a protest movement on the back of lessons learned in school. It is remarkable, not just for the vociferous nature of the protest but also because this is a poor, remote area with high levels of illiteracy.

Villager Vinod Kumar Singh said his teenage daughter, Sonam, took the lead in convincing her mother and other women in the village. “She literally forced us to oppose the set-up of the factory,” he said.

 Sonam says she will not stop educating villagers “until everybody comes out to oppose” the factory. “If the government allows the factory they should first burn our school books in which they teach us about the deadly effects of asbestos,” said Sonam. Villagers surrounding her clapped and nodded vigorously in agreement. The movement has caught the attention of India’s environmentalists and prominent social workers, including Medha Patkar.

And India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has sought details about the factory from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Mr Kumar said a consensus must be built across the country on the use of asbestos. Meanwhile, the schoolchildren of Muzaffarpur are demonstrating every day to make people aware of the hazardous effects of the “asbestos dust”.

Fears unfounded

But a manager at the company setting up the factory says the fears of the villagers are unfounded. “There are no protests against the factories in these areas. Unlike blue asbestos, white asbestos is harmless. The villagers are being mis-informed,” he said.

One form of asbestos, white asbestos, is widely used in the developing world, but is banned on health grounds in many industrialised countries. The World Health Organisation says it too is associated with diseases such as mesothelioma, lung and other cancers, but its promoters say it is safe if used properly.

But the villagers are not satisfied with Mr Tiwari’s explanations. They say that school text books approved by the Bihar government itself show that all forms of asbestos are not only harmful but also cause deadly diseases such as cancer. “Come what may, we will not allow the factory to come up,” the villagers chanted in unison.