Images: Syrians who have been affected by the crisis: some have been victims or related to victims, while one or two have been involved in the armed opposition to the government.
The articles quoted and linked on these “Of Interest” pages come from a variety of sources, including official Syrian news media outlets. They are presented to provoke thinking on the crisis in Syria and a questioning of the narrative which runs through most of the mainstream reporting on Syria. The focus of AMRIS is peace and reconciliation in Syria, which must mean support for a united Syria. These articles are chosen to remind visitors of the critical importance of the work of peace.
Reuters Tues 22 January 2013
Saudi says negotiated Syria settlement “inconceivable”
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday the scale of violence used by Syria’s government when fighting rebels meant a negotiated settlement of the country’s crisis was unthinkable.
“Damascus… which has been a city for the longest period of time, is carpet bombed. How can you conceive of the possibility of a negotiated settlement with somebody who does that to his own country, to his own history, to his own people? It is inconceivable to us,” Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference.
He was speaking after an Arab summit focusing on economic development, which was not attended by Syria.
Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and birthplace of Islam, has led Arab efforts to isolate the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is allied to Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – Shi’ite Muslim Iran.
More than 60,000 Syrians have been killed and another 650,000 have become refugees abroad during the rebellion, which began in March 2011, the United Nations has said.
Last year Prince Saud said the rebels should be armed. However, Syria’s opposition has failed to form a unified transitional government to run areas it holds, underscoring international concerns the conflict may allow radical Islamist groups to gain ground.
Prince Saud said the United Nations Security Council needed to take urgent action to end the crisis.
“We have a call to make to the Security Council, to finally show the responsibility that they must show…or otherwise I think it is the duty of the General Assembly to censure the Security Council for failing in its duty,” he added.
Western officials said that while wealthy Gulf Arab individuals have sent money and material support to the Syrian rebels, no weapons have been supplied by Gulf Arab governments.
The Saudi foreign ministry told Reuters in July 2012 the kingdom was extending to the Syrian people “financial and humanitarian assistance, as well as calling upon the international community to enable them to protect themselves at the very least, if the international community is not able to do so.”
Minister Haidar: Syria Will Emerge from Crisis Through Dialogue and National Reconciliation
Jan 23, 2013
DARAA, (SANA) – National Reconciliation Minister, Dr. Ali Haidar, said that Syria will emerge from the crisis according to internal, regional and international indicators, calling on all Syrians to engage in dialogue and achieve national reconciliation.
In a meeting with civil and official activities in Daraa province on Wednesday, Haidar said that his Ministry will work to revitalize dialogue and address the demands of each province.
He said that the cohesion of the Syrian Arab Army and the strength of the Syrian economy foiled all plots against Syria, stressing that the crisis is almost over, urging gunmen to throw down their weapons and gold dialogue with the government.
Haidar said that the first steps of dialogue will be establishing a social security network, resolving the issues of abductees, the displaced, relief and detainees, and speeding up litigation and trials.
For his part, Daraa Governor Mohammad Khaled al-Hanous said the work in the province has been underway for months to help end the crisis, pointing out to the vandalism committed by armed terrorist groups against government facilities, infrastructure, and public and private property.
Participants in the meeting also called for adopting the principles of forgiveness, resolving the status of people who didn’t shed Syrian blood, and forming local popular committees to protect properties from terrorists.
Wide Public Participation in Salamiyah Martyrs’ Funeral
Jan 23, 2013
HAMA, (SANA)_Amid wide public participation, the martyrs of the terrorist bombing that rocked al-Salamiyah city in Hama on Monday, killing and injuring scores, were paid final tribute on Wednesday.
Following the prayers for the rest of the martyrs’ souls at al-Hurriyah Square in the city, the martyrs were laid to final rest at the Martyrs’ cemetery in al-Burkan area in Salamiyah, amid national chants saluting the martyrs and the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab army.
A number of the locals expressed to SANA attachment to the homeland and resolve to protect its security, stressing that the pure blood spilled will serve to further enhance ties among the Syrians.
The participants stressed that these terrorist acts committed by sides conspiring against Syria won’t weaken the Syrians, no matter the sacrifices.
ITV 17 January 2013
Claim and counter-claim surrounds latest Syria ‘massacre
Bill Neely ITV 17 Jan 2013
When an opposition group alleges a massacre by regime forces in Syria, it is often very difficult to establish what really happened.
‘Who did what to whom’ is one of the riddles of the Syrian revolution.
But today when a British-based group alleged that 106 people had been killed on the outskirts of Homs by pro-regime forces, I was able to go to the scene and investigate.
The allegation is that Assad’s army and militia had perpetrated a gruesome mass killing, shooting and stabbing, burning the bodies of men, women and children.
In Homs, I first of all put these allegations to the Governor, Ahmad Moneir Mohammed, a regime man.
He stated that there had been killings. Civilians had died; four children and four women, he thought, as well as men who had been killed in fighting between the army and rebels.
He alleged that the rebels were from the Islamist group Jabhat al Nura, which is linked to Al Qaeda and which the United States has designated a terrorist group. He categorically denied that regime forces had perpetrated a massacre.
I travelled to the scene of the mass killing. It is a poor farming area on the edge of Homs, called Basatin al Huwaisa; the orchards of Huwaisa.
As we started walking through the streets of the village, one or two local men began coming towards us. Later more and more joined them.
The first story we heard was from a man who said his two brothers had been killed. Fighters had come into the area. They wanted to attack the army, as they had done many times before, he said.
It’s true there is a military intelligence base near the area, which has been repeatedly attacked.
These fighters were the men who had killed locals, the men said.
More men came. Some had not seen each other for days, since the fighting began. Some cried as they hugged men they knew. They shared stories of the dead.
It became clear many people had been killed in the streets, in houses and in orchards.
The bodies of those in houses and streets had been removed but the orchard was in the open, and snipers were still firing.
Bodies were still there, they said. I did not see any bodies. But I saw blood and human remains inside one house.
Local men say a woman and five children were killed there. They say rebels in black uniforms had come to the house and wanted to use the roof to attack the base. Many of the locals had refused.
At that point, say the men, they were shot. The bodies of the women and children were burned. I saw blood on the floor, a room where there had been a fire and human remains. The children’s clothes were hanging on a washing line.
The men said the fighters were different from before. They wore “black uniforms” and had headbands with Jihadi slogans. One young man was very animated – wide eyed – as he described these men.
Most were Syrian they said, some were not. One said they were from Jabhat al Nusra.
I spoke to an army commander. I challenged him with the claim of the opposition group that his men or forces loyal to the regime had killed dozens of people. He denied this.
He said there has been fighting there for days. They have killed rebels, he said. But not civilians, not deliberately anyway, though they can be hit in the middle of a battle, he said.
He brought two men towards us, blindfolded and trembling. These men, he said, were caught in a house with an American M16 rifle.
The men looked as if they had been hit; one had a bloody eye and nose. They denied they were rebels. They said men came to their house with guns. They knew nothing about the gun that was found.
I cannot say for sure who did what to whom. But it’s clear many people died in Homs. Dozens.
All seem agreed on that. The common figure was around 30. I even got the names of families who had been killed; members of the the Hamza family, the Khoulis and Ghalouls.
The local men I talked to were scared. They had been through something bad. Many had lost loved ones.
They said that many local men had been arrested. They pointed to where the rebels were still -a hundred yards away near the river; in houses and buildings.
I didn’t see any rebel gunmen. I saw dozens of Syrian troops. They were reluctant to let us go very far into the village because they said there were snipers. Exactly what happened I can’t prove.
It is part of the frustration and the fog of this war; frustrating for anyone trying to separate truth from propaganda and lies.
Homs has been the scene of several massacres. More than one has been contested, as one side blames the other for the atrocity. This is yet another.
al-akhbar English, 23 Jan 2013
HRW: Syria rebels attacking Shia and Christian religious sites
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013
New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch warned that rebel groups appeared to have destroyed or allowed the looting of minority religious sites in northern Syria.
“The destruction of religious sites is furthering sectarian fears and compounding the tragedies of the country,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based HRW.
In the northern Idlib province, where rebels have taken swathes of territory from government forces, the New York-based rights group said opposition fighters destroyed a Shia “husseiniya” – a site for worship and gatherings.
A video published online showed rebels hoisting assault rifles in the air and cheering as the site in the village of Zarzour, taken by rebels in December, burned in the background…….
SANA, 23 Jan 2013
Prince Aga Khan Voices Support for Syria in Face of Conspiracies Targeting It
Jan 23, 2013
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – Head of the Imami Islamic Shiite Ismaili Council of Syria, Prince Aga Khan, reiterated support for Syria in confronting foreign conspiracies and attempts to interfere in its affairs.
In a statement on Wednesday on occasion of the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Mohammad, Prince Aga Khan reiterated commitment to the homeland and opposition to foreign intervention and conspiracies targeting the sovereignty and determination of Syria.
He said that the Syrian people will remain steadfast and that the terrorist acts affecting Syrian cities will not weaken the Syrians’ resolve and willpower.
Prince Aga Khan also condemned the terrorist bombing which took place in the city of al-Salamiya on Monday, claiming the lives and wounding tens of innocent civilians.
Agenzia Fides, 2012-11-22
ASIA/SYRIA – “Church desecrated by bandits, then furnish returned and ceremony of reconciliation”
Homs (Agenzia Fides) – An act of vandalism, then the apology and reconciliation. This happened in Qara, in the diocese of Homs (Western Syria), where on November 19 the ancient church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, of the sixth century, was desecrated by vandals who forced the door. The vandals stole over 20 icons (of the eighteenth and nineteenth century), ancient manuscripts and vestments. They desecrated the altar and tried to steal a famous fresco of the twelfth century, the “Madonna del Latte”. While they were trying to remove it, the fresco was ruined, causing two cuts to the figure of the Virgin.
As soon as the news spread in Qara, a town under the full control of the Syrian opposition, a strong solidarity movement in all communities developed. Heads of families, tribal leaders, Muslim leaders and other denominations came to visit the church and to show bitterness and solidarity towards the Greek Catholic priest Fr. Georges Luis who, with a Greek-Orthodox priest, continues to celebrate Mass for the few Christian families in Qara, keeping alight the flame of faith.
The Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim and Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham were warned and urged both the government and the opposition to ensure security in the country that, they said, “is sinking into chaos”, given the acts of banditry, kidnappings, assaults, massacres, bombings of residential areas.
The faithful Christian and Muslim in Qara gathered in prayer vigils. Yesterday, November 21, the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, what happened is defined by the local community as “a miracle.” In the morning a truck with masked men came to the church. The group asked to meet Fr. Georges. As reported to Fides by the priest, the men told him: “We do not appreciate what our companions have done. Please forgive us. We are one community, one people, one nation. Your safety is ours. You are under our responsibility.” Most of the stolen items – otherwise destined for the market of smuggling – were returned, with great joy and relief on behalf of everyone. Fr. Georges served Arabic coffee to the guests and many other people in the neighborhood joined the convivial moment. The locals celebrated by offering cakes in the street. A ending in the name of reconciliation that the local movement “Mussalaha” blessed and favored. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/11/2012)
SANA Nov 21, 2012
Peaceful Change Forces Coalition Announces New Forces Joining Its Ranks
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – The executive office of the Peaceful Change Forces Coalition announced on Wednesday that new political forces have joined its ranks.
These forces are the Kurdish National Movement for Peaceful Change represented by Ali Omari, the Gathering for Democracy and Peaceful Change represented by Faten Atasi and Wajih Maarouf, and the Democratic Social Part represented by Yosuef Salman.
The Peaceful Change Forces Coalition, formed of a number of political parties and movements, was launched in May 2nd, and it held its first conference in Damascus in June 13th.
The Coalition embraces the principles of dialogue and reconciliation for ending the crisis in Syria, rejects all forms of foreign intervention, and calls for ending violence and opening the way for democratic change.
Agenzia Fides 10 July 2012
ASIA/SYRIA – Towards Reconciliation: more than 300 fighters ready to surrender in Homs
Homs (Agenzia Fides) – More than 300 fighters in the various armed factions of the Syrian opposition in Homs have agreed to surrender, to come under the protection of the interfaith People’s Committee “Mussalaha” and continue an “unarmed political opposition.” This is the result of a historic agreement promoted by the movement “Mussalaha” (“Reconciliation”), born spontaneously from Syrian civil society, which is gaining the confidence of all the warring parties, families, clans, communities, sectors of the government and armed opposition. The more than 300 armed are mostly young people who are barricaded in several streets in the old town of Homs such as Khalidiye, Jouret al shiyah, Qarabis, Hamidiyah, Bustan Diwan and surrounding areas, still besieged by the forces of the Syrian army. Overall, it is estimated that the armed fighters in that area of the old city are more than 1,000. The Committee of “Mussalaha” in Homs, which includes the Syrian Catholic priest Fr. Michel Naaman, and other Muslim religious leaders and several civil society leaders and community representatives, after a lengthy mediation effort, managed to achieve something unthinkable until yesterday. “The 300 young people ready to lay down arms are young teenagers who had decided to fight, due to the spirit and ideals of the revolution. Among them are relatives, children, friends, people that are part of Mussalaha and this has greatly facilitated dialogue and agreement. They are the children of the Syrian people,” the priest of Homs told Fides. Young people had warranties that the Syrian army, on laying down its arms, will be free and will be able to continue a “non-violent political opposition.” The Committee of “Mussalaha” will be the guarantor of their safety and freedom, in an atmosphere that wants to encourage confrontation, dialogue and reconciliation. It is not excluded, the “Mussalaha” leaders noted, that many other fighters can follow this example and come under the tutelage of the Committee for reconciliation. The main problem, note sources of Fides, is represented now by over 100 armed men who are not Syrian and are present in the area and who have no intention or possibility to qualify for this delicate operation of “internal Syrian dialogue.” They demand the involvement of the Red Cross, so this is why representatives of the CRI are alerted for a possible intervention in the mediation. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/7/2012)