‘The Lion of Kandahar’: Was slain commander a hero or part of the problem?

Ever since his assassination 17 years ago, portraits of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban fighter known as “the lion of Panjshir,” have dominated official billboards, police booths and truck windshields in this war-weary, hero-craving capital.

Now, the lion of Panjshir has been upstaged by the lion of Kandahar.

In the past few weeks, Kabul has been flooded with images of Gen. Abdul Raziq Achakzai, 39, a fearsome police commander and anti-insurgent fighter who was gunned down Oct. 18 near his headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar.

Raziq’s likeness is now plastered on traffic circles, blast walls and countless taxi windows, grinning rakishly with sunglasses perched on his mane or issuing commands in uniform. Sometimes his boyish face is juxtaposed with Massoud’s craggy one, or a noble lion rests behind his soldier.

“He’s a hero; he saved our country,” shouts a young cabbie above the rush-hour din, answering a query about Raziq. His taxi’s rear window is covered with a stylized photoshopped trio of Raziq, Massoud and a fierce-looking lion.

“Business is good,” opines Taj Mohammed, who is handing out printed photos of Raziq, spattered with blood-red splotches, at a busy bus station. “There is more demand for his images than other leaders who have been killed in recent years.”

After four decades of war, Afghans have no shortage of slain leaders to memorialize. But almost all, including Massoud, are associated exclusively with one ethnic group or another — a distinction that has dark overtones in a country full of unsettled scores and unhealed scars. One group’s champion is another’s butcher.

But the demise of Raziq, an ethnic Pashtun and Kandahar’s longtime provincial police chief, has been mourned by Afghans of every background, making him a rare war martyr to achieve hero status across the country’s ethnic fault lines. On social media, fans have paid him the ultimate compliment by replacing their profile photos with his.

Politicians and leaders of every stripe flocked to his mourning ceremonies last month and described Raziq’s untimely death (he looked a decade younger than his age) as an irreparable loss to the nation. He was shot dead, along with the provincial intelligence chief, after leaving a meeting with the top U.S. military commander, Gen. Austin “Scott Miller,” who escaped unharmed.

In a society where strongmen have long been admired and their abuses rarely called to account, there was an instant unspoken consensus that Raziq’s reported excesses were far outweighed by his success in keeping Kandahar stable and safe from insurgent attacks.

But that consensus was not shared by Afghan and international human rights groups. Over the years, as Raziq rose through the ranks of the Afghan border police and then the national police, he acquired a reputation for brutality and vengeful abuses. In combating the Taliban on their home turf, he became an important ally of U.S.-led NATO forces here but faced local accusations of cruelty.

One of his most persistent critics has been the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch. Patricia Gossman, the associate director of its Asia division, noted in a recent email that a U.N. report last year had identified Raziq’s police force as especially abusive. She said it were found responsible for “torturing detainees by suffocation, crushing testicles and electric shocks.” Raziq had repeatedly denied all allegations of abuse.

Gossman, who visited Kandahar two years ago to investigate rights abuses, said that while Raziq was praised by Afghan elites and Western officials for improving security in the region, his victims were often unknown tribal rivals or others who crossed him, and who had little avenue for complaint. In some ways, she suggested, his actions “actually fueled insecurity.”

Raziq’s slaying sent shock waves through the country, and parliamentary elections scheduled for two days later were delayed for fear that violence or insurgent attacks could erupt. But some local Kandaharis, including tribal elders and legislators, privately expressed relief that Raziq was gone. Some said he had committed or ordered personal and political murders under the guise of fighting insurgents.

“In Kabul people see him as a hero, but people in Kandahar do not think that way. He was part of the problem,” said one legislator from the region, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing concerns about security and tribal sensitivities. In the month since Raziq’s death, the legislator said, Kandahar has become much less violent than when he was in command.

Raziq was also a lightning rod for attack, and he survived numerous assassination attempts by the Taliban, as well as a bomb planted in a guesthouse sofa while he was hosting a meeting in early 2017. It exploded when he was out of the room, killing six visiting emissaries from the United Arab Emirates.

He was also a restless, independent operator feared by influential people twice his age who built an empire across the Afghan south through political and tribal ties. Local journalists said even the provincial governor had to seek his approval for routine decisions.

Last year, Raziq began forming alliances with some government opposition leaders, and President Ashraf Ghani tried to fire him, but the powerful young police chief openly defied the order. Shortly after his death, Ghani named Raziq’s younger brother Taduddin, a man in his 20s with no security experience and a more subservient demeanor, as his replacement.


Source : The Washington Post

Explosion rips through large Sunni gathering in Kabul, killing at least 40

KABUL — A suicide bomber attacked a religious gathering Tuesday in the Afghan capital, killing more than 40 Muslim scholars and clerics who had gathered to mark the birth anniversary of the prophet Muhammad, officials said.

The victims included religious delegates from various parts of Afghanistan, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said. He said the gathering was convened by the Afghan Ulema Council, the country’s largest religious body, and was attended by hundreds of Sunni Muslims. More than 80 attendees were wounded, officials said.

In a statement, President Ashraf Ghani described the attack as “unforgivable and a clear act of hostility against Islam’s teaching.” The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said it was outraged by the attack.

According to government officials, the bombing was carried out by a lone assailant who targeted the ceremony in large hall on the first floor of a hotel close to the Interior Ministry, a venue usually used for weddings.

More than 20 of those wounded in the attack were in critical condition, Health Ministry officials said. There were unconfirmed reports about the deaths of a number of top religious figures.

Officials said they feared that the death toll could rise.

Afghan health workers bring an injured man to a hospital after a suicide attack on a religious gathering in Kabul killed at leat 40 people, Nov. 20, 2018. (Jawad Jalali/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
One police official said high-grade explosives were used in the blast, which left body parts strewn all over the floor of the hall.

Police were not asked to provide security for the event, a police spokesman said, and the suicide bomber was able to slip into the hall undetected.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

[Suicide bomber strikes meeting of Afghan clerics who had just condemned terrorism]

In June, at least 14 people, including seven clerics, were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul after leaving a government-sponsored conference of the Ulema Council at which religious leaders from both Sunni and Shiite sects condemned suicide attacks and the militants’ war against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the June attack, denouncing the meeting of “tyrant clerics” and their condemnation of suicide attacks, according to a website affiliated with the group.

The Afghan Ulema Council had issued an unprecedented religious edict earlier that day that said the insurgency in Afghanistan has no religious basis. It also declared that suicide attacks, often used by Taliban and Islamic State insurgents, are “haram,” or forbidden by Islam.

Affiliates of the Islamic State have repeatedly targeted mosques and sites of worship of Afghan Shiite Muslims in recent years. The Islamic State, a radical Sunni group, regards Shiites as heretics.

Ambulance sirens could be heard in several parts of the capital after Tuesday’s attack. Images on social media showed part of the badly damaged hall of the hotel.

Earlier this month, a deadly blast targeted a demonstration by hundreds of minority Shiites in the capital. Afghan officials said several people were killed in the Nov. 12 explosion near a high school and close to a gathering of people protesting Taliban attacks on Shiite areas in the Jaghuri and Malistan districts of eastern Ghazni province.

While it remained unclear who carried out Tuesday’s bombing, hard-line Sunnis view venerating the prophet’s birthday as sacrilegious. Although the anniversary is widely celebrated in the Islamic world, it is a holiday that extreme fundamentalists are trying to stamp out.


Source :The Washington Post

Why do we call it ‘classical’ music?

Classical music is the thing that orchestras do. It’s what string quartets play and choirs sing. It’s playing all the time on BBC Radio 3, and it’s on that Mindful Classical Mix you’ve just downloaded from BBC Sounds. But as the BBC embarks on a year of programming around Our Classical CenturyTom Service explores one very simple question: what IS classical music?

Here’s the thing: I don’t think there really is such a thing as classical music.

Tom Service

For someone who’s spent most of the last couple of decades writing and talking about classical music, that might seem a trifle idiotic. But even the composers who most define the “classical” (let’s go with Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart) didn’t know they were writing classical music, because the term simply didn’t exist in their lifetimes. It seems bizarre, but it’s true. The values and hierarchies and canons and the whole category of the “classical” only started to appear in English in 1829. Why?

One explanation could be that “classicising” things was part of a great 19th-Century marketing exercise. The term “classical” started to gain traction in European culture just at the moment when the music industry was heating up – as orchestras were being established, concert halls constructed, music instruments manufactured and there was a boom in music publishing.

It makes sense. If you’re going to have an industry, you’d better have something to sell. Composers were marketed as purveyors of the “classical”; it was a way of telling 19th-Century consumers that, by playing and listening to Haydn, Brahms, and Mendelssohn, they could become better people. They, too, could become someone who knew and loved the great truths of the “classical”.

Do you remember the way record stores used to be?

Tom Service recalls a time when the “classical” section was sealed behind frosted glass.

So why the word ‘classical’?

It’s a word that conjures up images of the Ancient world: the culture of balance, perfection and social harmony that the Greeks and Romans supposedly enjoyed. But that image doesn’t conform at all to the reality of those societies, as any historian of the period knows (or anyone who’s watched I, Claudius or Up Pompeii!, for that matter). The yearning to return to a time of order, of social and artistic equilibrium in the “classical”, is simply an aesthete’s version of “the good old days”.

That was true in the 18th Century, when intellectuals and artists hearkened back to an Ancient Greece that existed only in their imaginations – and it’s true of us today, whenever we apply the labels “classical” or “classic” to repertoires and recordings of the past. And it’s not only classical music that’s doing this, by the way: jazz, rock, folk and all the rest are now full of “classics”. The word “classic” has become an expression of value. We use it to indicate our opinion that something will stand the test of time.

So from the very start, “classical music” has been an expression of nostalgia and one-upmanship, rather than anything tangible. I think that all of classical music’s unhelpful associations with economic, social and aesthetic exclusivity stem from this historical quirk.

I’ll say it again: most of the composers we now call “classical” didn’t think that’s what they were. Beethoven, Berlioz, Mahler and Wagner didn’t want their works to be part of a mausoleum of the “classical”, sequestered from the world in the way that the “classical” section of the record shop used to be hidden behind frosted panes of glass. No: their music was made to exist in dialogue with the joys and messes of the real world, which is where it should still be today. And it is. The point of Our Classical Century is that this music really is part of our lives.

In recent years, something has changed.

Unlike so many other genres, “classical” now encompasses a truly vast range of music. Its repertoire includes music written over the last millennium and more. It’s precisely this lack of definition that means that “classical” can take in the music of everyone from the 12th-Century musical mystic Hildegard of Bingen to the 21st-Century composer Anna Meredith, who composed music for the First Night of the Proms in 2018.

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Classical music is here on the soundtracks of our video games and TV shows. It’s sampled across the spectrum of pop music. It’s a style and a genre which can take in gigantic operas and tiny fragments. I’m no closer to a definition.

But while I still think there’s a huge job to do to rid classical of its associations of exclusivity, it’s precisely in this all-encompassing confusion that the term “classical music” will survive – and, despite my entreaties, thrive. Whatever Our Classical Century shows, it’s a revelation of the essential truth that we’re all classical now.

Tom Service explores a multitude of definitions of “classical” music in The Listening Service, with help from the composer Max Richter and writer Charlotte Higgins. Meanwhile, the BBC’s Our Classical Century season gets underway with a host of TV and radio features devoted to an eventful 100 years in music.

Source : BBC

روسيا وسورية وعقدة الاستعمار القديمة

يعتقد أن أول وصف للروس في التاريخ المكتوب هو الوصف الذي دوّنه الرحالة العربي أحمد بن فضلان، في رسالته عن رحلته بين ٩٢١ و٩٢٣ للميلاد، مع سفارة الخليفة المقتدر بالله إلى ملك بلغار ال فولغا الذين كانوا قد أسلموا حديثاً. وهو يقدم مشاهداته المباشرة عن هؤلاء «الروس» الذين ربما كانوا من ال فايكنج الذين استوطنوا نهر ال فولغا بمزيج من الإعجاب والاستغراب والتقزز لعاداتهم التي لا تتفق إطلاقاً مع تقاليده الإسلامية. فهو لم ير «أتم أبداناً منهم كأنهم النخل، شقر حمر، مع كل واحد منهم فأس وسيف وسكين لا يفارقه». لكنهم «أقذر خلق الله، لا يستنجون من غائط أو بول، ولا يغتسلون من جنابة، ولا يغسلون أيديهم من الطعام، بل هم كالحمير الضالة، يجيئون من بلدهم فيرسون سفنهم بآتل، وهو نهر كبير، ويبنون على شطه بيوتاً كباراً من الخشب».

هؤلاء المحاربون الأشداء والأجلاف لن يلبثوا أن يعتنقوا المسيحية الأرثوذكسية بعد رحلة ابن فضلان بقليل تأثراً ببيزنطة، ويؤسسوا لأنفسهم دولة توسعية على ضفاف ال فولغا مع عاصمتها كيي ف، التي سيدمرها مغول جنكيزخان في القرن الثالث عشر، ويستتبعوا أقوام ال فولغا جميعاً لحكمهم قبل أن تقوم دوقية موسكو بالتوسع على حساب أسيادها المغول من القبيلة الذهبية لكي تنتهي بدحرهم والسيطرة على كامل أراضي الروس الشمالية والوسطى حول نهر ال فولغا في القرن الخامس عشر. هذه الدولة الروسية التي اتخذ ملوكها لقب قيصر في منتصف القرن السادس عشر تيمناً بملوك روما، استمرت بالتوسع على حساب جيرانها في الشمال والشرق، وابتلعت ما تبقى من خانات التتر في قازان واستراخان وسيبيريا بعد زوال دولة القبيلة الذهبية لكي تضاعف مساحتها أضعافاً مضاعفة وتمد سيطرتها على أجزاء كبيرة من آسيا وصولاً إلى حدود منغوليا مع نهاية القرن السادس عشر.

لم تتوقف روسيا القيصرية عن التوسع على حساب جيرانها، على رغم بعض الانكسارات التي عانت منها في شرق أوروبا وفي القوقاز. بل كانت سياستها الإمبراطورية قائمة أساساً على التوسع عبر قضم الأراضي المتاخمة لأراضيها وضمها لإمبراطوريتها حتى وصلت إلى المحيط الهادئ، ولم تعد ثمة أرض تستعمرها سوى بالعبور عبر مضيق بهرنغ واستعمار ألاسكا في القرن الثامن عشر، لكنها ما لبثت أن باعتها للولايات المتحدة (لحسن حظ ألاسكا) عام ١٨٦٧. في الوقت نفسه، كانت روسيا تتمدد على حساب جيرانها المسلمين في القوقاز وفي وسط آسيا، وفي شكل خاص على حساب السلطنة العثمانية. وقد تمكنت من إتمام السيطرة على كامل القوقاز تقريباً وعلى خانات بخارى وخي فا مع نهاية القرن التاسع عشر لكي تصبح أكبر دولة في العالم مساحة تغطي أرجاء واسعة من شرق أوروبا ومن آسيا. ذلك كله، وروسيا وبعدها الاتحاد السوفياتي لم تعترف يوماً بأنها دولة استعمارية. فسياستها القائمة عل القضم والاحتلال والضم والتوطين وإعادة التوطين والترويس، أي نشر اللغة والثقافة الروسية غصباً عن سكان المناطق المضمومة وأحياناً كثيرة نشر المسيحية الأرثوذكسية أيضاً، تختلف عن السياسة الاستعمارية المعتادة بالاحتلال وتطويع الاقتصاد من دون ضم الأرض (إلا في حالة فرنسا في الجزائر التي فشلت، وحالة إسرائيل في فلسطين التي لها قصة مأسوية أخرى).

ربما لهذا السبب لم تنهر الإمبراطورية الروسية الاستعمارية مع انهيار إمبراطوريات فرنسا وبريطانيا وبلجيكا وهولندا والبرتغال بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية. فالاتحاد السوفياتي، وريث روسيا القيصرية، لم يتعامل مع مستعمراته على أنها أراض مغايرة يسيطر عليها وإنما على أنها أجزاء أصيلة منه ستتروس عاجلاً أم آجلاً، وهو ما حصل فعلاً في العديد من المناطق التي كان فيها سكان أصليون مختلفون لهم لغاتهم وعاداتهم وثقافتهم المختلفة، والذين انتهوا بأن ارتضوا التروس. حتى عندما حاولت الإمبراطورية السوفياية التوسع في ثمانينات القرن العشرين قبل انهيارها الأخير، فقد احتلت أفغانستان الملاصقة لجمهورياتها الإسلامية متبعة في ذلك الاستراتيجية نفسها في قضم الأراضي ثم محاولة ضمها، وإن كانت عملية ابتلاع أفغانستان فاشلة. عندما انهار الاتحاد السوفياتي وانفكت عنه خمس عشرة دولة مستقلة إضافة الى خسارته الدول الأوروبية الست التابعة له عبر حلف وارسو، فقد حافظت روسيا الاتحادية على سيطرتها على أجزاء واسعة من أوروبا وآسيا مما كانت قد روسته بنجاح خلال قرون من الضم. وهكذا بقيت روسيا بعد الاتحاد السوفياتي الدولة الاستعمارية ما قبل الحداثية الناجحة في استعمارها من دون الاعتراف به، اللهم ما عدا في قمعها الشديد لثورة الشيشان (١٩٩٤ – ٢٠٠٠) وفي تلاعبها ببعض مناطق القوقاز بخاصة بعد حربها القصيرة والعاصفة مع جورجيا عام ٢٠٠٨.

من هذا المنطلق، تبدو سياسة القيصر الروسي الجديد في سورية مغايرة تماماً لقرون من السياسة الروسية الاستعمارية التي لم تحاول يوماً التوسع في أراض منفصلة عنها براً. فهي على ما يبدو تتهيأ لوجود متطاول من طريق إقامة قواعد عسكرية في أكثر من مكان في الأراضي السورية محظورة على غير الروس وفي السيطرة فعلياً على الأجواء والمياه السورية وعلى القرار العسكري في سورية. بل ويبدو أن الروس في سورية اليوم يسيطرون على أكثر من الأرض والقرار العسكري بما أن القيادة السياسية السورية وعلى رأسها بشار الأسد، قد قبلت بالانصياع لتعليماتهم وتنفيذها، حتى تلك منها التي تنتقص من كرامتهم الوطنية، ما يذكرنا بحال زعماء الدول المُستعمرة في القرن التاسع عشر وبداية القرن العشرين عندما كان ملوكها وأمراؤها وقوادها يأتمرون بأمر باريس أو لندن. ولعل روسيا أيضاً قد تغلغلت في إدارة الوضع الاقتصادي السوري من طريق ضخ المعونات لنظام الأسد المتهالك مقابل رهونات وديون مستقبلية لا نعلم عنها الشيء الكثير.

روسيا اليوم تستعمر سورية، أو أنها في طريقها لاستعمارها بالمعنى الحقيقي للكلمة. تاريخياً، هذه خطوة طمحت إليها روسيا لقرون ولم تستطع الوصول إليها حتى الآن، أي أن يكون لها وجود دائم في المياه الدافئة. حتى المحاولات المتسرعة لإغاظة العدو الأميركي خلال فترة الحرب الباردة عبر وضع صواريخ باليستية في كوبا الحليفة عام ١٩٦١ أو الخبراء الروس الكثر في سورية ومصر والعديد من دول أفريقيا السوداء، لم تصل يوماً إلى ما يبدو أن الوجود الروسي اليوم في سورية واصله.

ربما كان هذا من دواعي فخر فلاديمير بوتين واتساع شعبيته بين جنرالاته ومواطنيه الذين ازدادت شوفينيتهم زيادة كبيرة في العقدين الماضيين. وربما كان في هذا ذر للرماد في العيون لكي تتمكن روسيا من ابتلاع القرم وشرق أوكرانيا على طريقتها المعتادة في القضم والضم تحت أعين الغرب المذهول. لكن الواضح أن روسيا قد تخرجت اليوم من مدرسة الإمبراطوريات القديمة التي تتوسع براً إلى مدرسة الاستعمار الحديث الذي يتوسع من طريق إقامة مناطق سيطرة بعيدة من مركزه. أي أن روسيا قد دخلت أخيراً القرن التاسع عشر في سياستها الإمبريالية.

لكن المؤلم أنها لكي تمارس حداثتها الاستعمارية، يبدو أن روسيا في حاجة الى تدمير سورية وإعادتها إلى العصر الحجري.

الحياة اللندنية

معارض سوري يرسم جدارياته تحت رصاص القناصة وبأضواء الخليوي.. فما مصير لوحاته بعد سقوط بلدته؟

“فتاة صغيرة تقف أعلى كومة من الجماجم”، إنه مشهد دال للغاية على حال سوريا احتوته الجدارية التي لفتت نظر العالم بعد أن كتبت كلمة واحدة فقط عليها هي: “الأمل”.

لم يرسم هذه الجدارية فنان عادي بل إنّه مقاتل نهاراً ورسام ليلاً – إنه الشاب السوري أبومالك الشامي العضو بالجيش السوري الحر الذي كان مصيره النفي بينما فنه مهدد بالزوال.

الشامي رسم هذه الجدارية في داريا، إحدى ضواحي دمشق، بينما كانت تتعرض لقصف متواصل من الجيش السوري ونقص مستمر في الطعام والمياه والكهرباء.

جعلت هذه الجدارية العالم يشبه الفنان أبا مالك الشامي ببانكسي، وفق تقرير نشره موقع بي بي سي البريطاني.

فعلى غرار بانكسي، فإن الشامي فنان شوارع ناشط سياسياً؛ وغالباً ما كانت لوحاته تظهر بصورة مفاجئة أثناء الليل؛ وتتلاءم رسائله وصوره مع الحرب الأهلية العنيفة.

من المدرسة للجبهة


وعلى مدار عامين، وبدءاً من صيف 2014 إلى صيف 2016، ظهرت لوحات الشامي في العديد من المواقع في أنحاء داريا، التي تبعد 10 كيلومترات عن وسط العاصمة السورية دمشق.

وقبل أن تبدأ الحرب عام 2011، كان الفنان البالغ من العمر 22 عاما حالياً يذهب إلى المدرسة الثانوية في دمشق، ثم انضم إلى المظاهرات المناهضة للحكومة بالعاصمة وبدأ استخدام مهاراته الفنية لنشر الرسائل الثورية.

وفي أوائل 2013، حينما كان لا يزال مراهقاً، سافر إلى داريا للانضمام إلى الجيش السوري الحر وصحب معه كراسات رسمه وأقلامه.

ويقول إنه تعلّم التصويب بالسلاح في أول أيامه بداريا. وفي اليوم التالي، تم إرساله إلى خط المواجهة. وفي 2014، التقى بفنان يدعى مجد ويلقب باسم “عين داريا” وشجعه على مواصلة فن الشوارع.

وتصف جداريته الأولى فوق أطلال منزل كبير صورة فتاة تشير إلى القلب – وتعلم أحد الجنود الحب قبل أن يذهب إلى ساحة المعركة.

صدمة قوية


كان الحصول على مواد الرسم بمثابة مشكلة في البداية. ويقول: “حينما وصلت إلى داريا، أصبت بصدمة قوية. كان هناك دمار شامل في كل مكان؛ وفي ذلك الحين، كان النظام يقصف عشوائياً ويهاجم المواطنين. كان الوضع حرجاً ولم نستطع تحمله. كان كل شيء ينهار”.

في إحدى المرات حفر مجد والشامي وآخرون وسط أنقاض متجر للمواد الفنية بداريا، بعد أن تحطم بالكامل عام 2014 للعثور على اللوحات والفرش وبموافقة صاحب المتجر.

وواجهوا مخاطر التعرض لإطلاق النار على يد أحد القناصة أو القصف بالقنابل. يقول الشامي إن “العمل على أسطح المنازل محفوف بالمخاطر اضطررنا في بعض الأحيان إلى القيام بالرسم ليلا. ولذلك حينما يكون القمر مكتملاً، كنت أقوم برسم الجداريات. وكنت أستخدم أحياناً ضوء هاتفي النقال”.

ويقول: “كنت أقاتل يومياً على الجبهة وأستغل وقت فراغي في الرسم”.

وبمرور الوقت، بدأ الشامي وأصدقاؤه لا يجدون مواد الرسم. وفي مرحلة محددة، لم يكن لديه سوى اللون الأحمر والأسود والفستقي والأخضر والأصفر والبني.

توقف عن الفن

وتوقف عن العمل على خلال جزء من عام 2015 بسبب الإصابة التي تعرض لها بالحرب.

وقد قام برسم أكثر من 30 جدارية خلال العامين اللتين قضاهما في داريا.

وفي يناير/كانون الثاني 2016، لقي صديق مجد مصرعه.

واحتلت القوات الحكومية السورية المدينة في أغسطس/آب 2016 وفر الشامي مع مئات آخرين إلى إدلب شمالي سوريا الواقعة تحت سيطرة المعارضة.

وأشار تقرير “بي بي سي” إلى أن فن الشوارع، وخاصة الغرافيتي، سريع الزوال، ويتعرض مصير فن الشامي للمخاطر بعد أن سيطرت القوات الحكومية على داريا.

وقبل مغادرة المدينة التقط الشامي صوراً لكافة الجداريات التي رسمها على مر السنين. ويواصل العمل على فنونه حالياً في شوارع مدينة إدلب التي تخضع لسيطرةً المعارضة السورية.

هافنغتون بوست

US covering up opposition breaches of Syria ceasefire, Russia claims

Russia accused the US of covering up opposition violations in Syria on Thursday as the three-day old ceasefire came under increasing strain.

The Russian defence ministry said that Syrian regime forces had pulled back from the Castello road, a key access route into Aleppo, but that opposition groups had not withdrawn.

The Russian foreign ministry also complained of opposition shelling. “Only the Syrian army has been observing the ceasefire regime, while the US-led ‘moderate opposition’ has been increasing the number of shellings of residential quarters,” the ministry statement said. “Moreover, it appears that the ‘verbal curtain’ of Washington is aimed at hiding the non-fulfilment of the US obligations.”

The strained rhetoric came as the first UN aid convoy bound for besieged eastern Aleppo remained stuck in the absence of permits from Damascus.

The UN special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said the Syrian government had not provided facilitation letters that had been agreed as part of the ceasefire deal, meaning that 40 trucks full of humanitarian supplies were halted at the Turkish border.

De Mistura, who said the hold-up was a clear breach of the ceasefire agreement, said the intended delivery of aid into eastern Aleppo, subject to a different permission regime, was also being blocked by hurdles put in place by the Syrian government and opposition fighters.

The delivery of aid is a precondition of the survival of a cessation of hostilities that came into effect on Monday and is designed to lead to unprecedented joint Russian-American action against terror groups inside Syria.

De Mistura insisted the Russians were as disappointed as the UN at the “deeply regrettable” refusal of the Syrian government to grant letters of permission in line with the agreement. He said he had been given fresh assurances by the Russians at a meeting on Thursday morning that the absence of the permission letters was a very severe disappointment, but he did not specify what pressure the Russians were placing on the Syrians to abide by the agreement.

Hundreds of trucks were ready to be loaded, he said, and an opportunity to deliver aid and help solidify the ceasefire was being wasted. The UN has said it cannot cross front lines or checkpoints without Syrian permission.

The separate blockage over eastern Aleppo has left 20 UN trucks that travelled from Turkey into a buffer zone waiting for the past 48 hours for UN agreement that it is safe to travel along the Castello Road, the main supply route into the divided city, where 250,000 people are desperate for food and fuel.

Jan Egeland, head of the United Nations humanitarian taskforce for Syria, said the trucks were still in the buffer zone and “could go on a minute’s notice”. De Mistura said the aid could not move into Syria’s second city before the Castello Road route had been fully secured.

Syrians unload boxes after a 48-truck aid convoy entered the rebel-held town of Talbiseh, a besieged area in northern rural Homs, in July.
Syrians unload boxes after a 48-truck aid convoy entered the rebel-held town of Talbiseh, a besieged area in northern rural Homs, in July. Photograph: Mahmoud Taha/AFP

The Russian-American agreement states trucks should be allowed to travel into eastern Aleppo without the need for written permission from the Syrian government. The Syrian government involvement is limited to being informed of the details of the aid being delivered, and details of what had been delivered.

In addition, as part of the agreement, regime checkpoints on the Castello Road should be withdrawn, and opposition forces inside the city’s east should not seek to block the delivery. “The trucks are ready and sealed, and the agreement is that once they move they will not be harassed and they will not be investigated and they will be moving along that road,” De Mistura said.

There have been reports that some opposition fighters are rejecting the delivery of the aid on the basis that it rejects the terms of the broader Russian-American agreement, including the plan to target fighters from the former al-Nusra front. The US says al-Nusra is linked to al-Qaida and is a legitimate target alongside Islamic State. But other groups in eastern Aleppo are reluctant to abandon al-Nusra.

Under the ceasefire plan the Russian and Americans are supposed to create a joint centre to agree legitimate targets to attack by air. The Syrian air force would then in effect be grounded in those specified areas.

Despite the problems, De Mistura insisted the Russian-American agreement “is and remains a potential game-changer”. He said it was too much to describe it as a cessation of hostilities, saying instead it had produced a reduction of violence, adding that “by and large it is holding and is, in fact, substantial”.

The guardian

A doctor’s plea on Syria, a Dem pollster’s warning to Hillary, and other notable commentary

A doctor’s plea: President Obama, Please Save Syria

Samer Attar, a Chicago surgeon who does volunteer work in Syria, says each trip there is to “descend into the lower depths of hell.” In Aleppo, he writes in The Washington Post, “the road smells of burned metal and rotten flesh.” And in the hospital where he works, “scalpels are dull, anesthesia is a luxury, sterility is an approximation,” while “children covered in blood and dust and pockmarked with shrapnel screamed.” So he’s pleading with President Obama to “boldly confront Russia to halt the bombardment of . . . the only humanitarian supply line to hundreds of thousands of people.” And the Syrian government must be shown “that the world will act upon a red line against its disproportionate crimes and atrocities.”

Dem pollster: Hillary and Her Party Should Worry

Former Bill Clinton pollster Doug Schoen says Donald Trump’s acceptance speechshould have Hillary Clinton worried. It wasn’t a great piece of oratory, he writes atFoxNews.com, and it didn’t “broaden the base of the party significantly.” What it did do, though — “and did very well — was to raise the stakes of the election and define it in his own terms.” Specifically, he identified law and order, crime and terrorism as the central challenges America faces and outlined the need for change: “Trump’s remarks were directed at the 70-odd percent of Americans who feel the country is on the wrong track,” particularly “in the swing states of the industrial Midwest.”

Libertarian view: It’s Peter Thiel’s Party Now
Forget Donald Trump’s speech or daughter Ivanka’s — “the most intriguing, original and ultimately most optimistic speech” at Thursday night’s convention was given by Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel, says Roger Simon at PJ Media. He identified himself as proudly gay and Republican, and “the audience gave him a standing ovation.” That alone, writes Simon, “would seem to be a game-changer in Republican politics.” Certainly, “the conventional liberal narrative about the GOP took a serious body blow.” In fact, he says, “liberals and progressives” — with their “worldview out of 1932” — “are the true fuddy-duddies of our time, more conservative than conservatives.”

Twitter wars: Banned Milo is No Free-Speech Martyr

Breitbart blogger-provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has been permanently banned from Twitter after a vicious online exchange with “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones — and that has people either jeering or cheering. The former see it as politically correct censorship, while the latter are hailing it as a sign of Twitter’s new accountability. But Jesse Singal in New York magazine says both sides are wrong: “Yiannopoulos is no free-speech martyr, and cheerleaders of the ban are likely fooling themselves if they interpret this” as a new Twitter policy “rather than a specific instance of damage control that’s unlikely to lead to wider reforms.”

Diction wars: Dems, GOP Speak Different Languages

Republicans and Democrats have become more sharply polarized over policy in recent decades. But Derek Thompson in The Atlantic says they’re also “divided by a common language” — using different, politically loaded terms for the same issues. It began with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America, which spoke, for example,” of “tax relief” instead of “tax cuts.” That “kicked off a neologism arms race, a prolonged attempt by members of both parties to coin catchy new terms for their pet policies, particularly for taxes, immigration and health care.” And that, he warns, is the reduction of crises into “a diction contest” — “a sign that both parties are predominantly interested not in converting the other side, but rather in speaking to the converted flock.”

New York Post

Iran covertly recruits Afghan soldiers to fight in Syria

Iran is covertly recruiting hundreds of Afghan Shias in Afghanistan to fight for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, drawing them out of their own conflict-ridden country and into another war in which Afghanistan plays no official part.

The Afghan fighters are often impoverished, religiously devout or ostracised from society, looking for money, social acceptance and a sense of purpose that they are unable to find at home.

Iran’s recruitment of Afghan migrants and refugees within its own borders has been documented. But similar Iranian activities inside Afghanistan had previously gone unreported.

Iran denies using “any kind of allurement or coercion”, or to otherwise recruiting Afghans to fight in Syria, according to an embassy spokesman in Kabul. But a Guardian investigation can reveal both how Iran coaxes Afghan men into war, and the motives that prompt these men to travel thousands of miles to join a battle they might not return from.

Central in this recruitment are men such as Jawad. A police officer by day and self-declared “travel agent” when off-duty, Jawad said he acted for a year as middleman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) when in 2014 it formed an Afghan Shia militia, the Fatemiyoun Division, to fight alongside Syrian government forces.

From his “travel agency” on the second floor of a non-descript office building, Jawad connected combat willing men with Iran’s embassy in Kabul. The embassy assisted with visas and travel, and paid Jawad a commission for his troubles.

In return for fighting, Afghans are offered a residence permit in Iran and about $500 monthly salary. “Most go to Syria for the money,” said Jawad, wearing stonewashed jeans and replica Ray-Bans. “Others go to defend the shrine.”


In a Kabul teahouse, Mohsen – who was recruited in Iran – showed phone photos of himself in Syria, wearing fatigues and painted with kohl around the eyes. During his third and most recent trip to Syria, in February, he was injured three times. One bullet was still lodged in his thigh. He carried the other one as a necklace.

“I’m not doing anything wrong. The holy places belong to us. We’re going to defend them,” he said.

Despite opposition from family, intelligence and politicians, young Afghans will likely continue to drift toward Syria, as long as hopes of a safe, prosperous future at home remain dim.

“People who go leave nothing behind, they have lost all hope,” said Younis, an unemployed university graduate in Kabul who knows 20 people that went to Syria from Iran, including two cousins and an uncle who were killed. All were addicts or had deep family problems, he said.

Facing discrimination, drug abuse, and the stigma that comes with it, some see war as the only way to do something out of their own volition. Going to Syria is the ultimate act of desperation, Younis said.

“They either die and become martyrs, or they will get a better life,” with salary and residency in Iran, he said. “They want a fresh start.”

the Guardian

The State Department’s Dissent Memo on Syria: An Explanation

On Thursday, The New York Times obtained a draft version of a State Department memo that sharply criticizes the Obama administration’s Syria policy and calls for limited military strikes against that country’s government. The memo, signed by 51 diplomats, was sent through an agency “dissent channel” that was established during the Vietnam War to air internal criticism.

Because the memo is written by and for government officials, its language can be difficult to parse. What follows is an annotation of 10 key lines, many of which were marked SBU, for “sensitive but unclassified” (U is unclassified).

Discussion of the memo has focused on the dissenters’ indictment of their own leader’s policy. Many of their points have been debated inside the administration for years, and there are complicated arguments on both sides.

While their proposed solution excludes some significant points, there is a core truth in this document: Current policy has little answer for how to break out of a status quo that is disastrous and steadily getting worse.


The Slow Death of the Syria Cease-Fire Brings a Hybrid War With Russia Closer

BEIRUT — Gradually, the mist of ambiguity and confusion hanging over Syria is lifting a little. The landscape is sharpening into focus. With this improved visibility, we can view a little more clearly the course of action being prepared by Iran, Russia and the Syrian government.

Russia is emerging from an internal debate over whether the U.S. is truly interested in an entente or only in bloodying Russia’s nose. And what do we see? Skepticism. Russia is skeptical that NATO’s new missile shield in Poland and Romania, plus military exercises right up near its border, are purely defensive actions.

Iran, meanwhile, is studying the entrails of the nuclear agreement. As one well-informed commentator put it to me, Iran is “coldly lethal” at the gloating in the U.S. at having “put one over” Iran. Because, while Iran has duly taken actions that preclude it from weaponizing its nuclear program, it will not now gain the financial normalization that it had expected under the agreement.

What do we see? Skepticism.

It’s not a question of slow implementation — I’ve heard directly from banks in Europe that they’ve been visited by U.S. Treasury officials and warned in clear terms that any substantive trade cooperation with Iran is closed off. Iran is not being integrated into the financial system. U.S. sanctions remain in place, the Europeans have been told, and the U.S. will implement fines against those who contravene these sanctions. Financial institutions are fearful, particularly given the size of the fines that have been imposed — almost $9 billion for the French bank BNP a year ago.

In principle, sanctions have been lifted. But in practice, even though its sales of crude are reaching pre-sanctions levels, Iran has found that, financially, it remains substantially hobbled. America apparently achieved a double success: It circumscribed Iran’s nuclear program, and the U.S. Treasury has hollowed out the nuclear agreement’s financial quid pro quo, thus limiting Iran’s potential financial empowerment, which America’s Gulf allies so feared.

French president Francois Hollande welcomes Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Paris on Jan. 28. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Some Iranian leaders feel cheated; some are livid. Others simply opine that the U.S. should never have been trusted in the first place.

And Damascus? It never believed that the recent cease-fire would be a genuine cessation of hostilities, and many ordinary Syrians now concur with their government, seeing it as just another American ruse. They are urging their government to get on with it — to liberate Aleppo. “Just do it” is the message for the Syrian government that I’ve heard on the streets. A sense of the West being deceitful is exacerbated by reports of American, German, French and possibly Belgian special forces establishing themselves in northern Syria.

Some Iranian leaders say that the U.S. should never have been trusted in the first place.

All this infringement of Syrian sovereignty does not really seem temporary but rather the opposite: there are shades of Afghanistan, with all the “temporary” NATO bases. In any case, it is no exaggeration to say that skepticism about Western motives is in the air — especially after Ashton Carter, the U.S. defense secretary,raised the possibility of NATO entering the fray.

As Pat Lang, a former U.S. defense intelligence officer, wrote last week:

The Russians evidently thought they could make an honest deal with [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry [and President] Obama. Well, they were wrong. The U.S. supported jihadis associated with [Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s Syria wing] … merely ‘pocketed’ the truce as an opportunity to re-fit, re-supply and re-position forces. The U.S. must have been complicit in this ruse. Perhaps the Russians have learned from this experience.

Lang goes on to note that during the “truce,” “the Turks, presumably with the agreement of the U.S., brought 6,000 men north out of [Syria via the] Turkish border … They trucked them around, and brought them through Hatay Province in Turkey to be sent back into Aleppo Province and to the city of Aleppo itself.”Reports in Russian media indicate that Nusra jihadists, who have continued to shellSyrian government forces during the “truce,” are being commanded directly by Turkish military advisers. And meanwhile, the U.S. supplied the opposition with about 3,000 tons of weapons during the cease-fire, according to I.H.S. Jane’s, a security research firm.

Syrians carry a wounded man after airstrikes on opposition-controlled areas in Aleppo on June 5. (Beha El-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In brief, the cease-fire has failed. It was not observed. The U.S. made no real effortto separate the moderates from Nusra around Aleppo (as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has affirmed). Instead, the U.S. reportedly sought Nusra’s exemption from any Russian or Syrian attack. It reminds one of that old joke: “Oh Lord, preserve me from sin — but not just yet!” Or in other words, “preserve us from these dreadful jihadist terrorists, but not just yet, for Nusra is too useful a tool to lose.”

The cease-fire did not hasten any political solution, and Russia’s allies — Iran and Hezbollah — have already paid and will continue to pay a heavy price in terms of casualties for halting their momentum toward Aleppo. The opposition now has renewed vigor — and weapons.

It is hard to see the cease-fire holding value for Moscow much longer. The original Russian intention was to try to compel American cooperation, firstly in the war against jihadism and, more generally, to compel the U.S. and Europe to acknowledge that their own security interests intersect directly with those of Moscow and that this intersection plainly calls for partnership rather than confrontation.

The opposition now has renewed vigor — and weapons.

The present situation in Syria neither facilitates this bigger objective nor the secondary one of defeating radical jihadism. Rather, it has led to calls in Russia for a less conciliatory approach to the U.S. and for the Kremlin to acknowledge that far from preparing for partnership, NATO is gearing up for a hybrid war against Russia.

It is also hard to see the cease-fire holding any continuing value for Tehran either. While the Iran nuclear agreement seemed to hold out the promise of bringing Iran back into the global financial system, such expectations seem now to be withering on the vine. As a result, Iran is likely to feel released from self-imposed limitations of their engagement in Syria and in other parts of the Middle East. Damascus, meanwhile, only very reluctantly agreed to leave its citizens in Aleppo in some semi-frozen limbo. Iran and Hezbollah were equally dubious.

Syrian fighters near the wreckage of a government warplane reportedly shot down by the Nusra front on April 5, (OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

All this suggests renewed military escalation this summer. Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably not wish to act before the European summit at the end of June. And neither would he wish Russia to figure largely as an issue in the U.S. presidential election. Yet he cannot ignore the pressures from those within Russia who insist that America is planning a hybrid war for which Russia is unprepared.

The Russia commentator Eric Zuesse encapsulated some of these concerns,writing that “actions speak louder than words.” Earlier this month, he notes, the U.S. refused to discuss with Russia its missile defense program:

Russia’s concern is that, if the ‘Ballistic Missile Defense’ or ‘Anti Ballistic Missile’ system, that the U.S. is now just starting to install on and near Russia’s borders, works, then the U.S. will be able to launch a surprise nuclear attack against Russia, and this system, which has been in development for decades and is technically called the ‘Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System,’ will annihilate the missiles that Russia launches in retaliation, which will then leave the Russian population with no retaliation at all.

Zuesse goes on to argue that the U.S. seems to be pursuing a new nuclear strategy, one that was put forward in 2006 in a Foreign Affairs article headlined “The Rise of Nuclear Primacy,” and scrapping the earlier policy of “mutually assured destruction.” The new strategy, Zuesse writes, argues “for a much bolder U.S. strategic policy against Russia, based upon what it argued was America’s technological superiority against Russia’s weaponry — and a possibly limited time-window in which to take advantage of it — before Russia catches up and the opportunity to do so is gone.”

Putin, Lavrov and Kerry attend a meeting about the Syrian war at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia Dec. 15, 2015. (REUTERS/ Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin)

So, what is going on here? Does the U.S. administration not see that pulling Russia into a debilitating Syrian quagmire by playing clever with a cease-fire that allows the insurgency to get the wind back in its sails is almost certain to lead to Russia and Iran increasing their military engagement? There is talk both in Russia and Iran of the need for a military surge to try to break the back of the conflict. Does the U.S. see that ultimately such a strategy might further entangle it — just as much as Russia and Iran — in the conflict? Does it understand Saudi Arabia’s intent to double down in Syria and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political interest in continuing the Syrian crisis? Does it judge these very real dangers accurately?

No, I think not: the political calculus is different. More likely, the explanation relates to the presidential election campaign in the U.S. The Democratic Party, in brief, is striving to steal the Republican Party’s clothes. The latter holds the mantle of being credited as the safer pair of hands of the two, as far as America’s security is concerned. This has been a longstanding potential weakness for the Democrats, only too readily exploited by its electoral opponents. Now, perhaps the opportunity is there to steal this mantle from the Republicans.

The Democratic Party is striving to steal the Republican Party’s clothes.

All this hawkishness — the American shrug of the shoulders at making Iran feel cheated over the nuclear agreement; at Russia, Iran and Damascus seething that the Syria cease-fire was no more than a clever trap to halt their military momentum; at the psychological impact of NATO exercising on Russia’s borders; at the possible consequences to Obama’s refusal to discuss the ballistic defense system — all this is more likely about showing Democrat toughness and savvy in contrast to Donald Trump.

In short, the Democrats see the opportunity to cast themselves as tough and reliable and to transform foreign policy into an asset rather than their Achilles’ heel.

But if all this bullheadedness is nothing more than the Democratic Party espying an apparent weakness in the Trump campaign, is this foreign policy posturing meaningful? The answer is that it is not meaningless; it carries grave risks. Ostensibly this posture may appear clever in a domestic campaigning context, where Russia is widely viewed in a negative light. But externally, if the Syrian cease-fire comes to be viewed as nothing more than a cynical ploy by the U.S. to drag Russia deeper into the Syrian quagmire in order to cut Putin down to size, then what will likely follow is escalation. Hot months ahead in Syria. Russia will gradually reenter the conflict, and Iran and Iraq will likely increase their involvement as well.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire after airstrikes in Idlib, Syria on June 12. (Abdurrahman Sayid/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There are those in the U.S., Turkey and the Gulf who would welcome such a heightened crisis, hoping that it would become so compellingly serious that no incoming U.S. president, of either hue, could avoid the call to do something upon taking office. In this way, the U.S. could find itself dragged into the maw of another unwinnable Middle Eastern war.

We should try to understand the wider dangers better, too. Baiting Russia, under the problematic rubric of countering Russian “aggression,” is very much in fashion now. But in Russia, there is an influential and substantial faction that has come to believe that the West is planning a devastating hybrid military and economic war against it. If this is not so, why is the West so intent on pushing Russia tight up into a corner? Simply to teach it deference? Psychologists warn us against such strategies, and Russia finally is reconfiguring its army (and more hesitantly, its economy) precisely to fight for its corner.

The U.S. could find itself dragged into the maw of another unwinnable Middle Eastern war.

As another noted Russia commentator, John Helmer, noted on his blog on May 30, the new NATO missile installations in Eastern Europe “are hostile acts, just short of casus belli — a cause of war.” According to Reuters, Putin warned that Romania might soon “be in the cross hairs” — the new NATO missile installations there will force Russia “to carry out certain measures to ensure our security.”

“It will be the same case with Poland,” Putin added.

Did you hear that sound? That was the ratchet of war, which has just clicked up a slot — or two.