Assassinations of Raed Fares and Hammoud al-Jneid – the democratic revolution continues

Raed Fares best one

The assassination of Syrian democratic revolutionaries Raed Fares and Hammoud al-Jneid in Kafr Nabl was very bad and sad news. Raed was an icon of the people’s uprising, especially in Kafr Nabl, from where he ran an alternative anti-regime, anti-Daesh, radio station called ‘Radio Fresh‘.

It had received US funding until five months ago when President Trump stopped the US government’s $200 million in ‘stablilization aid’ to Syrian civil society organisations and humanitarian groups, including Radio Fresh. (Which must have pleased the anti-US-interventionist pseudo-left).

I followed Raed Fares on facebook over the years. Images of his satirical cartoons and political banners went viral. They had a distinct style and could be savage in their mocking of the regime and of the west’s failure to effectively support the revolutionaries.

There’s a lot of muck on social media but also great stuff, like the photos of Raed’s cartoons and banners, usually held up by groups of men in Kafr Nabl.

I’m republishing below a letter seeking support for Radio Fresh, to allow it to keep going.

Also, I’ve been gathering images of some of Raed’s work and share them here, after the letter below. My favourite is the one linking the Syrian uprising to the bigger picture of democratic revolution beyond Syria.

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Dear friends,

I am still reeling from the news of Raed Fares’s assassination on Friday. The heartbreak and collective grief so many Syrians and people around the world share at his loss are almost unbearable. But with every hour that passes it becomes more obvious what we need to do. We need to keep his work alive, we need to keep Radio Fresh on the air and power the work of the hundreds of journalists and activists he trained.

As a prominent civil society leader and media activist, Raed knew his life was in imminent danger, especially in his last weeks. His work was always very dangerous and he knew that both the Syrian regime and Al-Qaeda’s thugs wanted him dead. However he was determined to stay in his hometown of Kafranbel and continue his work. Fearing he might be assassinated, he gave instructions to his loyal students about how to continue what he had built. Radio Fresh would continue. The United Revolutionary Bureaus he set up would continue.

I’ve had many conversations over the last couple of days with Raed’s kids and his team. No one is giving up. Everyone wants to continue what Raed started — he made it clear that that’s what he would’ve wanted.  

Raed launched a campaign to fund Radio Fresh three months before his death when international aid was cut to the project. His family and colleagues have called on us to do everything we can to continue the campaign, fund his work and keep Raed’s dream of independent radio alive.

Please donate now to keep Radio Fresh on the air, and share the link with all your friends.

Radio Fresh is an independent radio station in northwest Syria that resists both Assad and extremist groups. Raed considered Radio Fresh an essential service to the community – its brave reporters discussed local issues, investigated cases of injustice, and held authorities to account. They even warned the community of incoming airstrikes.

When he survived his first assassination attempt by an armed group in Idlib in January 2016, Raed posted this to Facebook:

“Freedom is an idea, and an idea cannot die

Fresh is an idea, and an idea cannot die

Ideas cannot die, people die, and we will stay here so the pain goes away

Oh my homeland, of sacrifices

I cannot thank enough those who stood in solidarity, and letters cannot do justice to my emotions, all I can say is: You are the Revolution, and the Revolution saved its children”

Let’s put our support now behind the hundreds of journalists and activists trained by Raed and let’s help continue their critical work. The extremists will not defeat his indomitable will.

Donate now to keep Radio Fresh on the air.

Raed’s death is huge loss to humanity, to everyone everywhere who believes in freedom, democracy and equal rights for all. The only way to honour him is to continue his incredible work.

Thank you.

Yours,

Kenan Rahmani

 

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Brexit, US Foreign Policy and Notes on Trump 26

It is nearly 3 months since Notes 25 and starting draft with items 1 and 2 below. Gap due to both not seeing much changing and other preoccupations (which are actually an improved situation but still don’t leave much time for following this stuff). My expectations remain pretty much as they were then so I dont have much to add.

1. Full transcript of entire ABC interview of Comey (more than the 1 hour broadcast)
http://abcnews.go.com/Site/transcript-james-comeys-interview-abc-news-chief-anchor/story?id=54488723

About 50 pages (157pp in .pdf file but only one third of each page was actual transcript).

Not sure what to make of it or whether it was worth reading but would certainly be better than watching full hour on video.

Comey’s book (zero day release):

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=6B99F8765B2D92429B292650AB911216

2. From Rassmussen April 12 to 15 survey of likely voters:

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2018/few_praise_comey_s_tenure_at_fbi_more_want_him_prosecuted

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters believe a special prosecutor should be named to investigate whether senior FBI officials handled the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Trump in a legal and unbiased fashion. Comey was head of the FBI during much of this time.

Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters believe Comey should be prosecuted for leaking information to the media at the time he was director of the FBI. That’s up from 41% last June following Comey’s admission under oath to a U.S. Senate committee that he leaked memos of his private meetings with Trump as FBI director to The New York Times through a friend.

Just 34% disagree and say Comey should not be prosecuted, down 13 points from 47% in the previous survey. Twenty percent (20%) are not sure.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Republicans – and 50% of all voters – believe senior federal law enforcement officials at the FBI and Justice Department broke the law in an effort to prevent Trump from winning the presidency in 2016.

Most Republicans (55%) believe the FBI is more likely than Russia to have meddled in the 2016 election.

Book and TV interview will no doubt reassure the voters that Comey is a model of integrity and not a slimeball at all. If not, rinse and repeat.

3. Still have masses of open windows but no time to post about them. No big shift in media or polls. Some increased disapproval from separating immigrant families. This was reversed MUCH quicker than previous blunders like Scaramouchi, and Flynn appointments. Not fully recovered yet but still indicates unlikely to implode from inability to change course.

Perhaps one item worth mentioning is this follow up to Notes 25 discussion of liberals falling for delusional fantasies about Trump v Sessions.

http://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/395776-memos-detail-fbis-hurry-the-f-up-pressure-to-probe-trump-campaign

Only a straw in the wind but I said very early after Trump’s election win that somebody should be imprisoned for the coup mongering from his opponents in the “intelligence community”.

4. Korea outcome was pretty much as predicted ( by Scott “Dilbert” Adams as well as me). Syria and Middle East policy still unclear to me.

5. Trade protectionism appears to be happening earlier and harder than I expected. But I cannot follow closely enough to tell how much of the appearance is also real. Certainly it will as expected be a very live issue in both mid-terms and 2020 and one that will split Democrats while consolidating GOP as Trump’s party with previously dominant GOP globalists as ineffective internal opposition. External business opposition has started to mobilize but they have left it very late and still show little sign of being able to get their act together before there is real damage.

6. Brexit and Italy confirm possibility of real damage. Brexit is currently falling to bits with expected most likely outcomes being:

6.1 Most likely outcome is a second referendum to stay in provided EU holds firm on no offering no concessions to UK not already provided to Norway (ie free movement required for customs union) and die hards dont succeed in mobilizing resentment.

6.2 Meaningless exit to same situation as Norway which does far less damage. Even less likely now.

But the levels of incoherence on display still leave open third possibility with real damage that sets things back a few years.

6.3 Continued blundering around till deadlines expire with no agreement.

Given what is going on in USA, Italy, Poland and Hungary and the unanimous inaction over Syria one should not understimate the levels of sheer irrationality. (Which makes it especially hard for me to get my bearings as I generally analyse with greater expectations of rational malevolence and less attention to irrational possibilities).

7. I still expect Democrat majority in House from 2019 with resulting paralysis, focus on impeachment, Democrat splits, media escalation from merely frenzied to outright insurrectionary irrelevance and increased deficits all working to Trump’s advantage for 2020. Economy too unpredictable for two year forecasts though I would expect a crash to become more predictable during any second term even though economy is also too unpredictable for 6 year forecasts.

8. On a lighter note there is an amusing article on Brexit from Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor, in The Australian, Tuesday July 10, 2018. Sheridan is usually an utterly predictable and vacuous name dropping “Little Sir Echo” for the US foreign policy establishment. But the implosive disestablishment of that establishment has left has him an Editor who remains “Foreign” but with no identifiable foreign homeland. His complaint against the hapless British government is that they should have made plans to walk away from the EU with no deal rather than make it so obvious that the EU has no incentive to offer them anything.

But the whole referendum “victory” was based on Brexiteers promising the voters that they could have their cake and eat it. Now all they, and Sheridan, can do is express outrage at their own stupidity having become as evident to themselves as it was to others.

This is very similar to Sheridan’s echo of US foreign policy establishment worries that Asian “allies” will stop believing in US “guarantees” now that Trump has made it obvious the US cannot be relied on against anybody that has nuclear weapons that can hit the US. After 8 years of Obama what was there left to pretend with? What was there left for Brexiteers to pretend with?

What is there left for Sheridan to pretend with? He stayed loyal for half a century after Kissinger explained:

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1275842/Henry-Kissinger-To-be-an-enemy-of-America-can-be-dangerous-but-to-be-a-friend-is-fatal

Is there nobody left who can brief him on an actual current declaratory policy with some “plausible deniability”?

9. On a happier note the Thai cave rescue was an uplifting success story.

10. And the Elon Musk show arrived in time to be told to piss off and sell batteries to Australian power grids.

‘Freedom. Down with the regime. Your turn, Doctor’

These young blokes are true heroes. I hope they survive and thrive in a democratic Syria. A single spark can start a prairie fire!

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(Photo of them in 2011, after arrest and torture)

From eNCA:

“Your turn, Doctor.” Seven years after scribbling the anti-Assad slogan that sparked Syria’s war, activists-turned-rebels Moawiya and Samer Sayasina are bracing for a regime assault on their hometown of Daraa.

They were just 15 when they and friends, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions they saw on television, daubed a groundbreaking message on one of the southern city’s walls in the spring of 2011.

“We’d been following the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, and we saw them writing slogans on their walls like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Down with the regime’,” said Moawiya, now 23.

“We got a can of spray paint and we wrote ‘Freedom. Down with the regime. Your turn, Doctor’,” referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist.

Within two days, security forces stormed their homes and detained the boys, who are unrelated but share a common family name.

“They tortured us to find out who had provoked us to write it,” Moawiya said.

The teenagers’ detention prompted a wave of angry protests demanding their release, in what many point to as the spark to Syria’s nationwide uprising.”

The rest of the report can be read here.

 

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Good migrant/bad migrant

Political cartoons – also known as ‘editorial cartoons’ – can be very powerful, for good or bad causes.

This one is a stand-out for me. I came across it on facebook via a couple of pro-Syrian revolution groups.

I know that the Syrian refugee crisis will not be solved until the regime is overthrown and some kind of orderly democratic process developed with appropriate international support, but the cartoon draws attention to the hypocrisy of those elsewhere who support immigration restriction.

Had the bloke who rescued the child not been so courageous, he might have ended up deported one day – yet he is still the same human being.

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Syrian Coalition Condemns Israeli Occupation Massacre against Palestinians & Transfer of US Embassy to Jerusalem

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https://buff.ly/2rSD7Tl

The Syrian Coalition condemns the horrific massacre that was committed by the Israeli occupation against Palestinian demonstrators demanding their rights on Monday. The massacre claimed the lives of dozens of demonstrators and left hundreds more injured, including women and children.

The Coalition also reiterates its categorical rejection of the US president’s decision to recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer the US embassy to the city. The move violated international resolutions, most notably UN Security Council resolution 478 (1980) which condemned any attempt by Israel to annex Jerusalem.

The Coalition also denounces the continuing violations being committed by the government of the Israeli occupation against the Islamic and Christian holy sites. It stresses that nothing can justify violence, repression and crimes or grant legitimacy to occupation and mass forced displacement.

The Syrian people will always support the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to their land and to build their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, which will remain a Palestinian Arab land. No other party has the right to claim sovereignty over the city. It will not be long before the Palestinian people regain all their rights and achieve a just, comprehensive solution that ends violence and restores stability to the region.

The struggle of the Syrian and Palestinian peoples for freedom and dignity is one. The resistance and resilience that the Palestinian people have shown over the past decades will always remain an example for steadfastness and patience.

 

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Iraq Elections

Polls have only just closed for the first Iraqi elections since defeat of Daesh.

Results will take 48 hours. Negotiations between parties and coalitions for formation of government could take much longer.

Preliminary reports indicate Sadrists did unexpectedly well, in coalition with the revisionist Iraqi Communist Party. Described as “patriotic” and anti-corruption because social basis among poor Shia and denounces both US and Iran. I suspect more like “Trumpist”.

Current Prime Minister Abadi said to have done “unexpectedly” badly. Actually the previous election winner “State of Law” coalition led by Shia Dawa party headed by Maliki was forced to accept compromise Prime Minister to avoid splitting under combined onslaught from US led West and Iran to facilitate unity with Sunnis against Daesh. Successfuly suppressed both Daesh and opportunist uprisings by Sadrist militia thugs and subordinated Iranian militias to national government. Ran as two coalitions in this election with Dawa members free to support either. What would be VERY surprising is if the two wings combined failed to outpoll the Sadrist/revisionist coalition and all the others.

Results will be available at wikipedia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_parliamentary_election,_2018

There really isn’t much to say before results.

I am mainly posting this to draw attention to the importance of the results and the truly remarkable phenomena of how open the genuine party contest has been despite the mass murder campaign from Baathist and Islamo-fascists. This highlights the extreme viciousness of the pseudoleft who bitterly opposed the emergence of democracy in Iraq.

Even the opportunists of the revisionist Iraqi Communist Party were not as bad the entire western pseudoleft. While nominally opposing the invasion they in fact helped setup the interim governing authority and new constitution. But for everyone pretending to be “left” and not actually living under fascist terror a clear choice was made that Iraqis should be left to deal with fascist terror by themselves.

The same choice has naturally been made for Syrians but the forces promoting that view in alliance with the rest of the far right in the west are even more discredited and even less likely to be mistaken for anything even mildly progressive.

The barbarism of Assad. No more ‘kneel or starve’!

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‘When the 2011 revolution was launched, the Assad regime had entered a new phase: It no longer hid itself behind the masque of socialism. There was no longer a need for these banners promising death to opponents under the slogan of progress and socialism, or in the name of the Baath Party. Instead, Assad’s henchmen declared a slogan summarising the dynastic essence of the regime: “Assad or we burn the country”. Here, there were no pretenses of some ideal or any form of morality. It is naked despotism, openly showing its true face. At the checkpoints set up by pro-regime militias encircling zones fleeing Assad’s supremacy, we can read another slogan: “Kneel or Starve”, a way of telling the besieged ‘either you die of hunger under the bombs or you accept the humiliation of submission.”‘

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Translation of ‘Assad ou le lion nu‘, the op-ed by the Syrian writer and poet Omar Kaddour, on the barbarism of the Assad regime (Assad means ‘lion’ in Arabic). Originally published in Le Monde – 11/05/2018.

Born in 1966, Omar Kaddour is a Syrian poet, novelist and journalist. He has published two collections of poems in the 1990s and four novels between 2002 and 2013, none of which have been translated. In 2014, he left Damascus for Lebanon and has lived in France since 2015.

Translation by Joey Ayoub. Republications allowed as long as you credit author and translator. (Thanks to Hummus for Thought) .


Towards mid March 2018, the regime-affiliated television station Al-Ikhbariya showed brief interviews with the inhabitants leaving Eastern Ghouta following the long military campaigns against the rebel enclave. The journalist, whose face did not appear on screen, was speaking to one of the evacuated in an accusatory manner: “People are saying that the inhabitants [of Eastern Ghouta] supported the armed factions” to which an elderly man responded “we are a poor and defenseless people”.

At the same time, a young man takes the initiative to tell his young girl to say that she is “Habiba, the ‘daughter’ of Bashar al-Assad”. But instead, the girl yelled out of anger, in a conclusive tone, to say that no, she is not the daughter of Bashar! Syrians would understand here that the man would only ask such a thing of his daughter to beg for aman (mercy) as he is of fighting age. We know that men his age, after leaving the besieged areas, are either arrested and tortured, or forced to join Assad’s forces to fight opposition groups. Syrians would also understand that for this public blunder the father, and perhaps even the girl, could pay the price.

The little Habiba reminds us of the famous tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes (known in Syria under the title of ‘the naked emperor’) by Hans Andersen because she has yet to become aware of fear and of the caution it demands. Except that in her case, we can imagine that this goes even further than for the child who yelled ‘the king is naked!’. After all, this girl has lived her whole life under the siege, barrel bombs, shells, and even chemical weapons. It is not unlikely that one of her friends or one of her relatives was killed by these weapons of mass destruction. In this context of death and famine, Habiba heard that the one responsible for their ordeal was Bashar al-Assad. Then came the day where her father asks her to declare that she is the daughter of Bashar. This is how the return to Assad’s supremacy works: accepting him despite all that he has made people endure and all that he will continue to make them endure.

In an Orwell novel

The case of Habiba, as with many others, elucidates this great paradox: portraits of Bashar excessively hanged over the ruins of the zones he has reconquered. In politics, we are supposed to avoid psychological interpretations – such as speaking of necrophiliacs. However, if we observe the discourse of the Assad regimes – both of the father and the son – we find this drunken language of destruction. I was a teenager when Hafez Al-Assad crushed the Muslim Brotherhood uprising. His troops had just committed a massacre in Hama, killing over 30,000 people, not to mention the destruction inflicted on the city.

At that moment, portraits of Assad senior invaded all of Syria’s roads. I also remember a banner that we’d see everywhere accompanied by a saying of the president which read: “There is no life in this country other than for progress and socialism”. For a long time, I thought of this banner covered in portraits of Hafez Al-Assad over the lifeless rubble. Before that, we would read another saying written by his men on walls or on banners: “I am the Baath [party in power in Syria since 1963], death to its enemies!” Here and there, the goal was to threaten adversaries with death, in the name of the party in one case, in the name of progress and socialism in another.

As it happens, I entered university in 1984, when the world was re-reading George Orwell’s 1984. I read the novel – Assad’s censorship allows the book to circulate while it banned its movie version, because it knew that readers were far fewer than viewers. Regardless, for people like me who read 1984 in Syria, the novel brought nothing new. We lived in a reality similar to what it was imagining, with Big Brother seeing everything, with his intelligence services interfering in every aspect of our existence.

That year, Hafez Al-Assad had finished destroying the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, he was busying himself imprisoning communists, including those who abandoned any opposition to support him in his war against the Brotherhood. Between 1984 and 1987, many of my leftwing friends were arrested and condemned to harsh sentences in front of special courts which didn’t allow them to defend themselves. Nevertheless, they were luckier than those who claimed to be with the Muslim Brotherhood because those were judged by “campaign” tribunals which generally chose the death penalty.

A distant relative connects me to two brothers who were arrested for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. No one in their family had heard of them since. They had children who grew up without knowing them. Their mother became hopeless for knowing nothing about them. And if there was a glimmer of hope, it was no doubt extinguished when ISIS/Daesh took control of Palmyra prison without anyone knowing what happened to its archives.

Like an Occupation Force.

Outside of prison, where we lived like the characters in Orwell’s novel, people abstained from doing anything that would remotely look political. If someone denounced you, even if out of personal vengeance, it could lead to your disappearance. All that was needed was for a simple quidam to accuse you of having insulted ‘the commanding father’ for your destiny to sink into a dark unknown. There is a word for that: “Al-istibaha” (the act of declaring the violation of human rights legal). In other words, the whole of society was at the mercy of a powerful elite and no one had dignity. There are no laws forbidding that group from degrading people, or killing them, or stealing their possessions. It’s an expression inherited from past wars, when conquerors allowed their soldiers to do whatever they wanted to do to the inhabitants of the cities they occupied.

Concretely, the power of Assad senior soon resembled an occupation force allowing itself to trample upon a whole population. The concept of istibaha implies that those who find themselves outside the circle of power have no rights. And if that circle abandons any responsibility in terms of public services, it considers it a form of generosity. This is how school students had to study about the ‘generosity’ of the ‘commanding father’: The fact that he brought electricity in certain villages, for example, as though it didn’t exists in homes in countries poorer than Syria. Also, when they increased the salaries of public officials, they announced it like it was a generous act by the president, as if he were paying for it from his own pocket, even though it was also accompanied by a higher rate of inflation which affected these employees  salaries.

“Kneel or Starve”

When the 2011 revolution was launched, the Assad regime had entered a new phase: It no longer hid itself behind the masque of socialism. There was no longer a need for these banners promising death to opponents under the slogan of progress and socialism, or in the name of the Baath Party. Instead, Assad’s henchmen declared a slogan summarising the dynastic essence of the regime: “Assad or we burn the country”. Here, there were no pretenses of some ideal or any form of morality. It is naked despotism, openly showing its true face. At the checkpoints set up by pro-regime militias encircling zones fleeing Assad’s supremacy, we can read another slogan: “Kneel or Starve”, a way of telling the besieged ‘either you die of hunger under the bombs or you accept the humiliation of submission.”

As the regime applies its scorched earth policy and starves the population to bring it to heel, it insists on showing that in the regions it controls, life follows its natural course. It’s not only an image sent abroad to prove the regime’s resilience. It’s only a way of bringing Syrians to accept the idea that there is nothing abnormal happening in their lives while thousands of others are crammed into internment camps and that, every day, security services tell new families of the death of a detained son with no explanation and without returning his corpse.

The standard for Assad is for its repressive machine to kill Syrians wherever it finds them. The world was made aware of the reports by ‘Caesar’ on the systemic usage of torture for the purpose of murder. It was also made aware, a year ago, of a report by the US state department of the existence of a crematorium next to Saydnaya prison. But all of that was just the tip of the iceberg compared to everything we know now and to what the Assad regime will continue to do. The regime isn’t seeking a one-off victory, but a permanent one, a victory that guarantees that no revolution will ever be able to exist. And this means a perpetual war against Syrian society.

We have a president whose legitimacy is still recognised by the world. And yet, in a speech given on the 20th of August, 2017, he said: “Yes, we lost our best youth and infrastructure which cost us a lot of money, we lost whole generations, but in return we gained a society that is sane and homogeneous.” Assad declared that losing thousands of combatants and millions of exiled creates a better society. His concept of homogeneity is inspired by the worst Nazi literature, where he also got his idea of a holocaust.

However, Assad’s victory doesn’t only consist of committing unimaginable crimes, but to make sure they become something banal even to the outside world. The more he kills Syrians, the less the international community is interesting in their tragedy. This is the criteria for his success. Indeed, in the foreign press, these killings do not make the headlines anymore, regardless of how much we talk about them. As for international efforts in favor of a democratic transition, they have practically stopped. Certain world powers which demanded Assad’s departure when he had made only a few thousand victims are now declaring their willingness to see him maintain power now that he has hundreds of thousands of victims.

Documented and filmed atrocities

Even the notion of going after Assad for his use of chemical weapons is a victory to him, as it is a humiliation to Syrians, because it implies that their lives are despised to promote a convention on the interdiction of chemical weapons. What more could we have hoped for? We have powers responsible for peace in the world, as permanent members of the Security Council, invoking the Russian veto when the life and the future of Syrians are at risk. And yet, these same powers act on their own, regardless of that veto, when Assad violates the accord on chemical weapons!

Assad also wins when his Mufti threatens Europe with suicide bombers ready for action and that these threats are realised, only for people to then say that Assad ‘only’ kills his people while ISIS is a threat to the planet! Assad also wins in becoming the first to commit so many documented and filmed atrocities in plain sight for the whole world to see, with no strong international reaction demanding that he be brought to justice.

But his biggest victory is that people now see us as characters in a terrifying tale, and that they may even be sincerely shocked by what is happening to us just as we are shocked when we read a horrible story or watch a tragic film – except that this stays within the realm of imaginary characters. If our story stopped with the little Habiba refusing to be Bashar’s daughter, we might see an optimistic end. Alas, Syrian children like Habiba will grow up, and the first leson that they will learn is that the wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood will eat them with the assistance of the gamekeeper. And it’s not impossible that in the Syrian version of the tale, the gamekeeper trains the children to call the wolf “daddy” before he devours them.

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See also: Occupy Syria!

 

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