Thursday, February 9, 2012

Syria Links for 2/9/12

MacMillan Backed Syria Assassination Plot - Ben Fenton, The Guardian, 9/26/03:  This article draws upon previously unknown discussions recorded in the private papers of Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Defense under PM Harold Macmillan.  They report that in 1957, a high level working group convened in Washington DC, led by Macmillan and U.S. President Eisenhower, and signed off on a "preferred plan" to topple the Syrian government.  The plan centered around the assassination of three Syrian government officials, but also included the full bag of dirty tricks.  Parts read: "Once a political decision is reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS [MI6] will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals...CIA and SIS should use their capabilities in both the psychological and action fields to augment tension."  The plan also called for a "Free Syria Committee" to be founded, and the arming of "political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities."
              While this coup never took place, it is striking to look back on how little the attitude of intelligence agencies have changed over 50+ years.   

The Horrors of 'Extraordinary Rendition' - Maher Arar, Foreign Policy in Focus, 10/27/06:  This is the acceptance speech given by Arar when he recieved the Lettellier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award.  Arar, a Canadien citizen of Syrian descent, was subject to an "extraordinary rendition" when traveling through New York City in 2002.  He was first detained by the FBI, and kept in a federal detention center for 12 days, following which he was forced to fly back to Syria.  His first hand account of the process reads:
Eventually on October 8th, against my will, they took me out of my cell. They basically read the pieces of document to me saying, that we will be sending you Syria. And when I complained, I said to them, I did explain to you if I'm sent back I will be tortured and they, I remember, the INS person flipped a couple of pages in this document, to the end of this document and read to me a paragraph that I still remember until today, an extremely shocking statement she made to me.  She said something like: The INS is not the body or the agency that signed the Geneva Convention, convention against torture. For me what that really meant is we will send you to torture and we don't care.  So they put me on a private jet, which I found extremely strange. I was the only passenger on that, on that plane. Its a luxurious plane, with leather seats in it. My only preoccupation during this trip is how I could avoid torture. By then, I realized that they were exactly sending me to Syria for torture. And that became very clear to me. Then the plane flew to Washington from Washington it flew to Maine then to Rome, then from Rome to Jordan...
I arrived in Syria that same day, at the end of the day and I was able to confirm that I was in fact in Syria after my blindfold was removed and I was able to see the pictures of the Syrian President. My feeling then is I just wanted to kill myself because I knew what was coming. I knew that the Americans, the American government send me there to be tortured.
Arar goes on to describe in detail the torture he underwent during his 9 month long detention.  He was eventually released after giving a false confession of training in Afghanistan, and was never charged with any crime by Canada, the US, Syria, or Jordan.  This speech illustrates first hand the U.S.'s complicity and knowledge of Syria's brutual security practices.  Arar was also not alone in being sent by the U.S. to Syria to be tortured.  In a Guardian article drawing from Stephen Grey's book Ghost Plane, it was written "In December 2002, Syrian president Bashar Assad and his wife paid an official visit to London. They were guests of honour at the City of London.  But back in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on that same day in December 2002, seven prisoners were languishing in jail, sent there by the US despite President George Bush's view that Syria was part of an "axis of evil" with a legacy of "torture, oppression, misery, and ruin". There is clear evidence the seven rendered there by the US were brutally tortured."

"I am now a refugee"  The Iraqi Crisis that has No Name - Dahr Jamail,, 4/22/2007: This article, written by independent journalist Jamail, recounts his two weeks in Syria researching the Iraqi refugee diaspora.  He cites the UN number at the time being 1-1.2 million Iraqis that have fled to Syria.  But he quotes a UN official on the ground, Sybella Wilkes, as saying this estimate was probably low, and that the Syrian government, relying on reports from border posts, estimates the number to be closer to 1.4-1.5 million.  Jamail also describes the inadequacy of services being provided by the UN High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Damascus.  He writes that staff member Erdogan Kalkan said that only 35,000 appointments have been scheduled at the cramped office, of which only 25,000 have been completed.  The budget allocated by the UNHCR for Syria in 2006 was $700,000, less than a dollar per person.  On top of this, according to Kalkan, the UNHCR "is essentially the only UN agency assisting Iraqis in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. UNICEF and other UN agencies have voiced interest, but as yet have provided little support in Syria."  Jamail then goes on to report a great number of stories he heard from Iraqis living in the slums of Damascus.
             Jamail's reporting can be added on to by the reports of Doctors without Borders/Medeciens Sans Frontiers, who set up a small station in Damascus in 2009 to help with migrant healthcare.  In their 2010 report, they state that only 215,000 Iraqi refugees are registered with the Syrian government, and that "without documentation permitting their stay in Syria, many refugees and asylum seekers are living in precarious conditions: they are excluded from healthcare and suffer political neglect and marginalisation. Syria is also host to migrants and refugees from Afghanistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and other countries in the region, who are living in similarly precarious conditions."

No comments:

Post a Comment