Archive | March, 2013

Syria Update, March 26, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

27 Mar

Syria Update, March 26 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Early death toll: More than 100 persons including 46 civilians.

Monday’s death toll: More than 160 persons were killed yesterday including 75 civilians (of these 13 were children)

Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib took over Syria’s seat on the Arab League. blamed Assad for casualties and appealed for help from NATO. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/26/syrian-opposition-appeals-nato-support
Here is his speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N_84LkW-Yg&feature=player_embedded
In the summit, Suhair al-Attasi then took Syria’s seat. https://twitter.com/aawsat_News/status/316636581706485760/photo/1

Who killed al-Bouti? The elderly Syrian state cleric was allegedly killed in a suicide attack on the 21st of March, but questions remain about his killers and the reasons for his assassination. http://syrie.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/03/26/qui-a-tue-al-bouti-qui-est-responsable-et-pourquoi-est-il-mort/

Al-Thawra, a state-owned Syrian newspaper expressed anger over the Arab League summit in Doha where the Assad government is not represented and claimed it is not a meeting “for Arabs.” http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/syrian-state-paper-vents-anger-over-arab-summit

There are claims that Ansar al-Shari`ah of Tunisia has sent fighters to Syria; some have been martyred recently. http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2013/03/social_media_jihad.php

Refugees and Relief:

Aid workers and Syrian aid groups – -what’s happening: http://www.gpb.org/news/2013/03/26/syrian-aid-groups-train-an-army-of-activists?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GPBNewsFeed+%28GPB+News%29

The UN has temporarily relocated some of its staff outside of Syria after mortar shells fell near the hotel where they were housed. http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/un-temporarily-relocates-some-staff-out-syria-owing-insecurity-0

The UNHCR has called for all parties to allow delivery of aid to civilians inside Syria. The UNHCR reports that 437,000 people received relief items as of last week.
http://www.unhcr.org/print/515178956.html

Here is the testimony provided by USAID to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis on March 19, 2013. http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Lindborg_Testimony.pdf

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

A regime-paid sniper shot a woman in the Karaj al-Hajz area today. An explosion was reported in Halab al-Jadida.

2 children were killed in bombardment of the Haydariya neighborhood of Aleppo and 5 opposition fighters were killed in the province yesterday. Two children were killed by a land-mine in the town of Tel’aran.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Mortar rounds struck the Baramkeh neighborhood near a hospital and killed a child in the Bakhityar area where a fire broke out. Mortars also fell on the neighborhood of Bab Touma.
A suicide bomber blew up a van in the eastern area of Rukn al-Din neighbourhood in Damascus killing at least 3 and wounding others. Clashes took place in Yarmouk. The Syrian regime’s forces bombarded the neighborhoods of Qaboun, Hajar al-Aswad, and Barzeh. Rockets fell on the Ish al-Warwar neighborhood killing a child and injuring others (Ish al-Warwar has many residents originally from the Syrian coast). An explosion was reported in Zahra. Several rockets fell near the law faculty and the SANA news agency which injured several civilians. Regime bombardment was resumed on al-Jobar. Several rockets fell on the suburb of Jaramana.

Yesterday, 2 members of the Popular Committees (pro-regime militia) were killed by clashes with opposition fighters on the edges of the Ish al-Warwar neighbourhood of Damascus.

The regime forces bombarded the towns of Buweida, Ain Terma, Zebdeen, al-Ebada, Zamalka and Deir al-Asafir, killing 3 civilians in Deir al-Asafir; 1 child was killed in Kafarbatna and several residents were injured and a woman and a man from the A’in Tarma were killed in Zamalka, The Syrian airforce also bombarded the towns of Shab’a, and al-Eteiba. 1 opposition fighter was killed in clashes in Darayya.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The regime forces shelled the towns of Nahta, Umm al-Mayathin and the road between al-Lijah and Busr al-Harir. Regime forces tortured to death a man from Dar`a al-Balad after they detained him. One opposition fighter was killed in the bombardment of Khirbet Ghazala. The regime forces earlier shelling of the town of Jassem has killed four persons.

Deir az-Zur province:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

The regime forces bombarded the neighborhood of Sina’a, the towns of al-Hsan and al-Jneina, and the Hweija causing injuries and damaging properties.

Sunday was the 285th day of the regime’s bombardment of the city of Deir az-Zur, http://youtu.be/Gzcv5yvgxmI
clashes took place in al-Hweeeqah; a mortar fell onto al-Nur Hospital,

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

2 men were killed by snipers in the Hama neighbourhoods of al-Arba’een and Junoob al-Mal’ab; gunfire was heard in several parts of the city. Yesterday, 6 members from the town of Qamhana were killed by clashes with rebels near Jisr Helfaya, Hama.

Hassake province
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Regime forces killed eleven opposition fighters in an ambush in the village of Melbiyya. The fighters were from Mayadeen and A’sharha and apparently other fighters were executed following detention by regime forces.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Syrian regular forces have taken full control over the Baba Amr neighbourhood after 2 weeks of intense clashes.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/26/us-syria-crisis-homs-idUSBRE92P07U20130326

Opposition fighters from several factions stormed Baba Amr, two weeks ago and managed to hold their positions, but they were violently bombarded by the Syrian regime’s airforce and artillery. Several residents of the Baba Amr returned to their homes to check on them, finding them destroyed or uninhabitable.

In Rastan, people tried to help a little girl hit in shelling http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDsu787mmYY&feature=youtu.be

13 charred bodies, including four children and five women, were found on the outskirts of the village of Abil, southwest of the city of Homs, who were killed by pro-government actors.

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The regime forces shelled Khan Sheikhoun its surrounding villages, as well as Sarmin, al-Bara village in Jabal al-Zawiya and Ma’arat Masrin. A regime sniper killed a man in Ariha.

Warplanes carried out air raids on Salqin. Helicopters were seen throwing food bags on the encampment of Hamidiya, for the tenth day in a row, since the opposition forces have been besieging the encampments of al-Hamidiya and Wadi al-Dayf, for over a month.

On the Umma Brigade which has been operating in this area:
http://syriasurvey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-umma-brigades-political-manifesto.html

And here is its political manifesto:

Latakia province:
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=ghv_UOaOOMGW0QH88YDYDw&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Regime forces killed one man yesterday in an ambush set close to the village of al-Badroosiya

Quneitra province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Quneitra+governorate+Google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151eb4afcd3e069f:0xbcbbd63808a65623,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

One opposition fighter was killed yesterday.

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

International:

The White House in the U.S. said it would not be providing any defense to the Syrian opposition from the Patriot missiles stationed in Turkey as requested by Moaz al-Khatib at the Arab League summit in Doha. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130326/white-house-no-patriot-missiles-syria-0

The U.S. has been training “secular” (non-Islamist) Syrian fighters in Jordan over the last few months and providing non-lethal logistical support. Some of the trainees are in turn training Syrians inside Syria. http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/ap-officials-say-us-training-syrian-fighters-in-jordan-032513/

Syrian Shi`i Muslims in Lebanon are defending their homes against attacks by the opposition, moving back across the Lebanese border after taking refuge in Lebanon. Here is their account of the situation there and in the Hermel/Arsaal areas of the upper Biqa`. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-fg-0326-syria-shiites-hezbollah-20130326,0,5327323.story

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Bitterness, al-Buti and Competing Syrian Narratives

25 Mar

Bitterness, al-Buti, and Competing Syrian Narratives (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

One of the bitter tastes of the war in Syria has been the characterization of events by certain enemies of the Syrian opposition. Many simply refer blithely to imperialism and the “disaster” of Libya. Or Iraq. Or to their own ideas of the current admittedly confusing power struggles in Egypt.

Whenever we discuss Syria on the Sociology of Islam list – well, there is no discussion! Only counter-posts. All that some of us may know about Syrian society, politics and Islamist politics is rendered invisible in the face of other regurgitated narratives. If we respond based on our knowledge, we are accused of imperialism, wrong alliances, wrong doctrine, war-mongering, wa, wa wa.

And in the face of the instant experts on Syria in cyberspace and on Twitter – does anything we know about Syria matter anyway?

When Syria’s top cleric. Sheikh Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti was assassinated, Thomas Pierret (IMES, University of Edinburgh) who has supported Syria’s revolution posted this:

A short biography of Sheikh Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, the pro-regime Syrian scholar
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=18242

Syrian regime loses last credible ally among the Sunni ulama
By Thomas Pierret (Lecturer in Contemporary Islam, University of Edinburgh)
For Syria Comment, March 22, 2013
With the assassination of Sheikh Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti (b. 1929), who was killed in Thursday’s bomb attack at the al-Iman mosque in Damascus, the Syrian regime lost its last credible ally among the Sunni religious elite. A Muslim scholar of world standing, al-Buti had conferred religious legitimacy on the Asad dynasty for more than three decades, with far more influence than discredited state creatures like Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassun.
The son of a Kurdish cleric who fled Kemalist repression and sought refuge in Damascus in the early 1930s, al-Buti earned a doctorate at al-Azhar before joining the staff of the faculty of sharia at the University of Damascus, of which he was dean from 1977 to 1983. In the meantime, he also became famous for polemical essays that were enormously popular among the religious-minded youth of the 1970s.
A staunch traditionalist, al-Buti was struggling on two fronts: on the one hand, he refuted western ideologies such as Marxism, nationalism and of course secularism; on the other hand, he relentlessly attacked the proponents of Islamic reform, from modernist Muhammad ‘Abduh to Salafi literalist Nasir al-Din al-Albani.
Al-Buti always remained a bitter enemy of non-traditionalist brands of Islam: a decade ago, he branded Islamic MP Muhammad Habash a “heretic” because he had claimed that the gates of paradise were open to Christians and Jews; a few years ago, al-Buti encouraged the regime to “cleanse” the country of Salafi zealots. His profound hostility to the central tenets of Baathist ideology did not prevent him from concluding an unlikely alliance with the Asad family.
Al-Buti made his first gestures of support for the regime during the 1979-82 insurgency: whereas most of his senior colleagues were either silent or supportive of the opposition, he vocally condemned the attacks carried out by Islamic militants. This stance was in line with his long-standing opposition to both military and political activism in the name of Islam, which had resulted in poor relations with the Muslim Brothers. Al-Buti’s quietist approach, which he fully expounded in 1993 in a book entitled Jihad in Islam, was in no way related to some secularist principles, but to the belief that Islam should be ‘the common element that unites’ all political forces rather than the preserve of one of them.
In exchange for helping the regime to defeat its Islamic opponents, al-Buti was endowed with informal leadership over Syrian Islam: although he did not occupy any prestigious position within the Ministry of Religious Endowments (awqaf) until his 2008 appointment as the preacher of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, he enjoyed a close relationship with Hafiz al-Asad, who used to grant him long personal meetings. Contrary to many pro-regime sheikhs, al-Buti did not use his political connections for personal enrichment. What he obtained in exchange for his loyalty was visibility through a weekly program on state television, as well the possibility to intercede in favour of some of his exiled colleagues who were willing to come back to the homeland. Therefore, criticisms of al-Buti’s pro-regime stance often went along with recognition that he had helped improve the situation of the religious elite after the fierce repression of the early 1980s.
Under Bashar al-Asad, al-Buti remained loyal to the regime in exchange for some concessions to the religious sector. In 2005, he branded the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri as a US-Zionist conspiracy aimed at destroying Syria and Islam. Likewise, he described the execution of Saddam Hussein in 2007 as part of a US plan aimed at dividing Sunni and Shia Muslims, whom he called to unite, thereby repelling the opposition’s denunciation of the regime’s alliance with Iran. ‘Compensation’ for these declarations included a crackdown on women rights activism, more freedom for religious activities, a faculty of sharia in Aleppo, and the establishment of a short-lived League of the Ulama.
Following his appointment as the preacher of the Umayyad Mosque in 2008, al-Buti became increasingly influential within the Ministry of Religious Endowments by being entrusted with the supervision of an ambitious reform of higher Islamic education. On the eve of the 2011 revolution, however, relations with the authorities turned sour as a result of secularist measures such as a ban on face-veil (niqab) in schools and universities, as well as because of the broadcasting of a Ramadan series he deemed offensive to Islam.
In August 2010, al-Buti suggested that attacks on religion would entail painful retribution on the part of the Almighty: in a ‘vision’ he had in a dream, he said, he had seen a ‘devastating divine wrath filling the horizon’. A few months later, the Kurdish scholar first thought that this retribution had come under the form of the winter drought which for the third year, was hitting the country’s agriculture hard.
When demonstrations started in March 2011, al-Buti declared that this was the actual fulfillment of the godly vision he had had a few months earlier. Once again, the cleric gave credence to the regime’s narrative by speaking of a ‘Zionist conspiracy’. Although during the first weeks of the uprising al-Buti obtained further concessions like the closure of Damascus’ casino, the creation of a state-run Islamic satellite channel and his appointment as the head of a newly-created Union of the Ulama of Bilad al-Sham, his support for the regime gradually became unconditional and, above all, unlimited. A few days before his assassination, that is, two years into a conflict that had witnessed mass killing and destruction at the hands of the regime’s military, al-Buti was still encouraging the faithful to wage jihad in the ranks of the ‘heroic’ Syrian Arab Army, which he once compared to the Companions of the Prophet, in order to defeat the ‘global conspiracy’ against Syria.
Al-Buti, was the only respected scholar to express such vocal support for the regime after March 2011, the other religious sycophants being obscure, third-rank clerics, like Ahmad Sadiq, who was shot dead in Damascus a year ago. Therefore, regardless of who actually committed Thursday’s bomb attack (those who accuse the regime stress the fact that the attack took place in a heavily guarded neighbourhood, the al-Iman mosque being located a few meters away from the headquarters of the Ba‘th party; they also insist on the fact that bombing a Sunni mosque is an unprecedented pattern of operation on the part of Syrian insurgents (but it has been witnessed in Iraq), the tragic demise of al-Buti means that the regime has now ceased to enjoy any meaningful source of religious legitimacy among the Sunni clergy.
_____

Note: the official `ulama of Syria were deliberately weakened, ineffective and isolated, in my own view. I had tried in the early ‘90s to interview a few and selected the wrong topic – a slightly progressive fatwa from the World Shari`ah Council. Pierret has written a good summary of the failings of those in the largest cities here: http://www.academia.edu/236093/City_Clergy_Politics_in_the_Cities_of_Bathi_Syria

What isn’t stated here is that there was an increasing presence of Islamist thought and social symbols in Syria (as throughout the region) even as the state and its alter-ego false political party, and business groups struggled against it.

As’ad responds:

1) When you say this, Thomas: “‘Compensation’ for these declarations included a crackdown on women rights activism…” Are you implying that Al-Buti was more reactionary and more misogynistic than the clerics who are on the side of the opposition? Are you implying that Al-Buti was, say, was more reactionary that Ahmad Mu`adh Al-Khatib who spent years railing against Facebook, masturbation, and who hailed Saddam Husayn for “terrifying Jews”? Or do you concede that the clerics of the opposition are in fact more reactionary than Al-Buti, who was influenced by the Nasserist-reformed Al-Azhar were he studied? Also, what crackdown of women rights activism are you talking about? Are you referring to the time when Al-Buti convinced Bashshar to rescind an order to ban niqabls on college campuses in Syria?

2) Your last section is rather confusing and appears to be propagandistic in purpose when you write: “Therefore, regardless of who actually committed Thursday’s bomb attack (those who accuse the regime stress the fact that the attack took place in a heavily guarded neighbourhood, the al-Iman mosque being located a few meters away from the headquarters of the Ba‘th party; they also insist on the fact that bombing a Sunni mosque is an unprecedented pattern of operation on the part of Syrian insurgents (but it has been witnessed in Iraq), the tragic demise of al-Buti means that the regime has now ceased to enjoy any meaningful source of religious legitimacy among the Sunni clergy.” So you are here recycling the standard unfounded, unsubstantiated accusations by the armed opposition (who basically accuse the regime of every crime and bombing in Syria, including bombs that target the regime or even `Alawite neighborhoods) in order to echo the trend of Saudi-Qatari media which insist that every bomb in Syria (especially when children are killed, as was the case in this particular bomb in a mosque which killed scores of people other than Al-Buti) in order to accuse the regime of killing a man who you yourself label as “the last credible ally among Sunni `Ulama’”? Do you see how the paragraph does not cohere unless you are telling readers that the regime is now going on a rampage to kill its “last credible allies”? You need to decide here: either the regime killed him or he was not then the “last credible ally” of the regime. In fact, Thomas: the opposition realized that the attempt to blame the regime for this murder is quite odd and bizarre, so some opposition groups in fact claimed (rather laughably and posthumously) that Al-Buti joined the cause of the opposition (quietly and silently) only days or hours before he was killed (although, of course, there is no evidence of that whatsoever and the cleric remained loyal to Bashshar’s regime to his last days).

3) What is missing from your piece is that the exile opposition and armed groups have been denouncing Al-Buti and even calling for his murder for long months. The campaigns against Al-Buti have been relentless by various parts of the opposition particularly because he was a “credible”—to use your language—clerical ally of the regime. What is also missing is that Al-Buti recently supported the Fatwa by Mufti Hassun which attempted to monopolize Jihad in Syria by calling on Syrians to join the cause of the Syrian army, which may have sealed his fate.

As`ad
As`ad AbuKhalil

Has Syria Used Chemical Weapons? A Primer. Sherifa Zuhur

20 Mar

A Primer on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

Sherifa Zuhur. Director, Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies.
sherifazuhur@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Institute-of-Middle-Eastern-Islamic-and-Strategic-Studies/168189513225439?ref=hl

In August of 2012, U.S. President Obama warned the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons and stated that their use would be unacceptable. He also promised to aid the opposition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bsO3ehh8UEk

The opposition has demanded an inquiry into the current use of chemical weapons (CW) on 3/18/13 in an incident in Khan Assal in Aleppo province. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-chemicalsbre92j0r4-20130320,0,1185396.story Thus far, the U.S. ambassador has said it is unlikely. But if it occurred, would the U.S. make good on its promise to punish Bashar al-Assad’s government or not? To the first question — have chemical weapons been used?

Syria’s chemical weapons program dates back to 1973 when Syria obtained mustard and sarin from Egypt. It is one of the strongest programs in the Middle East region. Syria’s current chemical weapons development is being supervised by Iranian scientists. Ever since 1989, the focus of the program has been on improving the accuracy and distance of potential strikes via the delivery system. Six years ago, Syria possessed 100 to 200 sarin-filled warheads (in 2008) there may be more today. The country has SCUD missiles and SS-21 missiles, both of which may be fitted to CW warheads.

Between late November and early December of 2012, the U.S. government was provided information indicating that Syria was mixing and moving its CW stores, probably for intended use. Photographs showed soldiers preparing precursor chemicals, and army units loading CW onto military transport. In this same period there were some claims of use of a gas or chemical weapon by those injured in Homs and other areas, and some of the injured were biopsied. The most recent claims of March 18, 2013 involve an attack on Khan al-Assal, an area in Aleppo, where the opposition had captured a police academy, and where the Syrian government troops and air force had been attacking in an effort to recapture. It appears the Syrian air force used a missile which then mistakenly hit Syrian forces in the opposition-held area, killing 16 Syrian troops and 10 opposition fighters. (SOHR 3/18, 3/19) The Syrian government’s claim that it was the opposition which had and used CW follows its pattern of terming the opposition “terrorists,” and also may have been expressed to cover up the mistake made by the Syrian military for firing on its own fighters. The missiles were fired from the Nayrab district. The opposition quickly denied that it has any such weapons; indeed the stockpiles are held by the Syrian government (Youtube and Barnard, NYT 3/19/13) Breathing difficulties, bluish skin and suffocation of some of the 26 victims were reported and a Reuters reporter confirmed seeing these symptoms and smelling chorine in the air.

In December one of the fighting groups of the FSA seized one of Syria’s facilities about 40 miles from Aleppo near the Euphrates river, the SYSSACO plant which manufactures chemicals including chlorine. At the time, al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper sympathetic to the Assad regime claimed that there were 100-kilogram tanks of chlorine at that facility. ( http://digitaljournal.com/article/338771 ) The rebels declared the area a closed zone. It seems highly unlikely that the 3/18 bombing could have come from these stocks, or direction.

Previous Use of an CW Agent

The Syrian military attacked the city of Homs (which has been besieged for months) on December 23rd. Victims of attacks on that day suffered from nervous system, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms after inhaling a gas on that day. Medical personnel and activists reported the incident, and the U.S. State Department engaged in an investagion from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul but concluded CW had not been used. Some of the victims of this attack continued to suffer after fleeing as refugees and I was told that some biopsied tissue was returned to the U.S. for evaluation but have not seen any conclusions.

Other Possibilities.

Tear gas is used by the Syrian military (as by other police and militaries) but it is not considered CW, as it is non-lethal. Other CW elements like chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas have been used since World War One in warfare, and are possessed by the Syrian government Chlorine is a powerful agent which burns the throat, nose, eyes and lungs and may kill via asphyxiation. It is water-soluble and masks or the use of a wet cloth have been used to protect against the gas. Phosgene is even deadlier than chlorine, and as a war gas is often mixed with chlorine.

Syria has not signed, nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Its primary rationale for not renouncing chemical weapons is that Israel poses a threat to Syrian security. Jane’s Defense has reported on Syria’s upgrading of its CW since 2005, a process reliant on Iranian assistance.

There is no strong evidence that Iraq’s chemical weapons were moved to Syria (although there is no proof they were not, one may surmise that Syria’s CW program is robust on its own).

Syria obtained the design for the Soviet Scud warhead using VX back in the 1970s. It appears that Syria has the capabilities to produce CW agents on its own; it has procued nonpersistent nerve gas since 1984. There is confirmation of its possession of sarin since 1986. Syria’s CW program began with CERS, its Scientific Study and Research Center in Damascus and later, plants in al-Safira, Hama and Homs were established.

By 1987, Syria had sarin-filled warheads on Scud missiles and since then its focus is to increase range and effectiveness of strike capability. After 1997, Syria obtained warhead that could be fitted with bomblet-filled cluster heads and Syria worked to develop V-agents. There appear to be stockpiles of mustard and sarin and the country may have between 100 and 200 Scuds fitted with sarin warheads. As well as sarin and mustard to use in artillery shells or other air-dropped forms. Syria recently conducted a missile test (in August of 2012); Iranians were reported to be present for the tests. Iran and Syria had signed a defense cooperation agreement in June of 2006.

In the summer and fall of 2012, there were 2 warnings that chemical weapons stockpiles were being moved within the country and one claim (by a U.S. official) that Syria has begun mixing sarin – the components are to be stored separately.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/12/syria-chemical-weapons-3/

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/how-would-assad-use-chemical-weapons

These claims prompted warnings from the United States, France and other nations including China. Russia and Syria denied that Syria would use its chemical arsenal.

Syria’s Biological Weapons Program

Syria is a signatory to the Biological Toxic Weapons Convention, but has not ratified that Convention. Just as its CW program is very advanced, its biological weapons program is also quite robust.

Israeli and German sources state that Syria has botulinum toxin, ricin and Bacillus anthracis, and some other sources state that Syria also has plague, smallpox, aflotoxin, cholera, camelpox and tularemia. Syria then, possesses A, B, and C pathogens and toxins. Syria has advanced pharmaceutical capabilities and thus could have (and according to some accounts has) obtained dual use equipment needed for pharmaceutical and defense research and development. It has research centers in Damascus and Aleppo. Certain U.S. sources are certain that Syria can produce anthrax and botulism, but what was not known is whether it has a formal program to develop delivery systems for these weapons. A 2004 Swedish Defense Agency report said there was no evidence of a defensive or offensive biological weapons program in Syria. However, the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the CIA, and the DIA have stated opinions to the contrary as have scientists and specialists. Other experts believe that Syria’s CERS (Scientific Studies and Research Center) has the capabilities and expertise to work on these systems, probably involving the use of drones and UAVs, or adapting warheads and cluster munitions to deliver the biological agents.(Cordesman, 2008) Russian advisors are said to be working with the biological warfare program. An American expert contends that there was a transfer from the Iraqi biological warfare (defensive and offensive programs), namely the camelpox virus.

Cordesman claimed that there were some indications that biological variations on ZAB-incendiary bombs and PTAB 500 cluster bombs and Scud warheads were being tested. Syria is technologically capable of designing adapted delivery systems which would have “the effectiveness of small theater nuclear weapons.” However he also noted that the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) held a far more restrained view of Syria’s capabilities in BW development.

A detailed, but accessible interview with Jill Dekkar is here:
http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/13108/sec_id/13108

Syria Update, March 14, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

14 Mar

Syria Update, March 14, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Today’s early death toll: 130 people of whom 83 were combatants.

Phil Sands, the National’s reporter has actually been in Syria for the last five years, staying on to report after the conflict broke out. Most other foreign reporters are not familiar with Syria, or report from outside of Syria. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/a-journalist-takes-a-road-from-damascus-after-five-years

The Syrian conflict is boosting used car sales. Turkish used car dealers are selling many vehicles at border towns and also in opposition-held areas in Syria where there are no custom controls, and people need vehicles. Many of the cars are coming from Eastern Europe. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/03/20133141129361754.html

Hard to tell how accurate this is, but fears of increasing Islamist control are certainly coinciding with struggles over civilian/fighter control of liberated areas. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/world/middleeast/a-battle-for-syria-one-court-at-a-time.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Refugees and Relief:

Prince Charles and Camilla toured a Syrian refugee camp during an official tour of Jordan. http://www.ibtimes.com/prince-charles-camilla-visit-syrian-refugee-camp-during-tour-jordan-photos-1123911

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said that the number of Syrian refugees has jumped 10 per cent in one week. The increase in Syrians fleeing their homes is believed to be due to President Assad’s forces use of deadly weapons on residential areas including (internationally banned) cluster bombs.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Amnesty International have criticized Greece’s treatment of Syrian refugees. Greek authorities are locking up immigrants who also face police brutality. “There is a total lack of a humanitarian response and solidarity” in Greece towards Syrian asylum-seekers, said Willem de Jonge, general director of Doctors Without Borders in Greece. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130314/syrian-refugees-greece-face

400 to 600 Syrian refugees have come to Nagorno-Karabakh according to Vitaly Naumkin, who spoke at a 2 day workshop on Syria held by Ria Novosti. http://vestnikkavkaza.net/news/society/38067.html

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The regime shelling of al-Sakhour on Wednesday left more than 18 victims. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AThWfvpywqs&feature=share&list=UUuCwB39-W1sZLa2LDCqu2HQ

10 fighters from the Al-Nusra Front were killed in clashes with Syrian regular forces near the Aleppo international airport this morning. The Syrian air force bombarded the al-Marjeh neighborhood of Aleppo, killing 3 children. 1 unidentified body was found in the Quweiq river.

Violent clashes took place in Old Aleppo, in the Bab al-Nasr, Bab Antakya, Bab al-Faraj and Saba’ Bahrat neighborhoods yesterday. Clashes also broke out near the grand mosque of Aleppo. Opposition fighters are trying to take full control of the Old city. The regime forces bombarded the neighborhood of Masaken Hanano.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

4 opposition fighters were killed in clashes and by the Syrian regime’s bombardment on Saqba and Douma. 20 civilians, including 3 children and 3 women, were killed when the Syrian military shelled the cities and towns of Darayya, Douma, Deir Sleiman, Eteiba, Khan al-Sheikh and Mu`adamiyya.

Here is an interview with a man who has set up a little stand to sell falafel in Babila.

Clashes were fought in the Jobar neighborhood and in the Zablatani area, killing an officer in the National Defense forces yesterday. Mortar shells fell on a residential area between the Fahham and Kafarsouseh areas yesterday killing at least 5 civilians (2 children) and injuring 30. The mortar shells were targeting the state security branch and there is an orphanage next to it. Yarmouk camp was shelled, killing one young man and causing injuries.

The Khan al-Sheikh camp was shelled yesterday. Clashes took place in the towns of al-Maliha, Jdeidat Artouz, Adra, al-Thiyabiya, the Hseiniya camp and near the Tamiko company. Opposition fighters took over the Popular Army’s base in the town of Adra,.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Ibraheem al Masri, a student at the Faculty of Islamic Education in Dar`a was killed in combat. He was a member of al Mo’taz Bellah battalion of the opposition. His body has still being held by the security forces.

The regime bombarded al-Hrak and al-Katiba killing 3 civilians, one of them a child. Another child died of wounds incurred in the bombardment on the town of Ibti’. 5 men were killed when their bus exploded near the city of Dara`a.

The Syrian regime forces shelled Dara`a al-Balad yesterday. A sniper reportedly killed a woman. Helicopters bombarded the town of Khirbat Ghazala, causing injuries and property damage. Regime bombardment continued on the towns of Tseel, Katiba, Tel Shihab, Seida and al-Tiba. The opposition shelled the 38th brigade using home-made rockets. Clashes took place near the brigade and the Syrian airforce bombarded opposition positions there.

Deir az-Zur province:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Ahmad Al-Aasheq; originally from Al-M’raeiyeh village was killed by a cluster bomb near Deir Ezzor Military Airport yesterday.

Abdurrazzaq Sulttan Al-Shlaily of the FSA was killed in clashes in al-Jbeileh neighborhood, and here is his funeral process.

Muhammad Marwan Ad-Dall of the FSA was killed in clashes at the military airport.

Muhammad Al-Draibi died of his wounds. His family home was bombed on September 14, 2012.

Yesterday, the Syrian military used heavy artillery shelling to target the neighborhoods of Sheikh Yasin, Hamidiyeh and Ganamat.
Violent clashes between FSA and regime forces took place in Al-Haweeqa and As-Sina’a.
A Syrian army T72 tank was damaged by FSA forces in As-Sina’a.

The regime also shelled the al-Hamidi mosque.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

Many people were arrested at Hama- Slamieh road in a sweep to force persons into military service. These were university students and had already completed their military service (but they were nevertheless arrested.)

1 man was killed by a sniper in the al-Dahriya neighbourhood of Hama.

Regime forces went on a series of arbitrary raids in the Junoob al-Mal’ab neighbourhood of Hsama, detaining several residents. The town of Qasr ibn Wardan was bombarded by regime forces.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Heavy shelling on the city of Homs this morning. See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ulh2lAFNe0Q&feature=youtu.be

The head of the military security, General Abdelkarim Salloum, was injured during the clashes in the basatin of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Hom.

Regime forces bombarded the Bab houd, al-Turkman, Bab Dreib, Bab Tadmur and al-Sefsafa neighborhoods, injuring residents and destroying buildings yesterday. Clashes took place on the edges of these neighborhoods. Regime forces have resumed their efforts to take full control of the city of Homs. The airforce was used to bombard the Baba Amr neighborhood. Regime bombardment also resumed on Rastan, which killed 2 women yesterday. Members of the airforce intelligence used heavy machineguns on the outskirts of Tadmur where rebels and regime forces have been clashing. The airforce had also shelled the village of Baqraya.

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

1 child was killed by the air force’ bombardment of the village of al-Bsheiriya. 4 civilians were killed when their car was targeted on the al-Mastooma road.

Yesterday, clashes continued for the third day running between regime and opposition forces that are blockading supplies from reaching the Wadi al-Dayf and al-Hamdiyya military bases. Clashes were resumed near the town of Heish; where there is heavy artillery bombardment on the area.

Kafranbel has become known for its witty slogans in Arabic and in English. http://beta.syriadeeply.org/2013/03/kafranbel-witty-slogans-encroaching-islamists/

Latakia province:
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=ghv_UOaOOMGW0QH88YDYDw&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA
The town of Khudra and Nahiyat Rabi’a were bombarded by regime forces, yesterday with reports of injuries.

Opposition forces are trying to restore law and order to areas they hold in Latakia province: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0JRWXhF5lx0

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Yesterday, several parts of the city of Raqqah were bombarded by the regime forces’ artillery, several people were injured and houses were destroyed and a huge explosion rocked the countryside in the western part of the province.

International:

Here, Middle East expert Francois Burgat comments on the obstacles to a political solution in Syria. http://www.atlantico.fr/decryptage/syrie-ces-obstacles-qui-compromettent-tout-espoir-solution-politique-francois-burgat-659018.html#4MOJbPe17UAB7AuH.99

Iran has significantly increased its military support to the Syrian government. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-syria-crisis-iran-idUSBRE92D05U20130314

Amnesty International called for both sides in the Syrian conflict to refer war crimes to the International Criminal Court. Amnesty International most recently published a report on the Assad government’s massive bombing. Shelling, and firing on its civilian population and on the frequent use of internationally banned cluster bombs here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/009/2013/en

Important news, if it comes to pass: France is ready to arm the Syrian opposition: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/345664

A special report on Syria is released at France 24 http://www.france24.com/en/20130314-Syria-war-demonstrations-deraa-rebels-geopolitics-dictatorship-france24

And also see here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152142531016677

Syria Update, March 10, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

10 Mar

Syria Update, March 10, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Today’s early death toll: At least 68 killed.

Saturday’s death toll: More than 180 killed, including 69 civilians.
Tuesday death toll:

Syria’s opposition has again postponed a meeting to elect a provisional prime minister. The front-runner is Osama al-Qadi, an economist.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/10/us-syria-crisis-government-idUSBRE92904N20130310

The Islamic factions in control of large parts of eastern Syria have created a Shari’a Committee for the Eastern Region. The Committee will administrate its areas, establish a police force, courts, fatwa offices, humanitarian aid, and says it will guide people on the straight path.

It was reported that chemical weapons were used 2 months ago in Homs by Assad’s forces. The US State Department at first circulated and later denied such a report. But there appears to be strong medical evidence that a nerve gas, Agent XV was used. (Although this is the Daily Mail, I understand that tissue samples were taken and analyzed; it’s a pity that only the sensationalist media is carrying this story if it is correct)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2289769/Chemical-weapons-used-children-babies-Syria-Assads-army.html

Refugees and Relief:

Economic desperation has forced some refugee women into prostitution. Others have been married off to men who are forcing them to work as prostitutes. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/syria-refugees-prostitution_n_2839383.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Obstacles to and lack of health care inside Syria
http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-syria-health-care-20130307,0,5787942.story

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres said that if the conflict in Syria continues, the number of Syria refugees could double or triple from the current one million registered refugees. http://www.dw.de/un-refugee-chief-syria-refugees-could-triple/a-16662087

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian regime forces bombarded Bani Zeid, Ein al-Tal, Karm al-Trab Ashrafiya, and Layramoun in Aleppo and clashes took place there as well. The neighborhoods of Jazmati and Masaken Hanano were bombarded and 3 people were killed in shelling of al-Sakhour. Violent clashes occurred near the Aleppo international airport and bthe Neyrab military airport where the opposition was bombarding both airports.

The Syrian military shelled al-Bab killing 4 civilians. 2 of the 21 bodies of unidentified men found in the Quweiq river, in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo, were identified. They were civilians who had disappeared several days ago.

Anti-FSA websites carried a video showing alleged FSA activists (they aren’t in the video) beating and kicking the Yellow Man of Aleppo, a local character who wears yellow clothing. He appears to be a harmless eccentric, but they call him a pimp.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Women’s and children’s clothing and human remains were unearthed today at al-Maliha near a regime base. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glvU0DHqDNo&feature=youtu.be
14 civilians from one family were found dead near al-Maliha and had been killed by regime forces.

Rocket shelling killed 3 children in pro-regime suburbs. Regime forces carried out raids and searches in al-Zahra al-Jadida. Several mortar shells fell on the Qaboun neighbourhood and the Yarmouk camp causing injuries. Aerial bombardment of parts of Khal al-Shih took places and there were clashes near the air defense division. Also, Jobar was bombarded.

The Syrian regime bombarded the towns and cities of Bhadliya, Douma, Zamalka, Mu’adamiya, Thiyabiya, and the Huseiniya camp using multiple rocket launchers and 4 civilians were killed in the shelling on Mu’adamiyya. The shelling of the town of al-Ateiba resumed and killed several civilians. Clashes took place in the eastern Ghouta and near several military checkpoints around the city of Harasta and the regime forces shelled Harasta.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian military bombarded the towns of al-Ghariyya al-Sharqiyya, al-Jamla, Kaheel, al-Katiba, Um al-Mayatheen, al-Shajara, al- Tseel, al-Na’ima, and Khirbet Ghazala. Clashes took place near the towns of Busr al-Harir and al-Na’ima.

Regime forces encircled the town of al-Sheikh Miskeen and closed the roads to the town

Deir az-Zur province:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Syrian regime forces tortured to death 1 opposition fighter after capturing him in an ambush the 113th battalion. The airforce bombarded the city of al-Mayadeen.

Yesterday, a civilian, Muhammad No’man Al-Kubaisi; was killed near his store in Hamidiya in shelling of the neighborhood.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=496442377057590; and Fouad Al-Eshari was killed in the shelling of al-Matar al-Qadim neighborhood.

The regime forces committed a massacre at Jazrat Al-Bou Hamaid yesterday which killed: Bassel Dawood Sulaiman, Ammar Hassan Al-Awwa, Ammouneh Jasem Al-Muhammad, Amsha Jasem Al-Muhammad, Ghazya Ma’youf Saied Faraj, Abd Al-Aber, a member of the al-Askar family; two unknown person from M’adaan; a person from al-Haws, and a person from the village of Abu Khashab.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

The Syrian regime forces bombarded the town of Karnaz, killing 3 people and clashes took place there earlier when the opposition fighters attacked regime checkpoints. Regime forces bombarded the town of Qastoun. In clashes at al-Magheer, 8 regular soldiers were killed and the opposition took over checkpoints.

Hassake province
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian regime forces bombarded the town of Tel Hamees.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

At dawn, opposition troops staged a surprise assault on Baba Amr, in Homs, the site of a previous terrible massacre by Assad’s troops. http://www.arabnews.com/middle-east/syria-rebels-stage-surprise-assault-homs

In response to the rebel assault, Assad’s airforce bombs Baba Am. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/air-strikes-on-homs-district-attacked-by-syria-rebels-ngo-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=42664&NewsCatID=352

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The village of Ferkeya was hit with several rockets. Regime forces bombarded the towns of Deir Sharqi, Khan Shaikhoun, Has, Babluween, Heish, and Deir Gharbi.

Heavy clashes took place at a regime checkpoint near the town of Sehyan, and opposition fighters took over the checkpoint. Syrian regime forces detained a 14-year-old child who they tortured to death.

Latakia province:
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=ghv_UOaOOMGW0QH88YDYDw&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Yesterday 1 man was killed, and several others injured, when regime forces fired from a military checkpoint in the Skentouri neighborhood of the city of Latakia.

Quneitra province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Quneitra+governorate+Google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151eb4afcd3e069f:0xbcbbd63808a65623,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Clashes took place near the entrance to the village of al-Ajraf after rebels ambushed 2 military vehicles, and there were reports of casualties.

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian government air force has bombed the northwestern city of Raqqa, killing a minimum of seven people in an airstrike and destroying buildings. It has been attacking Raqqa ever since opposition fighters seized much of the city from government troops earlier this week.
Opposition fighters shot down a regime war plane near Raqqah.
This video shows the aftermath of bombing of al-Rmeila neighborhood in Raqqa yesterday. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPHreYRucSg&feature=youtu.be

International:

The Philippine government welcomed the release of its 21 UN peacekeepers who were freed by Syrian opposition fighters after being abducted on Wednesday. They crossed to Jordan today.
“The Philippine government and its people express deep appreciation to the Jordanian government and military officials on the successful safe passing over to the Jordanian side of all our 21 Filipino peacekeepers,” read the statement. (AJE)
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/03/20133915523149218.html

In Lebanon, Hani Qubbaisi defended Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Adnan Mansour for his remarks on Wednesday to the Arab League calling for the reinstatement of Syria. (Syria has been suspended since November, 2011) March 14 coalition said Mansour represents Assad’s government rather than Lebanon. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2013/Mar-10/209531-mp-defends-mansour-over-syria-remarks.ashx#axzz2NA7sEcGx
On Friday, Razan Ghazzawi, human rights blogger and now out of Syria, spoke about her experiences. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/03/08/blogging-revolution-syrian-human-rights-activist-razan-ghazzawi/
Among Syria’s Creative Figures:

Muhammad al-Maghut, poet, noted for his free verse (1934 -2006) born in Salamiyya to an Isma’ili family.

Nizar al-Qabbani, 1923-1998, born in Damascus. His sister, ten years his senior, committed suicide rather than marry a man she did not love and the theme of women’s oppression entered his work as a poet, whose work sharply criticized Arab society and politics of his time. He was also a diplomat and a publisher.

Zakariyya Tamir, born in 1931 in Damascus, famed for short stories, for adults and children. He supports the Syrian revolution and hopes that Syria will be liberated from “tyranny and horror.” http://freesyriantranslators.net/2012/07/22/a-dialogue-with-zakaria-tamer-2/

Ali Farzat, born in 1951 in Hama, a cartoonist. He was attacked by thugs who broke his hands. He is on Facebook and his cartoons of “Highlander” comment on Syria.

Duraid Lahham born in 1934 in Damascus. A comedian and director known for his character, “Ghawwar al-Toushe.” He was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 and is considered to be a supporter of Bashar al-Assad and not of the opposition.

Farid al-Atrash, 1910 – 1974 was born in Suwayda to a Druze family associated with the independence struggle against the French. He became a composer, master oudist, singer and film star in Egypt, starring in 31 movies and recording more than 500 songs.

Asmahan. (Amal al-Atrash) 1912 (or 1915) – 1944 was born at sea as her family traveled from Turkey to Beirut. Sister of Farid al-Atrash, she became a renowned singer of Arabic compositions and an actress in Egypt and challenged conservative attitudes about women with her artistic life-style. Her musical talent was considered to rival that of Umm Kulthum and she sang the compositions of al-Qasabji, Riyadh al-Sunbati, her brother, Farid al-Atrash and others.

Sadeq Jalal al-Azm, philosopher and scholar was born in Damascus in 1934 and earned a Ph.D. in 1961 from Yale. His 1969 book, Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini in which he criticized the misuse of religion and caused his imprisonment in Lebanon. He wrote at least six books and many articles since, including a critique of ‘Orientalism.’ http://en.qantara.de/wcsite.php?wc_c=15850

Shadi Jamil, great Syrian singer of the Allepine qudud, born in 1955 in Aleppo.

Hamam Khairi, another singer of the Allepine qudud and muwashshahat, a student of Sabah Fakhri and Shaykh Omar al-Batsh.

Assala Nasri, born in 1969 in Damascus as the daughter of a Syrian composer, Mostafa Nasri. She has produced 23 albums and many singles including “Ah, law ha-l kursi bye7ki” and has a dramatic and powerful singing style. She supports the Syrian revolution.

Sabah Fakhri, born in 1933 in Aleppo is perhaps the greatest traditional-style singer of the Eastern Arab world, of muwashahhat and qudud Halabiyya. He did not follow the typical musical path of pursuing a singing career in Egypt, preferring to remain in Syria.

Mayada al-Hinnawi, born in 1957 in Aleppo. A great singer whose popularity peaked in the 1980s. She sang the compositions of Baligh Hamdi, Riyadg Sunbati, Mohammad Sultan, Hilmy Baker and others.

Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said), a poet, born in 1930 in al-Qassabin, Latakia to a farming family. After being imprisoned for a year, he left Syria in 1956 for Beirut. He has published many collections of poetry in which he experimented with various modernist forms and received numerous awards for his poetry. He lives in Paris. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9297

Yasin al-Hajj Saleh, born in 1961, an author jailed when he was in his 20’s in 1980 until 1996. He began writing in prison in 1988. He published With Salvation O’Youth: 16 Years in Syrian Prison (al-Saqi, 2012).
http://www.aljadid.com/content/yassin-al-haj-saleh’s-taming-syrian-prison’s-beast

Hanna Mina, novelist, born in 1924 in Iskenderun and raised in Latakia, he would later be an exile in China. He described his education as the “university of dark poverty.” He wrote 40 novels including the autobiographical, The Swamp. http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/5584

Mohammad Malas, filmmaker, born in 1945 in Quneitra and studied cinema in Moscow. He won awards for his many films including Ahlam al-Madina, al-Layl and Bab al-Maqam.

Selwa al-Neimi, poet and author, was born in Damascus and left for Paris in the mid-70s. She has published three volumes of poetry, a collection of short stories and is best known for her erotic novel, The Proof of Honey.

Nihad Sirees, novelist, author of The Silence and the Roar. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7006/writing-revolution-and-change-in-syria_an-intervie

Saadallah Wannous, 1941 – 1997, a playwright, born in Hussein al-Bahr near Tartus. His writing career began in the early 1960s. He introduced a “theater of politicization,” helped to found the Arab Festival for Theater Arts and the Higher Institute for Theater Arts (where he taught).

Nabil Maleh, born in Damascus, film director since his first release “The Leopard” 1972, now living in the Gulf. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/9845/a-leopard-in-winter_an-interview-with-syrian-direc

Issa Touma is a photographer, curator and director of Le Pont Organization, who supports the revolution. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/5/25/38262/Arts–Culture/Visual-Art/Art-sees-light-within-the-Syrian-Revolution.aspx

George Wassouf, born in Kafroun, Tartus in 1961, is a popular singer of Arabic music with more than 30 albums released. He has supported Bashar al-Assad and has been criticized for praising the Syrian army.

Samir Zikra, filmmaker, born in Beirut in 1945 and raised in Aleppo. His films include al-Sakran Yanfi (based on a Naguib Mahfouz novel) al-Matar Saba`in, Lan Nansa, al-Shuhud, `Anha, Hadithat al-Nusf Metr, Waqa`ih al-`Amm al-Muqbel. He coauthored a script for Baqaya Suwar (based on a Hanna Mina novel), coauthored the script for Mohammad Malas’ Ahlam al-Madina, and directed Turab al-Ghuraba (about Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi) in 1998 and `Alaqat `Ammah in 2005.

Some of the Syrian visual artists whose works include protest: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/14/152496317/even-under-threat-syrian-artists-paint-in-protest

International Women’s Day 2013 (IMEISS, by Sherifa Zuhur)

8 Mar

International Women’s Day, March 8th (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

IWD is celebrated as a national holiday outside of the United States and Europe. Supposedly, women have achieved their equality in the U.S. and Europe and don’t need a ‘day’ – although Women’s History month is recognized in the U.S.

One can critique IWD as merely lip-service to the sentiment of women’s equality, but many women take the day seriously, indeed!

In Cairo, Egypt, women were able to protest this year without being physically molested.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentMulti/66431/Multimedia.aspx

and


and

in Lebanon, many legal challenges remain:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2013/Mar-08/209295-for-lebanese-women-the-biggest-battles-are-still-ahead.ashx#axzz2Myba1hAN

so they have declared a National Day of Mourning on March 9th
http://www.beirut.com/l/22848

in Tunis, Tunisia

in Iraq, Americans somehow expected that the change in government would improve women’s status, when it would be very difficult to argue that has been the case:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-07/international-womens-day-focus-on-iraq/4559696

in Palestine, International women’s day has been marked by a special poster every year http://www.palestineposterproject.org/special-collection/historical-figures-and-themes/international-womens-day

and hundreds of women marched in Gaza City and the West Bank (on Thursday) in solidarity with Hana Shalabi
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=466272

in Abu Dhabi

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle09.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2012/March/theuae_March238.xml&section=theuae

in Libya

in Syria

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/07/world/meast/syrian-revolution-women/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

in Hassake province, Syria

http://issuu.com/lailas/docs/freedom24

in South Sudan, activists call for a woman to lead the United Nations
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article45755

in Yemen

in Yerevan, Armenia

http://www.panorama.am/en/society/2013/03/08/flash-mob/

in Iran

http://www.laprogressive.com/international-womens-day-iran-global-struggle-womens-liberation/

in Turkey, sermons addressed violence against women
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/03/08/Turkish-sermons-mark-Womens-Day/UPI-80831362777769/

women in Turkish feminism’s history were presented: http://www.theguideistanbul.com/news/detail/1132/The-Top-7-Important-Women-in-Istanbuls-History

while Kurdish women protested in Ankara against the killing of a Kurdish woman activist
http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2012/03/international-womens-day-2012/attachment/338/

in Malaysia, Sisters in Islam has been recognizing IWD since it first organized in 1988

http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=%2F2013%2F3%2F4%2Flifeliving%2F12748786&sec=lifeliving

in Saudi Arabia
http://www.arabnews.com/columns/society-must-show-compassion-toward-female-ex-prisoners

And a voice of skepticism from London:

http://www.dz-chick.com/2011/03/happy-international-womens-day.html

Syria Update, March 1, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

2 Mar

Syria Update, Mar.1 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Early death toll: 70 reported killed including 21 unarmed civilians.

Yesterday’s death toll (2/28/13): 140 killed including 57 unarmed civilians.

Moaz al-Khatib claims the Syrian opposition is committed to peace and to protecting minorities in Syria. http://levantdream.blogspot.com/2013/02/translation-moaz-al-khatibs-press.html

General Salim Idriss, the chief of staff of the Syrian opposition’s supreme military council, told the Associated Press that the opposition needs weapons. Food rations and medical supplies will not help them win against Assad’s forces who have superior air power.

Syrians meet challenges in trying to find basic resources – food and electricity. Civilians play a role as well as the fighting groups. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/world/middleeast/syrian-civilians-take-reins-in-test-of-self-government.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1&

Refugees and Relief:
The number of refugees fleeing Syria increased by more than 13,000 people in a single day, which means that one million Syrians will have fled their country by next week.
The total number of registered refugees and individuals awaiting registration was 953,310 as of 27 February, according to the UN’s figures.

ALERT Need help from ANYONE who can help obtain medicine to treat scabies. There is an outbreak in the refugee camps in Amman (outside of Zaatari). Needed Ivermectin (by Merck). We understand the Carter Foundation buys from Merck. Can anyone connect us to the Carter foundation and get this medicine a.s.a.p.? The NAAMA medical mission can bring it to Jordan March 22nd on its trip. Please help if you can.

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian military bombarded Masaken Hanano in Aleppo, killing 2 civilians, including 2 women and 4 children. The regime forces also bombarded the Haydariyya neighborhood. Clashes continued near the police academy and near the Nayrab military aiport.

9 civilians killed in regime attack on Anadan. Assad’s forces captured key parts of Tel Shghaib which will allow them to bring supplies into Aleppo province from Hama province again. The opposition still holds much of the city and the rural areas around it, but they cannot prevail and are outgunned and unable to overcome the regime’s air force.
Warplanes bombed the city of al-Bab today. It has been confirmed that many civilians were killed when regime forces stormed the village of al-Malkiyya and other villages surrounding the city of al-Sfeira. Differing reports claim 50, or 70, or even 100 civilians were killed in al-Malkiya alone, but due to the regime forces present, the opposition has not been able to interview survivors and so it calls for the International Committee for the Red Cross to investigate.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

This video shows a bus burning after the shelling of al-Qaboun yesterday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRqrUueQyXA&feature=youtu.be
Several shells were fired on the Sayyida Zeinab area.

The Syrian regime fired mortar shells on the neighborhood of al-Hajar al-Aswad. Regime forces carried out several air raids on areas in al-Ghuta al-Sharqiyya from the side closest to Zamalka. Regime forces bombarded the city of Daraya and the Ma’damiyat al-Sham.
Clashes also took place in Daraya between opposition fighters and regime forces which have been attempting for months to take over this city. Regime forces bombarded the town of Thayabiya at midnight Thursday into early Friday.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Regime forces based near the Thala military airport shelled the town of al-Karak al-Sharqi.

Deir az-Zur province:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

The Free Syrian Army announced on Friday that it took hold of a Scud missile equipped with chemical warheads in Deir al-Zour which had belonged to the Assas government. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/fsa-claims-seizing-regime-scud-missile

A man who had disappeared for 6 days, was found dead near his house in the city of Deir az-Zur today. An opposition fighter was killed in clashes in the city of Deir az-Zur and an opposition fighter died of wounds received in clashes in the al-Hweiqa neighborhood of Deir az-Zur. 2 opposition fighters were killed in clashes with regular forces and shelling near the 113th division in the countryside of Deir Izzor.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

The regime forces bombarded the village of Jnan. Clashes occurred today between opposition fighters and regime forces in many of the villages and towns of southern countryside of Hama province.

Hassake province
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Kurdish Defense fighters have taken over the city of Qahtaniya from the Assad govt. and then handed over authority of the city to a city council. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=343130352461976&set=a.150495128392167.28686.121855461256134&type=1&theater

Regime forces recaptured the al-Ya’rubiya border crossing with Iraq, which had been captured yesterday by opposition fighters from the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. Regime forces also recoccupied more than half of the Ya’rubiya city, which is by the crossing. Sporadic gunfire can be heard in the city.

Clashes occurred in the city of Rmeilan between regime forces and the fighters of the Kurdish People Protection committee which took most the city and besieged the remaining regime forces inside the security centers.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

A woman was killed today in the regime shelling of Rastan.

Today was declared the Friday of “One Ummah, One Flag, One War” on the 265th day of the siege of Homs. The Syrian military bombarded 16 areas (and killed 3 persons): al- Houleh, Bab Draib
Bab Tudmur, al-Hamidayya, al-Souk al-Masqouf, Bani Sibai’
Bustan Al Deewan, al-Warsheh, al-Safsafeh, Bab Turkman, Bab Al Masdood, Souq al-Naoura, Bab Hood, Talbiseh, Jouseyeh and Palmyra.

The regime forces were stationed at barriers around al-Houleh and shelled the city heavily, more than 32 shelles fell. The regime forces near the ancient castle of Homs bombarded the old districts of the city. Protests were held by civilians and the FSA today:







In Palmyra, a rocket launcher stationed on the radio station tower launched rockets out to the orchards of the city.

Sa’deen Saeed Al Shahoud, from Reyad Al Salehin brigade was tortured to death by the regime forces today in Maheen after being arrested on Maheen road. The Syrian military forces resumed their bombardment of Talbiseh, particularly of al-Mushajar al-Janubi.

Civilians in Talbiseh protested and called for support to the FSA:




Civilians held protests in the old and New al-Waer districts calling for the toppling of the Assad regime in Freedom Square, at the al-Omari mosque and al-Ferdous street and at the Rawdah mosque.


Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Reigme bombardment of Sarmin killed a woman today. In clashes with regime forces, an opposition fighter from Ourm al-Joz was killed near the al-Qarmid military checkpoint.

International:

The U.S. and 11 other nations agreed yesterday to change the balance of power on the ground in Syria. But is this resolve too little and too late? http://www.theworld.org/2013/02/washington-syria-rebels/

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Davatoglu on Syria in Turkey. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21626428

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama discussed Syria and other issues by telephone today after Obama called Putin.
A Syrian Russian-made SCUD missile landed in Iraq in Yoush Tapa, in Ninevah province, terrifying the residents. Yoush Tapa is 3 kilometers from the Iraqi-Syrian border between Telafar and Baaj,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2013/mar/01/syria-crisis-kerry-visits-turkey-live

Croatia will be withdrawing about 100 peacekeeping troops from the Syria-Israel border due to reports that Syrian opposition fighters have been armed with Croatian weapons, according to Croatia’s president. The Croatian government is concerned that its troops will be targeted by Syrian regime soldiers. As well, President Ivo Josipovic said the security situation in the Golan Heights has deteriorated and thus Croation soldiers are not safe. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/croatia-pull-troops-golan-18626237
Basic Facts about Syria:

Population: 22,530,746
 Ethnicities: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Isma`iliyya, Druze) 16%, Christian 10%, Jewish (very small numbers).

GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011) GDP: $64.7 billion 
 GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011)
Unemployment: 8.3% Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 19.1% (female unemployment in that age category is 49.1%


Internet Users: 4.469 million (2009)
Exchange Rate: 46.456 Syrian pounds per US dollar

Military Expenditures: 5.9% of GDP (2005)

Population Growth Rate: -0797.% (since the conflict) 


Population Age Structure: 0-14 years: 35.2%; 15-64 years: 61%; 65 years and over: 3.8%

Literacy: male 86% female 73.6%
 

Urban Population: 56% of total (2010)

Syrian Arab Army (prior to the conflict) 220,000 regular and 280,000 reserves. Of the 200,000 career soldiers, 140,000 are Alawi.

Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.