Workers' Voice mailing list
February 24, 2018
RE: Denounce Assad’s butchery of the trapped people of Ghouta
Free Syria Seattle held a demonstration in downtown Seattle on Friday, February 23, in support of the people in Ghouta. The announcement for the demonstration stated:
The Assad regime and Russia have decided to carry out the same
genocide they committed in Aleppo, Homs, and Daryya to force the
opposition and Free Syrian Army to give up Al Ghouta. Al Ghouta is the
rural area around Damascus, and it includes several cities (Harasta,
Douma, Zamalka, Ein Tarma, Kafer Batna, Hamoria). Last week, 100 people
(including children) have been killed on average per day by Russian air
force attacks on hospitals and areas full of civilians.
By Frank Arango, Seattle Workers’ Voice
The Damascus suburban area of eastern Ghouta is the last rebel-held territory in that part of Syria. For four years its estimated 390,000 people have been under siege, and since November the dictator Assad and Russia have been stepping up their merciless bombing and artillery attacks. This week these attacks reached some of the highest levels of the entire war, with over 100 people being massacred from the skies day after day.
Pained and angry people around the world have mounted protests to demand the bombing be stopped and the siege lifted, and more protests are planned. The largest have been in Syria’s Idlib Province, where even people from the refugee camps are demonstrating. There have also been protests of hundreds in Turkey and Germany, and perhaps 200 in Barcelona. Elsewhere, scores of people are usually demonstrating, and sometimes fewer. But all these demonstrations are important, and our Seattle experience shows some of the reasons.
Ten people turned out in Seattle in freezing weather on Friday night, February 23. Naturally, everyone began introducing themselves, commenting on the state of the movement here and on the Syrian situation. But also, looking toward the future, lots of addresses were exchanged — an important step in building any movement.
Marchers carried signs that helped inform people on the streets about what is taking place in east Ghouta while I passed out 45-50 copies of the leaflet below. But we also learned things, such as that the Syrian rebellion continues to have a lot of support among working people. For example, despite the cold and wind, a woman bystander raised her fist and walked with me for awhile as she denounced Assad on one correct point after another. Also, at least two people went out of their way to greet and shake hands with our Syrian comrades. One of them denounced the bloody role of all the foreign powers, and the other, an African American, said he just couldn’t find the words to express how much he supported the Syrian people, and most warmly thanked our comrade for organizing the event. For newer activists, and for all activists, it is incidents like these that drive home that the solidarity movement must be organized among working people. <>
Below is the text of the leaflet distributed at the Ghouta protest by the Seattle Communist Study Group:
Inspired by the other Arab Spring uprisings, seven years ago the people of Syria began demonstrating against tyranny. When Bashar Assad’s Ba’athist dictatorship responded with bullets, arrests and torture this soon became a movement of millions. In it, everyday people united with army defectors to take up arms, and during the next years they liberated large parts of the country, which the local people then ran. But first with the help of Iran, then Hezbollah (entering in 2012), and then imperialist Russia (entering in 2015), Assad was able to stalemate the uprising and go on a brutal counter-offensive in which Aleppo fell over a year ago. By that time close to 500,000 people had died as a result of Assad’s fight to maintain power, and half of Syria’s pre-war population was either internally displaced or refugees abroad. But Assad continues the bloodbath.
The northwestern Idlib Province is the last major rebel stronghold. It has an estimated population of 2.5 million, including more than a million people who’ve fled other parts of the country or were evacuated there as part of deals with the government, and who are often packed into camps. The Syrian and Russian air forces savagely attack them, with hospitals, markets and schools being favorite targets, and White Helmets and other first responders then being “double-tapped” as they try to save people.
Meanwhile, nearly 400,000 people have been under starvation-siege in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta for most of the time since the end of 2013. Ghouta was where Assad murdered some 1,400 people with nerve gas in August 2013, and it was supposed to be a “de-escalation” zone where supplies could get through to the masses. But since November the dictatorship and its foreign allies have ratcheted up their attacks, and this week they launched some of the worst air, missile and artillery assaults of the entire war in order to bring the people to their knees. In one period of just 48 hours 250 men, women and children were murdered in this most cowardly way. Doctors report that 12 medical facilities have been bombed – most of them severely damaged – in the past three days alone. And the rain of death continues. Working and oppressed people everywhere are appalled and outraged.
Under Bush, CIA “war on terror” prisoners were tortured in Bashar Assad’s dungeons. Then after a brief falling out among thieves, Obama was in midst of re-establishing even better ties with the dictatorship when the people’s uprising broke out. So the U.S. went over to talking about a reformed regime with Assad personally gone, and it trickled a little aid to some rebel groups. But this was never because it wanted a democratic victory. Instead, the bloody aim was to balance the rebel and Assad forces in order to weaken both sides, and then be in the position to dictate a solution from abroad that would leave the old state in place. Moreover, it actively blockaded the rebels from getting anti-aircraft and other weaponry they probably could have won with.
But with the rise of ISIS in Syria, the U.S. shifted its focus and intervened to fight it. Thus it built an alliance of outside powers to attack and bomb from the skies. It formed an alliance with various Kurdish groups to fight on the ground, as well as buying off several rebel groups to fight only ISIS and not Assad. It sent U.S. troops and set up airfields in the Kurdish controlled north. It bombed schools and mosques, and Raqqa was eventually leveled. According to Airwars.com, the U.S. coalition killed over 10,000 civilians in 2016 and 2017 alone, and an estimated 2000 U.S. troops remain in Syria.
NATO-member Turkey had established extremely close ties with the Assad dictatorship before the uprising, including holding joint Syrian-Turkish military exercises. Nevertheless, it opted for aiding the rebels but later made agreements with Assad against their interests. However, Turkey views the Kurdish YPG forces as the main danger in northern Syria, and for this reason it started an operation to smash Syrian Kurdish autonomy in the northwestern Afrin region, and now it is talking about resettling many non-Kurdish refugees there. The Kurds are justly fighting back, and many hundreds have already died in this Turkish aggression.
With magnificent heroism, beginning in 2011 the people of Syria rose in the most powerful democratic uprising the world had seen in a long time. But now, with all the military might being used to mercilessly slaughter them as free areas of the country are one by one taken back by the dictatorship, new forms of struggle are going to have to be found. Their defeats are our defeats too, and they’re being meted by the likes of Assad, the Iranian mullahs, Putin, Erdoğan and Trump no less. This means that here, in the United States, we should build solidarity with the Syrian people with work to further develop all of the movements of the exploited and oppressed people against one of our shared enemies, the U.S. imperialist ruling class. We should bring a working-class viewpoint into these movements, which includes preaching solidarity with our struggling comrades in Syria, Palestine and the world over. And we should join in the Ghouta solidarity protests now taking place.
Seattle Communist Study Group, February 23, 2018 <>
In the article “Trump’s State of the Union in 2018: upbeat about war, bigotry, and inequality” in the D/SWV list for Feb. 12, 2018, the word “not” was left out of the description of the situation in Puerto Rico which read “electric power will not be restored to everyone until May this year”. <>
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Posted on February 25, 2018
Some typos have been corrected.