Skip to main content

Meet the mystery fixer who negotiated Syria out of seven years of war

How a nearly unknown businessman named Khaled al Ahmad became Damascus’ secret liaison to the West and quietly dealt Syria’s grinding war to a close

by Rania Khalek

Part 5 - Life returns to normal

I caught a glimpse of the consequences of al Ahmad’s efforts last summer when I visited several areas in Syria that have reconciled with the government.

One of the most genuine reconciliations to take place was in Hammeh, a Sunni suburb of Damascus formerly under rebel control. Then there was Qudsaya, also an outlying area Damascus that had been controlled by the armed opposition. These suburban areas were the first to be fully normalized, meaning the siege was totally removed and a free flow of goods and people were allowed. They were also freed from unregulated militias and their weapons. In a deal organized by the then-head of the National Defense Forces in Damascus, Fadi Saqr, the opposition was given a choice to stay and receive an amnesty that guaranteed that none of the security agencies would arrest them. Their other option was to receive safe passage further north to opposition held areas, a practice pioneered in Homs in 2014.

During Ramadan of 2017, a group of Syrian youths from Hammeh went to the orphanage of the neighboring poor Alawite suburb, Jebel Wurud, to deliver presents to the children, many of whose parents were killed during the fighting. The residents of Jebel Wurud, who up until a few months earlier had been enforcing a government-imposed siege on Hammeh, were astonished. The next day the young people in Hammeh held a children’s festival on a patch of land in the valley between the two mountain villages that had been a no man’s land during the fighting. As people from Jebel Wurud passed by the area to buy bread at a nearby government-run bakery, they and their children, though somewhat cautious and suspicious at first, eventually joined the fun. Inspired by the kind gesture from Hammeh’s youth, a group of young people from Jebel Wurud visited Hammeh the day after the festival, bearing gifts for Hammeh’s orphans.

We focused on the families who suffered from this crisis from both areas,” explained Ebrahim Fatouh, a Hammeh local who helped lead the activity. “We got them together, especially the mothers who lost their children.

Ebrahim, a 23-year-old freelance graphic designer born and raised in Hammeh, is public relations manager of Temkeen, which means empowerment in Arabic. Temkeen is a civil society group established by Ebrahim and his friends back in 2016 to help repair Hammeh’s social fabric. But it wasn’t until after the fighting ended that Temkeen was able to do anything truly effective.

From 2012 to 2017, until the reconciliation, these villages were fighting,” said Ebrahim. The truce had allowed the necessary space for him and his friends to get to work. Hammeh is but one example.

Hammeh is an extension of Qudsaya, an even larger Damascus suburb that reconciled with the government as part of the Hammeh negotiations last year. In early 2017, residents of Hammeh kicked out the armed groups inhabiting the town and reconciled with the government after lengthy and arduous negotiations.

Hammeh and Qudsaya were held initially by the FSA — in Hammeh the rebel forces included some fighters affiliated with Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra. During ceasefires in Qudsaya, fighters from Hammeh would often spoil the truce by launching attacks on government areas. This infuriated the government and the residents of Qudsaya and Hammeh. Ultimately the siege tactics imposed by the government on these areas worked. Nobody was forced to leave, they were given the choice of either remaining in the Syria of President Assad or leaving to insurgent-held areas in the north.

An estimated 300 insurgents, some 30 percent of the rebel fighters in Hammeh, as well as some of the civilian elements of the insurgency political administration, chose to stay and receive amnesty from the Syrian government in exchange for handing over their weapons. For those who stayed, checkpoints were removed and life was normalized, including for the men who were given amnesties.

Residents in Hammeh say that those given amnesty were able to return to their ordinary lives and now they come and go as they please. While they are looked upon with suspicion by some locals, there haven’t been any problems except for one verbal skirmish during Ramadan. The government got involved and mediated and those involved promised it wouldn’t happen again.

Compared to other areas that came under opposition control, Hammeh endured little physical damage. On the way into Hammeh, I drove by what used to be the Barada beer factory. It was in ruins, destroyed by Al Nusra, which deems alcohol to be anti-Islamic. All that remained were mounds of broken green beer bottles. There were some damaged residential buildings strategically located at the top of the mountain that overlooks Hammeh, which insurgents had captured in an effort to control the entire town. Bullet holes from sniper fire could be spotted on the exterior of some homes and shops. But for the most part the town was still in good shape. And reconstruction on the damaged buildings had already begun when I was visiting.

Hammeh had been reintegrated into the city suburbs, so people and commerce flowed freely. There was a checkpoint at the entrance to the town to check for weapons and car bombs, but it was relaxed and easy to move back and forth. The men in charge of the checkpoints were locals from Hammeh who were hand selected by the local reconciliation committee, demonstrating some of the local autonomy that exists in Hammeh due to compromises by the government.

Source, links, additional info:


[1] [2] [3] [4] [6]

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How CIA altered the ending of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' to project Communism as the sole tyrannic system

globinfo freexchange

This interesting short documentary by AJ+, explores the cultural war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In an effort to project Communism as the evil against capitalist West and the "free world", CIA had to covertly interfere through various ways in art, music, literature, philosophy.

In one of these cases, the documentary reveals how CIA altered the ending of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' to project Communism as the sole tyrannic system. It is also interesting the fact that the case involved an animated film, indicating that CIA's cultural propaganda was targeting minor Americans in order to "train" them ideologically.

According to the story, George Orwell, who wrote such middle-school classics as 1984 and Animal Farm, described himself as a Democratic Socialist. And he was actually pretty anti-Stalinist and anti-Soviet-style socialism, something which was unusual among Leftist circles at the time.

We already live in a permanent recession in which the Wall Street mafia secretly and continuously is being bailed out with billions by the Fed!

globinfo freexchange
Jimmy Dore and Dylan Ratigan explain in this video the secret mechanism through which the Fed is permanently bailing out the Wall Street mafia with billions. 
Dore refers to a September article by CNN Business with information that, under normal circumstances, should have made big headlines, generating massive anger.
We were trained not to be surprised by the liquidity injections that the central banks like the Fed and ECB provide to the biggest financial institutions. When at the same time, the real economy, and especially the small-medium business sector is literally struggling to survive in the capitalist West.
Yet, in this case, some additional information reveals something impressive. As Dore highlights from the article: 
                  Until this week, the Fed hadn't launched an operation like this since 2008. [...] Still, the fact the Fed needed to pump $128 billion into the system on successive days shows that a crack has emerged in a seldom-discusse…

The global youth radicalization and the fight for Socialism

by Eric London
Across the world, in countries as culturally distinct as Ecuador, Lebanon, France, Germany, the US, Iraq, Chile and Haiti, a new generation of working class youth is making its powerful entrance onto the battlefield of the global class struggle.

Citing the international scope of recent mass demonstrations, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall recently wrote: “Each country’s protests differ in detail, but recent upheavals do appear to share one key factor: youth ... This global phenomenon of unfulfilled youthful aspirations is producing political time bombs. Each month in India, one million people turn 18 and can register to vote. In the Middle East and North Africa, an estimated 27 million youngsters will enter the workforce in the next five years.

The political awakening of the most educated, urbanized and technologically interconnected generation in history is of critical strategic significance for the entire working class. 
Born beginning in the 1990s, today's youth…

Το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς βάζει σε εφαρμογή το σχέδιο για τη δημιουργία κράτους σκληρής καταστολής

globinfo freexchange

Μετά το πρώτο βήμα που έκανε το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς για τη δημιουργία Ειδικών Οικονομικών Ζωνών εντός της Ελληνικής επικράτειας, δηλαδή για τα φέουδα του 21ου αιώνα, όπως είχαμε προβλέψει, φαίνεται ότι, δυστυχώς, αρχίζει να επαληθεύεται και το σχέδιο για την ανασύσταση του δεξιού παρακράτους.  
Ήδη από το Μάιο του 18, είχαμε επισημάνει ότι σε ομιλία του στη βουλή, ο Μητσοτάκης ξεκίνησε το παραλήρημα του περί βίας αναφερόμενος συγκεκριμένα στα 'Εξάρχεια', τους 'Ρουβίκωνες' και τους 'αγανακτισμένους'. Και στο σημείο αυτό, πάλι κάτι ξέχασε: τους φασίστες.
Έτσι, έστειλε σήμα στους μηχανισμούς του αστικού καθεστώτος ότι θα συνεχίζει να το προστατεύει εγκαθιστώντας ένα κράτος σκληρής καταστολής, χωρίς να πειράξει το ακροδεξιό βαθύ κράτος που επιστρατεύει η εγχώρια ολιγαρχία όταν αισθάνεται κίνδυνο. Ένας κίνδυνος που μπορεί να έρθει σε περίπτωση νέων αναταραχών από τις βάναυσες πολιτικές λιτότητας που ο Μητσοτάκης θα συνεχίσει να εφαρμόζει π…

Trump threatens to transfer the endo-capitalist war into a civil war level

globinfo freexchange
Donald Trump finally counter-attacked against corporate Democrats and their persistent desire to impeach him, through the ultimate threat: a civil war. In a recent tweet he wrote:
"... If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.
....If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
Speaking to the Real News Network, Jeet Heer of The Nation pointed out:
The civil-war tweet is almost like a threat. It’s like, 'Well, this is a nice little Republic you got here, and it’d be a shame if anything happened to it.' But the thing is that this civil-war talk did not originate from T…

It's now or never: the first step for a Sanders/Corbyn synchronization in power must be done on 12 December in UK

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the global working class
by system failure
Two years ago, we wondered whether a US government under Bernie Sanders, together with a UK government under Jeremy Corbyn, could mark a decisive victory against neoliberalism. Whether it could mark the beginning of the end of the Reagan/Thatcher awful legacy.

It seems that the time has come for the first step towards this prospect.

The oncoming UK general election on Thursday 12 December 2019, will be the most critical for decades, especially for the global working class. The outcome will determine to a significant degree, whether the capitalist West will change course away from the destructive neoliberalism, towards a form of Democratic Socialism. A new model that will resurrect the social state, while at the same time, will seriously deal with the great environmental challenges, defying big interests and rejecting the for-profit-wars model.



As we already pointed out, the whole Brexit issue is pri…

Slavoj Zizek: we may be entering an era of widespread civil unrest

RT
Anti-establishment protests are popping up all over the world, in countries with different political systems, and various levels of wealth. We may be entering an era of widespread civil unrest.

Under digital surveillance: how American schools spy on millions of kids

Fueled by fears of school shootings, the market has grown rapidly for technologies that monitor students through official school emails and chats
by Lois Beckett

Part 5 - Shifts in culture

School officials say that their primary motivation for using surveillance technology is the chance to save a student’s life. But schools are monitoring students’ digital documents in real time for a wide range of content they see as problematic, from swear words to nude images and pornography to cyberbullying to evidence of drug and alcohol use.

In Weld county, Colorado, a student emailed a teacher that she heard two boys were going to smoke weed in a bathroom, Hernandez, the student services and safety director, said. Gaggle immediately alerted school officials: “Within four minutes of her sending this email, the troops had deployed,” she said.
Gaggle also automatically sends students a scolding email any time they use a profanity.

A few school districts have chosen not to send students Gaggle’s war…

Bernie and AOC demonstrate how Baby Boomers could help Millennials escape the neoliberal Matrix

globinfo freexchange
In a recent ad, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explains why she endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Yet, it would be interesting to examine a specific point she makes at the beginning of this short video. AOC says:
                    The first time I ever heard about Bernie Sanders was when I was a waitress in a greasy spoon diner type of restaurant in downtown Manhattan. And I had been working 12 hour days. I didn't have health insurance. I was being paid less than a living wage. And I didn't think that I deserved any of those things, I thought that that's just how life was.

Her last (highlighted) phrase tells you a lot of how deeply the neoliberal perception has penetrated inside societies and especially inside the minds of new generations. Entire generationshave been trained to believe that that's how things are, in order to accept the neoliberal order and retire from any attempt to overthrow it.
As we wrote in a previous article, during the last f…

Το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς βάζει σε εφαρμογή το σχέδιο για τα σύγχρονα φέουδα

globinfo freexchange

Φαίνεται ότι αρχίζουν κιόλας να επαληθεύονται οι εκτιμήσεις σχετικά με τη δημιουργία Ειδικών Οικονομικών Ζωνών εντός της Ελληνικής επικράτειας. 
Όπως έχουμε αναφέρει σε πρόσφατο άρθρο, ο πρώτος μεγάλος στόχος του Μητσοτακικού καθεστώτος θα είναι η δημιουργία Ειδικών Οικονομικών Ζωνών εντός της Ελληνικής επικράτειας και το σχέδιο αναμένεται να ανακοινωθεί επίσημα γύρω στον Γενάρη-Φλεβάρη του 2020, εκτός απροόπτου. Οι νεοφιλελεύθεροι "τζιχαντιστές" της δεξιάς ετοιμάζονται να στρώσουν χαλί στους φεουδάρχες του 21ου αιώνα τους οποίους σήμερα αποκαλούμε "επενδυτές". 
Το σχέδιο θα εφαρμοστεί ανεμπόδιστα και σε πλήρη σύμπλευση με το νεοφιλελεύθερο ιερατείο του άξονα Βρυξελλών-Βερολίνου, καθώς οι φανατικοί τεχνοκράτες του Μητσοτάκη είναι απόλυτα αφοσιωμένοι στην επιτυχή ολοκλήρωσή του.

Όπως είναι φυσικό, οι περιοχές που προσφέρονται περισσότερο για την επιτυχή εφαρμογή του σχεδίου, είναι αυτές που παρουσιάζουν την υψηλότερη ανεργία. Με τη Μητσοτ…