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

Greece is about to become the blueprint for modern feudalism

globinfo freexchange
After almost ten years of an unprecedented crisis, Greece has been trapped into an ongoing, slow motion recession. The economy still struggling hard to recover, with unemployment and national debt being permanently in a red alarm mode.
As has been already pointed out, the result of the recent Greek national elections could be characterized "paradoxical" mainly for two reasons: 
First, the voters gave a clear governmental order to one of the traditional powers of the old political system, which are highly responsible for the Greek crisis that erupted in 2010. Several top names of the new government, and even New Democracy leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have been accused of being involved in various corruption scandals, in the not so distant past.

Second, the fact that the voters elected perhaps the most fanatically neoliberal government ever. This means that Mitsotakis administration is expected to implement the brutal neoliberal policies imposed by Greece&…

How Joe Biden’s privatization plans helped doom Latin America and fuel the migration crisis

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden has boasted of his role in transforming Colombia and Central America through ambitious economic and security programs. Colombians and Hondurans tell The Grayzone about the damage his plans did to their societies.
by Max Blumenthal
Part 8 - Gutting public healthcare, driving more migration
The Alliance for Prosperity also commissioned the privatization of health services through a deceptively named program called the Social Protection Framework Law, or la Ley Marco de Protección Social.

Promoted by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández as a needed reform, the scheme was advanced through a classic shock doctrine-style episode: In 2015, close associates of Hernández siphoned some $300 million from the Honduran Institute for Social Services (IHSS) into private businesses, starving hospitals of supplies and causing several thousand excess deaths, mostly among the poor.
With the medical sector in shambles, Hondurans were then forced to seek healthcare from …

As Boris Johnson unleashes ultimate threat against Bremain capitalist faction, the British working class is suddenly in front of a unique opportunity

globinfo freexchange

In the merciless endo-capitalist war around Brexit, Boris Johnson decided to unleash the ultimate threat against Bremain capitalist faction. That is, a snap election with the 'danger' of a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn, which would be neoliberal capitalists' worst nightmare.
As already pointed out, despite the capitalist civil war, both major factions of the British capital remain deeply neoliberal in their ideological core. And therefore, both factions see a potential Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, as a major threat.
Indeed, as ZeroHedgereported
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces the prospect of his rule being cut short, wealthy Britons have a message for Johnson's most likely successor: A 'no deal' Brexit makes no difference to them. But if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM, they will flee in droves, taking their money with them

[...]

The chairman of one Swiss asset manager who helps wealthy Britons shield th…

Tucker Carlson accidentally promotes one of the most anti-capitalist, real-Left positions!

globinfo freexchange 
We wouldn't believe it if we wouldn't have seen it and hear it with our own eyes and ears, but the following phrase came out from Tucker Carlson's mouth:

                    Every minute you are angry about race, is a minute you are not thinking about class, which, of course, is the real divide in this country. Working class people of all colors have a lot more in common - infinitely more in common with each other, than they do with some overpaid MSNBC anchor. And if you are allowed to think about that for long enough, you might start get unauthorized ideas about economics. And that would be disruptive to a very lucrative status quo. So, they whip you into a frenzy of racial fear so that it never enters your mind. It's a diversion. Everyone hates each other, they get to keep their money.
Here's why they're pushing racial division: so you won't notice the real divide, which is economic. pic.twitter.com/ZVLvQn2u9O — Tucker Carlson (@Tuck…

Manufacturing uncritical thinking

by system failure
I was thinking about writing something related to a certain behavioural pattern that we often meet in the mainstream media journalist army. I was inspired by the impressively loud example of The New York Times' Bari Weiss, and how it was presented by Jimmy Dore in his show.


During this particular discussion with Joe Rogan, Weiss rushed to paint US presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, as an "Assad toady", without even knowing what the characterization means. As Dore aptly pointed out: "That's what's called a 'received opinion'. So, it's not her own opinion. She has heard other people in her neoliberal bubble say that stuff, so she just repeats it. She doesn't even know what the insult means."
Ben Norton wrote on Twitter: "Neocon NY Times columnist Bari Weiss smeared Tulsi Gabbard (who bravely opposed regime change and US support for Salafi-jihadist contras) as an "Assad toady," then couldn't spell/de…

Bernie finally declares war on neoliberal fascists who destroy the planet

globinfo freexchange
Bernie Sanders proved again why he should be the next president of the United States. This time, he declared war on the neoliberal fascists who are destroying the planet on behalf of the corporate beasts.
Bernie tweeted:
                    Climate change is a global emergency. Bolsonaro and his corporate cronies are burning the Amazon rainforest for personal profit and jeopardizing our planet's survival. My Green New Deal will impose climate sanctions against corporations that threaten our global climate goals.
Climate change is a global emergency. Bolsonaro and his corporate cronies are burning the Amazon rainforest for personal profit and jeopardizing our planet's survival.

My #GreenNewDeal will impose climate sanctions against corporations that threaten our global climate goals. https://t.co/erZzHozviQ — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 22, 2019
Recall that the previous right-wing corporate puppet in Brazil, Michel Temer, opened the door to t…

Roger Waters for Julian Assange

globinfo freexchange
On Monday, 3 Sept, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will perform his classic 'Wish You Here' for Julian Assange outside the Home Office (interior ministry) in Marsham Street in the heart of London. John Pilger will be speaking. Join us at 6pm in solidarity with Britain's political prisoner.

On Monday, 3 Sept, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will perform his classic 'Wish You Here' for Julian #Assange outside the Home Office (interior ministry) in Marsham Street in the heart of London. I will be speaking. Join us at 6pm in solidarity with Britain's political prisoner. pic.twitter.com/Lytg2GCZVQ — John Pilger (@johnpilger) August 30, 2019


Καταιγίδα επιχειρήσεων αποπροσανατολισμού από το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς με τη βοήθεια της τραπεζομιντιακής χούντας

globinfo freexchange

Ο μηχανισμός του εγχώριου νεοφιλελεύθερου καθεστώτος επιδόθηκε τις τελευταίες μέρες σε έναν καταιγισμό επιχειρήσεων αποπροσανατολισμού προς τέρψιν του πόπολου, το οποίο έδωσε αυτοδυναμία στην πολιτική του συνιστώσα. Δηλαδή, στη χειρότερη δεξιά της μεταπολίτευσης.
Μετά το ταξίδι Μητσοτάκη στη Γαλλία, όπου είδαμε ένα χιλιοπαιγμένο έργο, το σόου του αποπροσανατολισμού ξεκίνησε από το Μάτι. Εκεί είχαμε ένα διπλό χτύπημα. Από τη μια τον Μητσοτάκη να ποζάρει στα καμμένα, διατυμπανίζοντας τη δήθεν αποτελεσματική του κυβέρνηση. Από την άλλη, την διαφήμιση των "καλών ιδιωτών", οι οποίοι ως καλοί Σαμαρείτες, ανέλαβαν δήθεν αφιλοκερδώς (Αφιλοκερδώς ΑΕ, όπως έλεγε και ο αξέχαστος Τζιμάκος), να καθαρίσουν την περιοχή από την επικίνδυνη καύσιμη ύλη.
Αμέσως μετά, απολαύσαμε άλλη μια κωμωδία από τις δυνάμεις καταστολής που έκαναν έφοδο στα Εξάρχεια για να τα "καθαρίσουν" από τους μετανάστες. Οι νεοφιλέλεδες της δεξιάς και τα ακροδεξιά δεκανίκια τους είναι μανο…

Citibank blocks funds for insulin: more than 450,000 Venezuelans affected

The US bank Citibank blocked, in August this year, part of the funds destined to import 300 thousand doses of insulin, a criminal act that affects more than 450 thousand patients, the Venezuelan Ministry of Economy and Finance reported.

On the other hand, the BSN Medical laboratory, based in Colombia, after receiving payment for the purchase of 2 million units of antimalarial treatment, denied the clearance of the drugs.
The ministry indicated that this fact caused the Swiss bank UBS AG to block the transactions made by the country with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), destined for the purchase of vaccines for the immunization program.
Given this circumstance, Venezuela and PAHO sought alternatives with banks from other countries, although this situation led to a 4 month delay in the immunization program.

The national government also revealed that other pharmaceutical transnationals such as Pfizer and Novartis refuse to sell medicines, reagents and supplies to Venezuela.
F…

The untold Socialist history of the United States

globinfo freexchange

Abby Martin spoke with renowned Marxist Economist Richard Wolff to discuss the growing popularity of Socialism under Trump and its historical roots in America, misconceptions about Russia and China’s economic success and Marx’s theory of alienation and monopoly capitalism.

Wolff explains:

A hundred years ago, 1916 to be precise, was the first time that the Socialist Party of America put forward a candidate for president. His name was Allan Benson and he ran for president a hundred years ago and he got 600,000 votes in the United States. That worked out to three percent of the vote.
The Socialist Party thought that was a good beginning, so they ran again four years later, in 1920, little less than a hundred years ago, and they had a different candidate. A man named Eugene Victor Debs, a head of the railway Workers Union, very good orator. And he did better. He got 900,000 votes. That's a 50% increase in four years, four percent of the total vote.
Four yea…