In 1534, shortly after the onset of the Protestant Reformation, a radical sect from this new movement, the Anabaptists, seized the city of Munster in Germany and governed it for sixteen months as a millenarian cult in a manner so alarming it managed to bring together Catholic and Lutheran forces to put it down. The experience had a profound influence not on the development of Anabaptism thereafter, but on the manner in which the Reformation more generally unfolded. Continue reading
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2011, released a report on 29 May 2018, “Sieges as a Weapon of War: Encircle, Starve, Surrender, Evacuate”. The report examined the effects of the sieges and “evacuation agreements”—deportations—between November 2012 and April 2018.
The Commission notes that the report is based on “over 400 interviews”, though the Commission continues to struggle in gathering information because it is banned from Syria by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and because of the threat the regime poses to potential interviewees. Continue reading
The launching of a limited punitive raid against the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad for the use of poison gas has brought some attention to the regime’s crimes. The regime’s visible crimes are numerous and devastating.
In addition to using weapons of mass destruction, fighter jets have levelled ancient cities, sieges have starved populations into submission, and improvised explosives like barrel bombs have maimed thousands. These tactics are part of what UN investigators have called a “systematic and widespread attack against [the Syrian] civilian population”.
The UN commission recently noted that what the Assad regime has done amounts to crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, rape, and torture.
What does not get enough attention is the part of Assad’s criminality that is most difficult to see: that which takes place in the prisons, a vast network of concentration camps where torture and murder is routine. Continue reading
A website, siegewatch.org, has been set up that tracks the areas under siege in Syria. Siege Watch is a joint project of PAX, an organization that works in conflict zones to foster peace, and The Syria Institute, a non-partisan research centre directed by Valerie Szybala.
At the present time, according to Siege Watch, there are forty-six sieges operating in Syria, forty-three of them (93.5%) imposed by the Assad regime, two (4.5%) imposed by Jaysh al-Fatah, an insurgent coalition that includes Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), and one (2%) by the Islamic State (IS).
Siege Watch also documents the severity of the sieges in three categories. Category one (C1) is the most severe: very little gets in even by smuggling and international aid deliveries are rare if at all; the risk of malnutrition is high. Category two (C2) sieges are porous enough for the black market and/or locals might have some access to locally-grown produce, but prices for basics are extremely high and residents are at “some risk of malnutrition/dehydration”. Category three (C3) sieges require smuggling to get food, but there is a consistent supply, even if home-grown. While risk of malnutrition is low in C3 zones, medical emergencies are likely because of attacks by besieging forces.
All six C1 sieges are imposed by the regime. Thirty category C2 sieges are operating: twenty-nine by the regime and one by IS. The regime is also operating eight C3 sieges and Jaysh al-Fatah is operating two C3 sieges. Continue reading
On October 30, the United Nations peace envoy Staffan de Mistura presented an “action plan” for Syria, which included a plan for a “freeze zone” in Aleppo to give “an opportunity for some type of humanitarian improvement”. De Mistura wanted this to re-focus efforts of fighting units on all sides against the Salafi-jihadists of the Islamic State and Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda). Small wonder then that Assad’s U.N. envoy, Bashar Jafaari, said the regime was giving the proposal “due consideration”.
Last September, a Save the Children report noted that children in suburbs of Damascus besieged by the regime were subsisting on “leaves, nuts, [and] fruits”. Throughout October it would become clear that a deliberate terror-famine was being waged by the regime against these rebellious districts, to starve them into submission. Continue reading