A rebel fighter checks a launcher near the village of Kasab and the border crossing with Turkey, in the northwestern province of Latakia, on March 23. Syrian rebels seized the village of Kasab and the border crossing with Turkey on March 24, an NGO said, as the regime launched fresh air strikes in a bid to halt the opposition advance. The crossing was the last functioning border post with Turkey to slip from regime control.
"In later scenes, the king was heckled by the Fool, who wore a rainbow-colored wig, and eight boys performed a choreographed sword fight with lengths of plastic tubing. A few scenes from “Hamlet” were spliced in, making the story hard to follow. And at one point, a tanker truck carrying water roared by, drowning out the actors and coating the audience in a cloud of dust.
But the mere fact that the play was performed was enough for the few hundred spectators. Families living in nearby tents brought their children, hoisting them on their shoulders so they could see.
After Lear’s descent into madness and death, the cast surrounded the audience, triumphantly chanting “To be or not to be!” in English and Arabic. The crowd burst into applause, and a number of the leading girls broke into tears. Mr. Bulbul said they were overwhelmed because it was the first time anyone had clapped for them.”
This is such a cool story.
In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, a kebab vendor works in the midst of a destroyed building. As Syria’s war rages on, Aleppo is a city under gradual demolition, with a shrinking civilian population struggling to survive.
A former Assad regime insider has given the first direct account of how Syria’s ruling family created the feared shabiha militia that is blamed for some of the worst atrocities of the civil war, and gave it orders to kill or torture anti-regime protesters.
Abdul Salam, a former close ally of Rami Makhlouf, the president’s cousin, has described how he attended meetings in which Mr Makhlouf and Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother, planned “the making of the shabiha” - and others in which they commanded it to do their “dirty work” by shooting unarmed opposition activists.
His testimony to The Telegraph, given in eastern Turkey, provides a unique first-hand glimpse into the inner workings of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It could prove valuable for United Nations war crimes investigators currently gathering evidence to be used should the Syrian leadership be brought to trial for war crimes in the International Criminal Court.
Over the past three years the shabiha militia have reigned with violence and impunity, destroying entire villages by setting fire to homes or looting them, and raping, torturing and slitting the throats of inhabitants suspected of opposing the regime.
Although UN investigators have pointed to cases where the militia have seemed to operate alongside the Syrian military, a direct chain of command from the Syrian leadership has never been explicitly shown.
The account by Mr Salam intimately details, for the first time, how at the beginning of the uprising in 2011 the Syrian leadership decided to create a paramilitary force - secretly commanded by them - that could attack anti-government protesters.
It relates how they appointed leaders for militias across the country; released prisoners from “death row” to join the force; and then provided the financing and the weapons that they needed in order to act.
"I was one of eight people invited by Maher and Rami to meet in 2011," said Mr Salam, who, for his own protection spoke to the Telegraph using a pseudonym. "They are the brains behind the shabiha operation. They offered us money, weapons, anything we needed [to form the militias]."
For decades, Mr Salam had been a partner of Mr Makhlouf, one of the most powerful businessmen in Syria, and soon became one of Syria’s biggest weapons dealers.
He was part of the original “shabiha”, a term that at the time referred to smugglers and racketeers, mostly operating from the coastal Alawite heartland province of Latakia. An official blind eye was turned to their use of smuggling routes to import and export goods illicitly, in exchange for their loyalty to the government.
Twenty years ago this week the Rwandan genocide began.
Since then we’ve filled museums with haunting relics, held memorials remembering the hundreds of thousands of victims senselessly slaughtered, and solemnly declared the words, “never again” from podiums throughout the world.
We’ve said those words so many times.
We’ll never let it happen again. We’ll never stand by while innocent women, men, and children are slaughtered, hacked to death in their homes, in schools, in places of worship, burned to death, bludgeoned to death, shot. We’ll never let it happen again.
But how can we even say those words today, how can we utter those words on this solemn anniversary?
We’re saying “never again” as we watch a genocide unfold in real time in Syria.
I thought of these words during a recent visit to the Syrian border, where I met victims who had been pulled from the wreckage of barrel bomb attacks and rushed to a Syrian border hospital. Here, children lie paralyzed in rows of beds, their tiny spines punctured by a sniper’s gun.
Increasing evidence now shows that Assad regime snipers target children and pregnant women in a sick war game, awarding with cigarettes the snipers who hit their civilian targets. “Deliberate,” and “hell beyond hell” is how Dr. David Nott, a British surgeon, described the injuries he witnessed at a Syrian hospital.
But where is our outrage? We’re mouthing “never again” while silently regarding the plight of an entire generation of Syria’s children.
Within the last two years, the Assad regime has incorporated “barrel bombs” into the arsenal of terror weapons used against the civilian population. Packed with TNT and shrapnel, the bombs are frequently dropped by helicopters on neighborhoods full of women and children.
One woman I visited at a hospital on the Syrian border described hearing the sound of a helicopter rotor and rushing to seek cover with her family. In seconds she saw limbs flying through the air as shrapnel from the bomb carved its bloody path through the bodies of her mother, sister, and five small nephews. When the attack was over, she looked down and realized one of her own legs had been severed. In the distance she could hear more helicopters on the approach.
There wasn’t enough time to bury her family members that day, she told me. With her father’s help, she was able to grab only the school photos of her nephews, her last remaining relic of the family she had lost so suddenly.
That day at the hospital she carefully showed me these photos, describing how each one had been killed. “This one was beheaded,” she told me, pointing to a photo of her five-year-old nephew. She and her father were the only surviving members of her family. They fled across the border.
Bloodied bodies hacked to pieces whether by Assad’s shrapnel or the machetes of the Hutu militia demonstrate an unspeakable horror that occurred in Rwanda twenty years ago and is unfolding today across Syria.
Technological advancements and social media prevalence have ensured that we have more access to the Syrian crisis than has ever been possible in a war zone. Yet we have somehow become immune to the images on our screens.
Today, we’re all remembering the Rwandan genocide — as well we should. But we can’t spend all of our time looking back while we’re saying “never again.” We can’t say “never again” today while we silently allow cruelty to continue in another corner of the world.
Today I hope that the Rwandan genocide anniversary serves as a catalyst for our action, spurring us to shatter our silence, and compelling us to act.
Politicians and government leaders often excuse their inaction on Syria with words like “complicated.” And we know that many government leaders once felt the same way about Rwanda.
When I traveled to the Syrian border I found a different reality. Complications exist, yes, but the reality of human suffering on this scale demands a very simple response: action. Truly, no setting wherein human beings are being bombed, shot, gassed, and chopped into pieces en masse should ever be considered too complicated for our intervention.
Instead of a complicated mess on the Syrian border, I found people just like you and me, who need people just like you and me. Today, I hope the solemn anniversary of the Rwandan genocide serves as a catalyst for us to shatter the silence on Syria, compelling us to take real action to end this horror.
If we are going to use the words “never again,” we must back them up with our action.
"Never again" is now.
People in Lebanon joined hands to call for an end of racism towards Syrian refugees in their country, writes Joey Ayoub. “Our home is yours,” they said.
Photo Essay: Stranded in Sweden by Matilde Gattoni and Matteo Fagotto
Once they were respected and successful, they had money and power. Now they’re broke, roaming like ghosts in a foreign land.
These are the stories of 12 young Syrian men who used to be rich businessmen, global professionals and members of prominent families. They sacrificed everything to escape war and reach Sweden, the only country granting them permanent residence.
Far from discovering the paradise they dreamed about, some now lead an invisible life in bleak suburbs and remote villages, isolated and unable to find work. Cut off from their loved ones, they are stuck in a limbo between a comfortable life they cannot forget and a tough, new reality. Some of the people asked to keep their faces out of the photos, to protect their families still in Syria.
A Syrian man evacuates a child found in the rubble of a building reportedly hit by an explosives-filled barrel dropped by a government forces helicopter.
Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by Al-Wafaa campaign at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus April 1, 2014.
In 33 seconds, this video will teach you what it’s like to have a sense of humanity..and it might also help restore yours.
An orphan child shares his food with his fellow friends before he eats himself.