Assad’s ‘Machinery of Cruel Death’: Amnesty International’s Report about the Syrian Regime’s Prison System

The catastrophe in Syria has been going on long enough to become part of the underlying structure of international politics. The immolation of a country of 25 million people—a conflict that has displaced over 12 million people and killed an estimated 400,000—is something for the global powers to work around, rather than actively solve, and it’s arguably been treated that way for years. Syria has long been considered a side-note to other, more pressing issues. For instance, Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon recently claimed that the U.S. edged off of Barack Obama’s chemical weapons “red line” in September of 2013 in order to preserve its ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, which supports the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

But as regional and global powers continue to coldly and unsuccessfully manage the conflict and its consequences, and as the possibility of a decisive military or diplomatic resolution fades, the world’s attention has largely shifted away from the dynamics inside of Syria itself—to the point that even the most appalling facts about the country’s tragedy have lost any broader political resonance. Regime bombings of hospitals have been reduced to minor news items; the mind-boggling reality that over 730 doctors have been killed during the outbreak of civil war is but a tiny factoid embedded in a monotony of horrors. The worse the war gets, the less morally or geo-strategically urgent the carnage seems to become.

Take, for instance, the relative non-reaction to Amnesty International’s jaw-dropping report on Assad’s prison system, published on August 18. According to Amnesty, 17,723 people died in the regime’s prisons between the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March of 2011 and December of 2015. It’s a number that offers false comfort, even in its enormity: as Amnesty notes, some 65,000 people have vanished into Assad’s gulag and are currently being “subjected to enforced disappearance” at the regime’s hands. As the report notes, the “number of confirmed deaths in custody would substantially increase” if the fate of these prisoners were ever learned, and the vast majority of regime prisoners are not terrorists or criminals: “Grounds for arrest on suspicion of opposing the government vary and can include peaceful activism, such as being a human rights defender, journalist or other media worker, providing humanitarian or medical support to civilians in need or having been involved in organizing or attending pro-reform demonstrations.” Simply having a relative “who is wanted by the security forces” is often also grounds for arrest.


Barack and Michelle Obama: Love Story, Marriage in Photos

Like every one, theirs had a beginning

The public’s introduction to the couple came on the campaign trail in 2007, but the Obamas’ story began nearly two decades earlier when Michelle Robinson was assigned to mentor Barack Obama at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin. Now, their first date, a trip to see Do the Right Thing in 1989, is getting the Hollywood treatment through the film Southside With You hitting theaters on Aug. 26.

After a three-year courtship, the couple wed in 1992. Thanks to more than a decade in the public eye, thousands of photographs capture their relationship, seeming at once comfortable and restrained, joyous and subtle. She gingerly adjusts his tie. He lends her his jacket. Hand in hand, they face the public, poised and relaxed. In one frame, hundreds of spectators photograph the couple dancing during the official Inaugural Ball. In another, Mrs. Obama watches the president speak on a television, alone.

Here’s a look back at some of the moments, many of them captured by the Obama’s White House photographers, that followed that date on Chicago’s Southside 27 years ago. —Chelsea Matiash


Hillary’s Race War

Hillary Clinton has met with leaders of a racist hate group responsible for torching cities and inciting the murders of police officers.

Deray McKesson, one of the Black Lives Matter hate group leaders she met with, had praised the looting of white people and endorsed cop killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Black Lives Matter hate group had specifically made a point of targeting white people in “white spaces” for harassment. It would go on to incite the mass murder of police officers in Dallas and other racist atrocities.

Despite all this, Hillary Clinton has never disavowed the racist hate group. Instead she doubled down on supporting the hate group and its icons at the Democratic National Convention.

Now, after Trump’s appeal to the black community, Hillary is desperately trying to divide us by race.


The End of Mahmoud Abbas

Like it or not, the day is fast approaching when the Palestinian Authority we have known for the past 22 years will cease to exist.

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s US-trained Palestinian security forces have lost control over the Palestinians cities in Judea and Samaria. His EU- and US-funded bureaucracies are about to lose control over the local governments to Hamas. And his Fatah militias have turned against him.

Palestinian affairs experts Pinchas Inbari of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Khaled Abu Toameh of the Gatestone Institute have in recent weeks reported in detail about the insurrection of Fatah militias and tribal leaders against Abbas’s PA.

In Nablus, Fatah terrorist cells are in open rebellion against PA security forces. Since August 18, Fatah cells have repeatedly engaged PA forces in lethal exchanges, and according to Inbari, the town is now in a state of “total anarchy.”


The Case for Kurdish Statehood

Why has the West been so supportive of Palestinian nationalism, yet so reluctant to support the Kurds, the largest nation in the world without a state?

The Kurds have been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State (ISIS); have generously accepted millions of refugees fleeing ISIS to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and embrace Western values such as gender equality, religious freedom, and human rights. They are also an ancient people with an ethnic and linguistic identity stretching back millennia and have faced decades of brutal oppression as a minority. Yet they cannot seem to get sufficient support from the West for their political aspirations.

The Palestinians, by contrast, claimed a distinct national identity relatively recently, are less than one-third fewer in number (in 2013, the global Palestinian population was estimated by the Palestinian Authority to reach 11.6 million), control land that is less than 1/15th the size of the KRG territory, and have not developed their civil society or economy with nearly as much success as the Kurds. Yet the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, and other international bodies have all but ignored Kurdish statehood dreams while regularly prioritizing Palestinian ambitions over countless other global crises.


Besieged French citizens pledge to block port with ‘human chain’ until lawless, violent Muslim migrant camp is demolished

Shopkeepers, businessmen, farmers and police unionists in Calais have pledged to block ‘indefinitely’ the motorway leading to the port with a ‘human chain’, saying they will not break it until the migrant Jungle camp that has now swollen to up to 10,000 people is totally dismantled.

The unprecedented action, due to start on Monday, came as the local head of France’s national haulage federation warned: “Migrant violence hasn’t gone up a notch, it’s gone up 10 floors.”

Lorry driver representatives issued a joint call with an umbrella group of shops and businesses in Calais, the CGT union, farmers and the SCP Police union, saying that they had run out of less militant ways of calling a “halt to insecurity in Calais”.


Hugh Fitzgerald: Jean-Louis Harouel On France’s “Marche Vers Dhimmitude”

While nearly everyone has expressed an opinion about the burkini ban that was put in place by the mayors of several dozen French municipalities, and then overturned by a decision of the Conseil d’Etat, the views of Jean-Louis Harouel, a French legal historian and polymath, are of unusual significance.

Harouel, a professor emeritus of the History of Law at the University of Paris, criticizes the members of the Conseil d’Etat for their decision, which he says reflects their failure to take into account the difficult period that France is now going through. In the present circumstances, writes Harouel, the “jurisprudential liberalism”’ that might have been acceptable in relatively peaceful times can no longer be justified, given what France is enduring.

I have freely translated his words:


Help Yourself!

A pastor goes to a nursing home for the first time to visit an elderly parishioner. 

As he is sitting there, he notices a bowl of peanuts beside her bed and takes one. As they continue their conversation, he can’t help himself and eats one after another. 

By the time they are through visiting, the bowl is empty. He says, “Mrs. Jones, I’m so sorry, but I seem to have eaten all of your peanuts.” 

“That’s O.K.,” she says.

“They would have just sat there anyway. Without my teeth, all I can do is suck the chocolate off and put them back in the bowl!”

River of Life

Steve McCurry Curated

For more than 2000 years, travelers have walked, ridden,
prayed, traded, invaded, escaped, fought, and
died along the 1,500 miles of the Grand Trunk Road
which stretches from Kolkata to Kabul.

Tram, Calcutta, India, 1996; A Tram, Calcutta, India, 1996 MCS1996002 K010 Magnum Photos, NYC5923 "For McCurry, Calcutta is the most visual city on the planet, spinning with chaos and clutter, crumbling under the weight of its overpopulation, utterly out of control, yet vital and alive. Vendors spill into streets, which hold a confusion of cars, trams, rickshaws, bicycles and pedestrians. So how to make this picture? McCurry looked for an office or apartment on a second floor of a street corner. 'And that is the wonder of the place. Twenty minutes later, I am on a bed in a couple's apartment, making the picture and staying on for a cup of tea." Anthony Bannon. (2005). Steve McCurry. New York: Phaidon Press Inc., 37. National Geographic, March 1997, India: Fifty Years of Independence Phaidon, 55, South Southeast, Iconic Images, final book_iconic, iconic photographs final print_HERMITAGE Dirty, hot, smoggy, friendly- that's how one resident describes Calcutta, a city so humid even the buildings seem to sweat. With crowded streets pockmarked with potholes, an unreliable phone system, and a long love affair with Marxism, Calcutta is only now trying to lure foreign investors. National Geographic, Jeffrey C. Ward (May 1997). India: Fifty years of Independence. National Geographic, vol. 191(5) A tram winds its way through the streets of Calcutta. Dirty, hot, smoggy, friendly, it is a place so humid that even the buildings seem to sweat. This Calcutta street is a cacophony of visual noise. McCurry spent a long time searching for a way to capture the energy and vitality of this most unique of cities. His response was to find a vantage point above street level. Fortunately, he was welcomed into an apartment on the street corner by a young couple. After taking this image he stayed for a cup of tea. South Southeast_Book Steve Mccurry_Book Iconic_Book final print_Sao Paulo final print_Birmingham final print_HERMITAGE retoucher_Sonny Fabbri 3/24/2015 Kolkata, India

This ribbon of humanity stretching northwest from Kolkata,
the city of culture and joy, to Kabul, the city of conflict,
has been moving merchants, buyers, conquerors, refugees,
prophets, nomads and pilgrims through what is today
India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kolkata, India Kolkata, India

Here are some pictures of people and places
I have taken along the route of the
Grand Trunk Road during the past thirty years.

Street scene, Calcutta, India, 1996 Kolkata, India

Howrah Station, Kolkata, India Howrah Station, Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India Kolkata, India

Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India

 Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism all developed along the route,
and Muslims proclaimed their beliefs on their journeys along the road.

Bihar, India Bihar, India

Varanasi, India Varanasi, India

Agra, India Agra, India

“Look! Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers,
barbers and bunnias, pilgrims – and potters…

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