When FRONTLINE filmmaker Olly Lambert sat to interview Jamal Maarouf, a Syrian rebel commander, he did not anticipate that bombs from government jets would begin to fall just 300 meters away.
Though the first blast knocked him to the ground, Lambert kept his camera rolling. He spent the next hour documenting the impacts of the Oct. 28, 2012 bombing of al-Bara, a village in Idlib province an hour south of Aleppo. The result is a rare, immersive portrait of the immediate aftermath of Syrian government air strikes on a civilian population.
Assad; who do you think you are?
The Syrian national ID card includes its holder’s ancestral name and “place of origin,” i.e., the neighborhood and city most closely associated with his or her family name. Before the uprising, the ID card caused the kind of minor travel-related annoyances we’re accustomed to in the West. But in the past 20 months, the ID card has become a potent tool for profiling and weeding out suspected members of the opposition. If you get stopped at a checkpoint, being from a rebel city or neighborhood can mean the difference between life and death. And while an individual’s religion isn’t blatantly listed on the ID, most officials can make a pretty good guess about a citizen’s sect based on the information.
Syria has a long history of using citizenship restrictions to decide who’s in and who’s out. In 1962, the state arbitrarily revoked the citizenship of 120,000 Kurds. These Kurds and their descendants were all considered ajanib (stateless) until last May. Ajanib are not permitted to marry, own cars, rent houses, or possess national IDs. Below the ajanib are the maktoumeen (hidden)—those who live in stateless limbo, unable to leave Syria legally but also forbidden from getting a job.
After oppressing the separatist Kurds for decades, three weeks after the uprising Assad issued an amnesty, giving them full citizenship. This conspicuously timed move was a cynical political bid to keep the armed Kurds from allying with the opposition. It worked; the Kurds have become a third position of sorts, quietly laying the foundations for their own autonomous Kurdish revolution in the North while the FSA and the regime slaughter each other.
Even if you’re not against the regime, your ID can be used to punish you if you don’t take good care of it. This fall, the regime released 267 people from prison who had been found with broken ID cards. In recent months, a firebrand Syrian sheikh has been calling for Syrians to break their ID cards to protest the regime. One man told Agence France-Presse that he had been on his way home when security forces stopped him and found his ID card broken. Another unlucky soul told AFP, “They beat me and forced me to confess that I was following the sheikh’s instructions, which I didn’t know existed.” When these Syrians were released, their heads were shaved, and they bore signs of torture. The lesson is to take good care of your driver’s license, especially if you live under a paranoid-schizophrenic wartime regime.
Syria is situated in the northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It occupies an area of about 185,000 km2. The Syrian territory borders Jordan on the south, Iraq on the east, Turkey on the north and Lebanon and the Mediterranean on the west (Fig.IV-1).
Bahrain’s Appeal Court on Monday ordered retrial in the case of prominent jailed opposition activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
The court said in its verdict that the retrial will take place in a civil court, Xinhua reported.
Al Khawaja was jailed for life last year by the National Safety Court on several charges including plotting to overthrow the administration by force.
The court also ordered retrial in the case of 20 other people who were arrested with Al Khawaja last year during the unrest which allegedly had links with foreign terrorist organization. The defendants include Shia cleric Hassan Mushaima and Ebrahim Sharif, secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society, a leftist group.
Bahraini court postponed the appeal Monday of a hunger-striking activist jailed in connection with the Gulf country’s uprising last year, his defence lawyer said dpa reported
The appeal for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, along with 20 other activists, was adjourned to April 30.
Al-Khawaja, who holds both Bahraini and Danish citizenship, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in protests led by the country’s Shiite majority, demanding more rights from the ruling Sunni royal family.
He was convicted by a military court of plotting against the state. He has been on hunger strike for more than two months in protest at the life sentence he received in June.
Several opposition members were standing outside the court to demonstrate against the trial, amid heavy security presence. Earlier this month, Bahrain rejected a proposal to transfer al-Khawaja to Denmark for medical treatment.
While his family expressed concern about his deteriorating health, fearing that he might die in prison, Bahrain’s attorney general issued a statement insisting the 52-year-old activist was in “good health.”
International human rights groups including Amnesty International have called on Bahrain to release al-Khawaja.
Earlier this month, the European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Bahrain to save al-Khawaja, saying his health was “a matter of the utmost urgency.”
“We can confirm that our foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller and his team have been arrested whilst reporting for the programme from a village in Bahrain,” Channel 4 News spokesperson said. “Our primary concern is for the safety of the team, and we are working with the appropriate authorities to secure a swift release.”
The team failed to obtain journalist visas and worked without official accreditation to cover the Bahrain Grand Prix and civil unrest, the channel said on its website.
The corresponded came in contact with the Channel 4 news service and told that police were aggressive during the arrest, especially against the team’s local driver, who was arrested and assaulted in front of the team, and then separated from them.
“We are operating without accreditation, so when we were caught filming a planned demonstration in one of the Shia villages – they [police] have not been particularly pleasant. They’ve been very aggressive towards me, my crew and driver and Dr Al Shihabi, a prominent human rights activist.” Miller said while being taken to a police station.
“Right now we’re concerned for our driver…things are rather worse for Bahrainis in police custody,” he added.
A prominent opposition activist, Mohammed Al-Maskati, told RIA Novosti that police also arrested two Japanese journalists who covered protests on a highway leading to the Bahrain International Circuit, where a Formula 1 Grand Prix took place on Sunday.