The “Lottery of Life and Death” in Revolutionary Syria

AntiNote: The following article, written almost exactly two years ago, has special significance to us for several reasons, primary among them of course the subject matter—the gas attack in the outskirts of Damascus whose second anniversary was just observed by Syrian liberation activists and allies around the world—and the author.

Razan Zeitouneh is an award-winning Syrian human rights lawyer and activist who was abducted along with her spouse and two colleagues just a few months after writing this heartbreaking eyewitness account of the Ghouta massacre. Her story is one that should be far more widely known, and that provides a glimpse of the shape that the civil society movement took (though the assumption is widespread that it disappeared completely) after the Assad regime decided to counter the uprisings of 2011 with barbarous violence. Efforts to find her and secure her release have not ended.

Resources in English about the movement of which Razan Zeitouneh was a part and the context in which she worked are relatively rare but not inexistent. A good place to start is a medium-length documentary in Spanish and Arabic (with English subtitles), Ecos del Desgarro, which we recently shared in the Cinema Utopia section of this site.

A Search For Loved Ones Among Mass Graves
by Razan Zeitouneh
Originally appeared at Now. Media on 23 August 2013

“We have grown accustomed to the fact that anything is possible in this war and that the sole means to confront it is to prepare for anything.”

East Ghouta, Syria
I am trying to replay that day in slow motion in the hope of bursting into tears as any “normal” person is supposed to do. I am terrified by this numbness in my chest and the fuzziness of images running around in my mind. This is no normal reaction after a long day of tripping on bodies lined up side-by-side in long and dark hallways. Bodies are shrouded in white linen, and old blankets show only faces that have turned blue, dried foam edging their mouths, and sometimes, a string of blood that mixes with the foam. Foreheads or shrouds bear a number, a name, or the word “unknown.”     Continue Reading

Why I Left Crimea

By Andrei Nechayevsky
Translated from the Russian by The Russian Reader (original post)

“I would like to live in a province near the sea, but not in a place where ‘unreliable elements’ are purged.”

I am from Donetsk myself. My wife and I moved to Crimea ten years ago. We built a house outside of Kerch, in the backcountry. There isn’t a soul there in winter.

Suddenly, in February 2014, Russian choppers were flying over us every night. Then troops marched through Kerch. I saw it with my own eyes.

There was this fabulous thing: Russian religious pilgrims, columns of buses filled with people who were supposedly traveling en masse to worship Crimea’s Orthodox relics. I watched them change into army uniforms in a church yard.

Kerch was inundated with completely atypical characters: there were a huge number of Cossacks. I was getting hassled in town on the street, something that had never happened before. Drunken, fairly strong men would come up to me and ask, “Where you from, lad?” And this “lad” is fucking forty-five years old!

I got the feeling that everyone had lost their minds. Continue Reading

Capitalism, Slavery, and Resistance

AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Listen to it in its entirety:

 

On 20 December 2014, host Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio spoke with author and historian Edward Baptist about the continuing legacy of slavery and the ongoing sanitization and downright falsification of its history in the United States.

This conversation was timely when it took place, as protests over police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and all around the country had been escalating. Since neither the regular police murder of unarmed black men and women in the United States nor the white supremacist system that drives and condones it has ended, this conversation remains timely now, six months later, with the world’s eyes on Baltimore.

The conversations around lethal racist policing and the growing rebellion against it have continued to evolve over these six months, with some promising turns. While deeper investigations into the racial, institutional and economic history of Ferguson were not completely absent from media coverage of the police murder of Michael Brown, it seemed to happen primarily at a low frequency on the fringes of the discourse. The same could be said of alternative analyses of rioting as a legitimate response to state violence. But both of these avenues of thought have factored much more prominently in the coverage of Freddie Gray’s horrific beating murder by Baltimore cops and the ensuing uprising there.

Indeed, they have combined in a way. The relatively recent history of Baltimore’s economic abandonment has been used as further evidence of the hypocrisy of people who complain about broken windows but not broken spines. As the argument goes, they never complained about the broken windows, the broken homes, the broken communities that de-industrialization, white flight, the War on Drugs, and austerity produced in Baltimore. Just the ones broken by black rioters.

Good point. Yes, a crucial backdrop for the ongoing racial unrest in Baltimore and the rest of the United States is the economic suffering wrought by neoliberalism over the last half-century. But this system of violent racialized economic exploitation has been a feature of capitalism for much longer than that.
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Einige Gedanken zu Syrien

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Von Leila Al Shami, übersetzt von AntiDote

Ich wurde gebeten, für das anarchistische Treffen in Tunis, an dem ich leider nicht teilnehmen konnte, eine Übersicht der Ereignisse in Syrien zu verfassen. Das Folgende ist eine leicht editierte Version . . .

Im Jahr 2011, im Zuge eines Aufstandes, der durch die Mittelmeerregion zog, ­erhoben sich die Menschen in Syrien in gewaltigen Zahlen um das Abtreten des Regimes zu fordern. Es war ein spontaner Volksaufstand, der seine Ursprünge in den benachteiligen ruralen und urbanen Gebieten hatte. Es war eine Antwort auf Jahrzehnte der Diktatur, eines repressiven Polizeistaats, einer mafiösen Elite und der neoliberalen Politik des Baath Regimes, welche weite Teile der Bevölkerung verarmen ließen.

BurningSyria von Tammam Azzam

BurningSyria von Tammam Azzam

Es war eine Bewegung ohne AnführerInnen, die Menschen verschiedener Klassen, Ethnien oder Religionen verband. Junge Männer und Frauen organisierten sich horizontal in den Komitees, die in Dörfern und Städten sprossen, und versuchten die Proteste und den zivilen Ungehorsam zu koordinieren. In den belagerten oder bombardierten Gebieten versuchten sie direkte Hilfe, zu leisten.Continue Reading

Four Years Out: Thoughts on the Syrian Revolution

By Leila Al Shami
(visit her excellent blog)

I was asked for an overview on Syria for a meeting of anarchists in Tunis which unfortunately I couldn’t attend. This is a slightly edited version.

In 2011, the Syrian people, as part of a transnational uprising sweeping the region, rose up in huge numbers to demand the overthrow of the regime. It was a spontaneous, popular uprising, originating in the disadvantaged rural and urban areas. It was a response to decades of dictatorship, a repressive police state, a mafia-style elite and the neoliberal policies of the Baathist regime which had impoverished large sections of the population.

It was a movement without leaders which united people across class, ethnic and religious boundaries. Young men and women organized horizontally in the committees which sprang up in towns and villages across the country to coordinate protests and civil disobedience campaigns and to send aid to besieged or bombarded communities. The activists in the committees worked to coordinate the demands of the revolution across the country – for the fall of the regime and a transition to a democratic, non-sectarian, civil state.

Over time, in the face of increasing and savage state repression, people armed themselves and organized in popular militias to defend protesters and their communities from attack. By 2012 there was a full blown military struggle between, on one hand, a multitude of popular militias loosely grouped under the ‘Free Army’ label and, on the other, the State.

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Storytelling: “Borderline”

AntiNote: This story was told in December 2014 to a live audience in Seattle at one of the RISK! Tour’s many live storytelling performances. RISK! describes itself as a platform for people to tell stories they “never thought they’d dare to share.” We hope many more will dare to share the kind of story that Kevin Bartlett tells here.

Transcribed from episode #614 of the RISK! podcast—Live in Seattle 2!and printed with permission.

Borderline

by Kevin Bartlett

In 2003, in Jalisco, south of Guadalajara, a fight got started over a horse. It was actually a fight over the debt that was owed for a horse. Two Mexican cartel members made their way to the Guerrero family home, where a man named Pedro—father of three, husband—greeted them at the door. They told him that he owed them money. He tried to explain that he already paid for the horse, but the scene quickly got ugly. A nine-year-old, Raul, and his six-year-old sister Maria looked over their mother’s shoulder as the scene escalated from an argument to shouting to explosions.

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Look Toward Kobanê

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The Travel Account of a Karakök Autonome Activist (Part 1)

AntiNote: Since the battle for Kobanê started making headlines last month, and before that if we may say so, the AWC has been conferring with our invaluable comrades close to both the Syrian revolution and the Rojava struggle and trying to determine how best to present these topics here.

Complicating matters, of course, is that news out of Kobanê in particular changes minute to minute—first, the fall of the city was inevitable, then it turned into a lasting siege; then all at once ISIS fighters were in retreat and the battle “over.” But the siege continues, and continues to confound: the roles and statements of the Turkish, American, and many other states shift constantly; people continue to scrape across the Turkish-Syrian border near Kobanê, in both directions; the situation is exquisitely fluid.
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A People’s History of the Syrian Revolution

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An in-depth interview with Joseph Daher

Originally appeared on LeftEast 15 October 2014, with link citations we have not duplicated. Reprinted with permission.

“We need to support liberation struggle unconditionally.”

Note from the LeftEast editors: The following interview was conducted with the Syrian revolutionary Joseph Daher by Italian journalist and activist Mattia Gallo. It provides an important perspective on the current Western intervention in Iraq and Syria that has been excluded from much of the mainstream media reporting of this conflict. We acknowledge that the views expressed here concern a conflict that has lasted over three years and has been especially divisive for the Left in both the Middle East and Europe. We therefore wish to remind our readers that our decision to publish this interview does not reflect an official position of the LeftEast editorial board, but rather our commitment to promoting a broad and informed discussion of the current conflict and its significance for the Left more broadly.

Mattia Gallo: The mainstream media have described the civil war happening in Syria since 2012 as a clash between religious groups present in the country against the Assad regime, effectively ignoring the dynamics from below. Have there been groups of revolutionaries who fought for social justice, equality, freedom?

Joseph Daher: For more than three years now, the majority of observers have analyzed the Syrian revolutionary process in geopolitical and sectarian terms, from above, ignoring the popular political and socio-economic dynamics on the ground. The threat of Western intervention has only reinforced this idea of an opposition between two camps: the Western states and the Gulf monarchies on one side; Iran, Russia and Hezbollah on the other. But we refuse to choose between these two camps, we refuse this logic of the “lesser evil,” which will only lead to the loss of the Syrian revolution and its objective: democracy, social justice and the rejection of sectarianism.

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The Battle Intensifies: Stories from Summer 1999

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AntiNote: As the first installment in our reflection series on the Minnehaha Free State (MFS), we present a handful of edited excerpts from Elli King’s 2006 people’s history of the encampment, Listen: The Story of the People at Taku Wakan Tipi and the Reroute of Highway 55.

In case you missed it, please read our introduction to this series here.

We are picking up the story at a particularly tense juncture, almost exactly fifteen years ago. The following three testimonies deal with events over two days in late July, 1999: the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s first successful attempt to break ground on their still legally precarious project (with extensive police protection), the Free Staters’ attempts at resistance, and a street blockade the following day to protest the state’s violent and destructive actions—which itself was met with more violence.

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The Battle of the Story of Taku Wakan Tipi

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by Antidote’s Ed Sutton

Our writers collective has only existed informally for a couple of years, and has only been publishing for a few months. Members of the Antidote Writers Collective are still in the process of introducing ourselves to you. As our regular readers have likely noticed, the relatively few instances where Antidote’s curators weigh in with our own writing, so far, have been largely devoted to expository essays examining our own philosophical ‘upbringings.’ As they continue to trickle out, we hope these reflections on our own experiences of radicalization will help give some approximate shape and timbre to the eZine as a whole.

Continuing this exercise, it is my pleasure to reminisce a little about my home town.

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