Behind the walls of censorship: An activist’s take on freedom of speech in Syria an interview by: Andrew Laufer


Nourhan prides himself for being one of the few, if not only, neutral journalists from Aleppo, Syria. A friendly and energetic 20-something, he runs a blog under a hidden identity discussing the political situation from a liberal point of view, propagating for a secular Syrian government.

In his daily life as a university student and running his own business, Nourhan met people from all walks of life from all over the country. He always wanted to hear others’stories and share them. On his blog, he wanted to give a voice to the silent population, the millions who make up Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities.

He explains that the Syrian government fears anyone who speaks out. Anyone who can influence public opinion is seen as a threat because the government wants to control its population with an iron fist.

“In Syria, there’s a saying that in every family, there is one informant,”says Nourhan. With a large chunk of the population working for the government, people are afraid to speak up or criticise the regime. Dissident bloggers and journalists in Syria frequently get social media friends requests from strangers, but the real danger lies in your friends. You never know who is an informant.

Nourhan chose to write in English since most Syrians do not understand it, that way he would not get as much attention from the government.

He says that “if you become high profile, you can imagine what happens to you”, explaining that the government will assign someone to follow you around. He tells about how he at multiple occasions was approached at a university by a stranger who claimed he worked for the national security service. The stranger greeted Nourhan by the first name, saying that he knew everything about him, what he wrote and where he lived. He was warned that if he didn’t quiet down, he would be thrown in jail. The threats continued on social media and by e-mail, with constant intimidation in a very aggressive tone.


Internet blackouts are as frequent as two-three times a day in Aleppo. Usually, they occur during shelling, to disturb communication, prevent pictures from being spread and to cut off the population’s media exposure. The 3G net is rarely shut off, so the lucky elite, who can afford both broadband and 3G internet, still have undisturbed internet access.



A lot of websites are blocked in Syria from time to time, including Facebook. If someone tries to browse into a blocked website, they just arrive at a blank page. Some people are aware that there are circumvention tools such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and Tor to bypass government restrictions and surf anonymously. Yet, some of the more popular alternatives frequently don’t work within the country.



Circumvention tools such as VPNs have became increasingly important for activists like Nourhan who uses it daily to unblock social media websites and stay anonymous online since his internet activities would not be traced back to them. Without such tools, he would have been put in even greater danger. He once made the mistake to share an article on Facebook from his blog. Even though he used a hidden identity on his blog, the authorities suspected that he was behind it. They had a hard time proving it though thanks to the use of anonymity tools.


privacy-camera-laptop-hed-2013The government puts a lot of efforts into monitoring internet communication, yet Nourhan thinks that the average Syrian doesn’t believe that the government censors the internet. When the internet blacks out, many people believe it is just due to a glitch. Yet they do not question that the government is actively working to quiet down its dissidents. They are therefore not aware of the circumvention tools available because they don’t even know in the first place that their internet is being restricted on purpose.


streets of Aleppo Today.


Sadly, a large chunk of the population doesn’t even have internet access today. They might have to take a bus to a distant internet cafe, a luxury that only some can afford, and even then, only about once a week. Before the crisis started, the internet was picking up fast, with increasing bandwidth speeds and a higher adoption rate. But since the war started, the situation deteriorated fast, and Nourhan believes that there won’t be any functioning Internet at all in Syria within a few years if it continues like this.


1016459_10152192586294932_1167046456_nIn opposition-controlled areas, satellite internet is used by businesses, the rich and rebels. The majority cannot afford such tools though. Although satellite internet equipment is not blacked out by the government, it can be traced by them, so any user in government-controlled areas may quickly get an unwelcome visit by the authorities. Some people in opposition-controlled areas have taken advantage of the situation by opening up their own internet cafes with private generators and satellite internet equipment.

Several of Nourhan’s activist friends have been jailed or disappeared without a trace for speaking up and criticising the regime. It has always been a taboo in Syria to speak up, but now it is totally impossible. Nourhan says that any regime criticism you hear from Syria today is not actually published from within the country since the reporter would be jailed immediately. In the Arab world, sex, religion and politics are three things that cannot be talked about or criticised publicly. It can put the writer’s entire family in danger. The worst sin is criticising the president, that’s unforgivable.

“The youth is becoming increasingly radicalised” explains Nourhan, and adds “the Internet opened the peoples’eyes but closed their minds”. He thinks of the 1980’s Syria his father described to him, where women could go out in public with short skirts and without covering their hair. Even at university, most of his classmates, well-educated people from good backgrounds, became more and more radicalised, even speaking up for ISIS lately.

Although an atheist, Nourhan speaks of the hardship of being the only one in his class from a Christian family. Being Armenian on top of that made things even worse, as they are thought of as anti-Islamists by Syrians, who do not like how Armenians speak up against genocide and human rights issues. He feels that many people around him don’t even acknowledge the Turkish genocide on Armenians that occurred in 1915.

“Minorities are afraid to speak up today. All Christians are afraid today of saying that they are Christian or wearing a cross”he explains. His classmates frequently tried to convert him to Islam, getting very hostile to him when he politely refused. Other groups who are afraid to express themselves are atheists and homosexuals. “The homosexuals cannot be open about it at all in Syria – they would not live long.”

Nourhan attempted at several occasions to reach out to Western journalists to get his photographs and stories published, but did not receive a single response. His pleas for funding and equipment received the same lack of response. “Al-Jazeera gives their journalists lots of support, but they are very one-sided. If you are neutral, you do not get any support or media exposure at all, the media is very polarised.”


Out of fear for government reprimands, he did not want to expose himself on Skype calls with journalists. “None of the people you see on Skype live in government-controlled areas. I mean, none of them. They get captured five minutes after such a chat.”It made it very hard to share the reality of the situation to the outside world, many things do not get coverage. Many people around Nourhan felt betrayed by the West for not covering the whole story.
When he recently tried reaching out to other fellow journalists and dissidents in his region, they did not dare to speak up publicly anymore. “With government officials being hired to monitor even bloggers who write in English, a dozen-strong team can be put to trace every single thing a journalist writes or does online.”A few of his friends went to anti-government demonstrations, but were rounded up and sent to jail. When being released several months later, they were in such shock that they never dared to write or speak up again.


“The government can arrest anyone as they please, even the accused’s family. There is no justice – they will make up false charges and put you in jail for six months or even longer if you are stubborn.”

Regarding online censorship, he thinks that “what the government is doing is wrong, they are only making the situation worse for themselves. When you silence people, they will just feel suppressed, making them want to speak up and revolt even more. The Syrian government’s motto is that ‘The people in Syria don’t deserve freedom of speech. People even believe it, they think that they are stupid and cannot control themselves, that they don’t even deserve freedom.”

Government propaganda is very prevalent. On all news sites and social media you see images of military boots on the top of heads, which is a way for them to say that you will get the crushed if you speak up. Pro-government propaganda pages are sprouting up at a fast pace. Everyone tries to create a page nowadays and amassing followers. If you talk well about the President you can be someone – people will like you and you get better career prospects and a much easier life. Not everyone does it out of loyalty though, some do it out of fear, because if they do not show support, they can lose their job or dishonour their family.

Nourhan has lost half a dozen friends in both the government’s and the opposition’s shelling, and he was near death at 13 occasions himself. Yet he explains that the opposition isn’t heroic either, adopting the same scorched earth tactics as the government is using, shelling civilian neighbourhoods to spread fear. The rebels frequently steal houses and loot anything they can get their hands on, leaving the locals homeless and empty-handed.

Luckily, his family got in touch with an Armenian organisation in Canada who helped them get an immigration interview at the Canadian embassy. Since they came from a minority background and both Nourhan and his sister had been exposed to threats and physical violence, the family was granted Canadian visas. Today, Nourhan lives in Canada and like anyone his age, he dreams of completing his Master’s studies, finding a job and being integrated in Canadian society. He stresses the importance of integrating refugees in society, because the failure of doing so is what gives rise to the sort of extremists that go to wage jihad in Syria today.

“When you don’t speak the truth, your silence supports the deeds of the oppressor”. Speaking up is essential to bring down the terror in closed societies. Freedom of speech and an open internet are necessary prerequisites for doing so.

To fight for online freedom, non-profit NGO Advancing Human Rights with its platform has partnered with SaferVPN to launch the Unblock The Web campaign. The aim is to bring uncensored internet access to the masses in countries around the world where governments limit their citizens’access to the open web. The anti-censorship campaign was launched to help thousands of people around the world to safely make their voices and opinions heard. The campaign makes anti-censorship software available to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Hopefully, freedom of information and expression online will be luxuries available to everyone around the world one day.


The Armenian Genocide, 100 years of denial by Turkey.


It is true the hardest stories to tell are the stories that connect with you personally, stories of other people’s pains are much easier to write, writing about your own painful history is like making an open surgery on yourself, I’m an Armenian writer and in this article I want to share my own story of Armenian genocide which killed one and half million Armenians, and want to show why it’s not an Armenian story it’s a global one.

It has been 100 of years, where Turkish government is denying the Armenian genocide, in order to conceptualize this for the new reader on the subject, this 100 years consists of 4 generations of Armenians, who were been effected by the Genocide and carried this historic wound with us, it has been 100 of years, our ancestors telling the painful stories to us, the stories of torture, humiliation and abandonment from the home lands and the horrific evidences of mass massacre , it is sad  and insulting to see not only for Armenians but also for all humanity that Turkish government denies the Armenian Genocide, with doing so it encourages the wrongdoing to repeat again.


Dair Al zour Armenian memorial church, destroyed by ISIS.

When I was a kid back in Syria, my father took me to the Dair Al Zour Church, where I saw the remains of the thousands of people who died from deliberate starvation and torture, and later        I had the chance to visit Armenia and went to the memorial museum of Genocide there, the one impression you make from seeing all the evidence even if you are not an Armenian, that terrible things happened to this people in the years of   1800-1920 , you can easily notice the Turkish Islamic hate to the Armenian people, their deliberate attempts to eradicate the Armenians from Ottoman turkey, by the use of force and torture on a scale never happened to any nation lived in the middle east.


Crucified Armenian women. 1915

Just make a search on Google and you will see, how Armenian women and young girls, has been raped and crucified in the years when the mass Armenian genocide happened, the level of Turkish brutality at that times, was only comparable to the German Nazi brutality in world war two on the Jewish people.


The road to death, walking by foot and tain from Turkey to Syria. 1915

I remember very well, how my grandfather (my mother’s father) told me  shedding his tears  and after a long hesitation and denial, how he and his family escaped from the small village where the Turks entered the town and massacred all the people inside, his family watched how their relatives being butchered and killed in front of their eyes, with cold blood and hatred, my grandfather’s family only managed to escape when a Turkish friend opened the house taking them in, and hiding them inside his house storage, afterwards they took a cart and a horse and escaped south to Syria, where I was born as the second generation Armenian.


Armenian orphans 1915

My grandfather from the father side, had a different story and more painful one, he and his brothers, were captured in Istanbul, they were intellectuals and writers, from a wealthy and respectable family there, but because they were Armenians, they been detained and sent to the (road to death) which killed the million  and half Armenians on the journey, he had 7 brothers, all of them were killed because of starvation and hunger, he was the only one who survived the killings because he was very young, and after they reached the final destination in Al Dair zour in Syria, the Armenians  stayed and settled there, my grandfather became an orphan, and managed to create his life by his own effort,  maybe people will be surprised why there is Armenians in Syria, and the reason is Armenians were escaping from mass murder in the lands of the north.

After the reader has been shown my family’s tragic history, the lost lives houses and belongings and the absent family relatives that were never existed for me as a fourth generation Armenian, you can imagine now, how this event shaped and created an irreversible event in our people’s lives and psychology, it made clear to us that Christians can be mass murdered in Muslim countries at any moment in time, and it had an immediate effect on me and my family who lived in Syria and become part of the culture there.

The Turkish persecution of Armenians never stopped there, at the midst of Syrian civil war, the Turkish government is backing extremist Islamic groups, and trying to eradicate Syria not only from Armenians, but also Christians as well, when I was back in Aleppo, Syria, I witnessed how the so called the rebel groups, attacked and shelled the Armenian and Christian streets in a ratio of 100% more than other streets and neighborhoods, it is the same Islamic hate to the Christian minorities in the middle east, who is dressing now in a different clothes and slogans, the purpose was always the same depopulate the Christian streets and populate them with Muslim neighborhoods, it’s a story we know it well and learnt it by history and personal experience.


Armenian Church in Kessab, Syria .2013

Another direct evidence to the Turkish hate in the Syrian region, is the case of the town of Kessab, this town was a touristic marvel, my family had a small apartment there, the majority of the population in Kassab are Armenian, although this town never had and will have any strategic significance for the rebels in Syria, the Turkish government have sent proxy groups from its borders to burn and loot the city, and after they succeeded to enter the city, they burnt and looted the churches and houses they stolen our house and broken our crosses and bibles, and after they left they left behind a deserted town and people who don’t have nowhere else to go except their destroyed homes and towns.


Sulemania street, Aleppo, Syria.2014

The latest chapter of this tragic events happened in Sulemania Street in Aleppo, Syria, where the so called rebels, are shelling the Christian streets with very damaging local made rockets, they destroyed a 300 meter street and made it inhabitable, most the residents were Armenians in that street, one of my friend’s family now is staying in hospital and his daughter will never be able to see again.

My final message is this, talking with the Turks on this subject, showed time and time again that it’s not effective, the Turkish government only understands the language of force, and I urge the global community to put pressure as much as possible on the Turkish government whether it be political economic and social, or by abandoning it from Nato in order to stop intimidating Christians and stop fighting them under its sphere of influence, and I urge the global community to demand a full recognition of the Armenian Genocide, for the well observer Turkey showed time and time again that it falls short in protecting human rights internally and externally and in showing this traits, it proved that it is a dangerous country for the peace and prosperity of the world.

Human rights in Iran the hidden truth from the outside world, by Nourhan Balian


        This is an exclusive interview with Mr. Kaveh Taheri, who is Human Rights activist and a journalist from Iran who went through the Iranian prison system and lived the green movement of 2009.

The interview shows the situation of human rights in Iran from insider view, it sheds a light on the real situation there, from the situation of political activists in prison, to people’s reaction, to the past and present social movement in Iran.


Baton Men in bikes, Iranian guards attacking demonstrators.

The Early Beginnings:

         Mr.Kaveh Taheri, was born in Shiraz province in Iran, after studying law for 2 semesters at Payam Noor University in Shiraz, he moved to Malaysia to study journalism, from those early days Kaveh realized, that the laws in Iran were unjust, he felt that there were no equal rights in Iran, he felt that there were huge amount of human rights violations in Iran, and he couldn’t imagine himself becoming a lawyer to defend the law, when its own existence is built on shaky grounds, he chose journalism instead which was a profession that defends the rights of the Iranian people and stands next to them.

Kaveh started his writings and virtual activities with the beginnings of the 2009 Iranian presidential election, in which protesters demanded the removal of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from office because of the fraud elections, in those years Kaveh started his own blog publicized the brutal handling of the demonstrations and became a CEO of

I asked Kaveh how is the political situation in Iran, and if he sees any improvement in the scene, he responded: “For a long time, the political process in Iran is stagnated and controlled by the Islamic party and by the revolutionary guard, the Islamic party of Iran, controls the constitution and the elections in the country for many years, this makes politics in its democratic sense impossible to implement in that environment”, But later he added: “although the political party who rules Iran now didn’t change much in regards of violations of human rights and pursuing activists and imprisoning them, the people’s mentality has been changed, there is more secularism in the streets of Iran, more people are connected to the virtual world, and the society became more aware of the principles of democracy and the people are actively and openly are pursuing their basic human rights.”



Abdel Abad Prison in Shiraz province, Iran.


The detention, imprisonment and harassment:

    The Life of Mr.Kaveh and many people like him are in great danger in Iran, in a country which is ruled by the Islamic harsh laws, that prohibits almost every kind of freedom of speech and expression, being a journalist is a quite impossible career to pursue many, but he decided to challenge the status quo, because in his mind’s eye he saw a better future for Iranian people, a democratic future where people can live in a country as equals and the voice of the people are heard, not silenced by the brute force of the authorities.

 As we started talking about the painful memories of his capture, he started to remember how, in the morning of 23th of September 2012, the governmental intelligent services, came to his work and took him to detention center blindfolded, the officers tried to break his moral and self-worth in every way possible in his whole detention time, he was detained in intelligence detention center for 2 months where he was put in a solitary confinement, and been detained 8 months afterwards in Adel Abad prison, the things that he saw and heard, in those long painful months, was beyond human comprehension.

Kaveh, has been suffered from physical and psychological violence, the official who interrogated Kaveh, insisted that he stays with other detainees who were criminals and weren’t political prisoners, this was very hard for him, especially because Kaveh didn’t commit any crime, except expressing his ideas publicly, in his blogs and websites, he was living in fear and distrust of the other inmates, who were drug addicts and maybe informers themselves, since the Iranian regime, is quite generous when it comes to paying informers.

After the painful two months in solitary confinement, the guards moved Kaveh without any previous trial to another prison called the Adel Abad prison, one of the most promoted prisons by the Iranian authorities, as a role model of comfort and high standards of living for prisoners, what Kaveh has discovered afterwards, that this prison had kept dark secrets, underneath this veil of propaganda, one of this severest, was the Section 10 and the ward named “Neshat” (meaning happiness). The (“Neshat’ section is not as cheerful as its name claims and the majority of prisoners are kept here. In this section, Drug dealing, sodomy and gambling are a common scenery, the guards who supposed to protect the law, witness these and they also have a hand in) says Kaveh.

“Drugs are easily brought into the prison. I have been witness to the guards bringing in drugs into prison….. Drugs easily exchange hands here. Prisoners openly use drugs in their room.” Says Kaveh, explaining the dread situation in this section of the prison, where evil is born and raised, instead of prevention and rehabilitation of the prisoners.

I asked Kaveh if there were hidden torture has been proceeded in the prison, (Yes) he said, (there were a dungeon called “Ershad” (guidance). This is where the place where prisoners of and those who have disturbed the peace and security of other prisoners were being detained, those prisoners have been kept there they are constantly beaten, tortured and harassed.) , some prisoners told Kaveh, they won’t be able to continue their normal life like before from the beating and torture, even some of them told him “we will be disabled for our whole life”.


The release, the after fears and flying out of the country:

     After all those long months of struggle and uncertainty, Kaveh got released from prison after he was signed an agreement with the intelligence officials to stop writing speaking and protesting, in any subject that come close to the government of Iran, they asked him to abandon politics, and announce his surrender, this was something impossible to ask from a journalist but Kaveh agreed to comply, in order to get released from prison.

The intelligence services didn’t stop pursuing Kaveh after his release, they pursued his family, tried to take his family into detention, this was the time, where Kaveh, decided to flee the country and find asylum in Turkey.

Kaveh lives now in Turkey and asking for asylum and pursuing a way out for his critical situation, he needs financial support, and asks all human rights organizations around the world to hear his shocking story, a story of struggle against all odds.


Persecution of minorities in Iran:

I asked Kaveh about the treatment of minorities in the Abdel abad prison, he responded, the treatment of Sunni and Arab Ahwazi minorities in the prison were severe, even he mentioned in a relief that he wasn’t a minority, if he was, he wouldn’t be able to withstand the torture which inflicted on them, despite that he witnessed the tortures, and felt their pain the same way they did.

         Later we discussed about the persecution of the people who practice the Baha’i faith, Kaveh told me, that not only the Baha’i minority has been suffered persecution in Iran but also has been in a fight for an existence for almost two hundred years right from the beginnings of its establishment, their temples has been destroyed, their leaders vanished from society, and the people who practice this belief has been jailed and excluded from social and political life, although Baha’i people are Persian nationals, until this day they don’t even have a seat in the Iranian parliament, Kaveh is one of the few Persian intellectuals who publicly talked and condemned the non-just persecution of the Baha’i faith in Iran.


The Iranian prison system has to be revised, some of the prisons has to be closed completely, Democracy in Iran has to be reintroduced, separation of religion and state has to be materialized sound elections should take place, democratic government should be created which represent the rights of all people in Iran,  finally I asked Kaveh for his vision for the future middle east he said: “I believe that the countries in the Middle East could be overcome their internal crisis by their own mass power as social awareness, foreign intervention won’t solve the situation neither West no anyone else can give them democracy, democracy can be earned not given.”

The Human rights in the middle east, the past, the present and the future.

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       In the recent years the middle east has been hit with waves of human rights violations and abuses, that was unprecedented in its long history of conflicts and disputes in this region, this escalation was not born in a one day, it has been born and grown from a political and social situation which took decades to reach this point that we see today.

From the times of the ottoman empire, the governments in the middle east has legitimized themselves not by the rule of law, but by the rule of force and the sword, the idea of democracy and human rights were absent from that days until today, we sadly remember how the Armenian minority among others has been massacred, and until now the Turkish government don’t condemn this act, or admit what it did in those years.

And after the brutal rule of the ottoman empire, there was the nationalist revolutions, where small elite and military forces took over governments and put their own people into power positions, confiscating land, newspaper outlets, libraries, schools and universities, creating one state parties and ruling the middle east with the same methods as the ottomans who came before them.

the continuation of abuse of power from the authorities for centuries has created a region where conflicts become impossible to stop in any given time, in addition to this, the creation of state of Israel and the huge violations of human rights from this state, has created a public discontent not only in Palestine, but in the whole Muslim world.

furthermore the absence of scientific and humanistic revolutions and enlightenments in the middle east, coupled with severe corrupted regimes, plus strong devotion of people to different kinds of religious groups and fractions has created a region where there is no room for progress and forward thinking solutions.

The recent technological advances in the world that reached the middle east, as a part of the globalization movement,  like the mobile phones, satellite television and last but not least the internet, gave huge space of freedom of expression to the populations in a scale was unheard of in the last centuries, with those tools in hand, human right, and journalism became everywhere, every citizen has become a journalist, reporting, writing, and broadcasting information about human rights abuses in any given time of the year of what is known today as citizen journalism, and although governments still were cracking down on voices and ideas of people, this time the waves were much stronger than their military rusted ships.

citizens around the middle east started to watch read and interact with the recent news and started to have more knowledge of what’s happening in the outside world, from revolts in the countries next door, to western movies, where sex and love is shown as natural things that can anyone do without a shame or guilt.

As everyone knows we live in the American century where united states plays a huge role in which direction the human history is going, from cinema to values to wars, united states has and still shaping the world to its accustomed shape, the rapid involvement of united states in the Muslim world first in the afghan war, and then in Iraq and recently in Libya and Syria, has created a monstrous image in the minds of huge populations of the middle east, they see the US as a state which will take destroy their land with political miscalculations and dry their natural resources, but because the Arab countries are divided on themselves some of them stood next to united states like the Saudi Arabia the worst human rights abuser in the world, and the others against it, standing with Russia and Iran, which are also human rights abusers.

The last chapter of the human rights slow progress in the middle east came with the creation of social media and networking websites, those websites created the space for like-minded people to come together and express their ideas and commonalities and political aspirations and dreams, and those social media tools, has brought down long lasting regimes in the middle east, in a very controversial social movement  that swept the Arab world called the Arab spring.

there were total shock in too many countries when these (digit-social) revolutions took place, some countries couldn’t survive the tsunami like Egypt, because it happened too fast for them, other regimes learnt from the other countries and took severe steps like jailing opinion leaders and closing down websites, this was the case in Syria, other regimes like Saudi Arabia, invested heavily in NGO organizations to create a grassroots support to their governments, and its quite obvious that the Saudi money is not only enough to sway public support inside Saudi Arabia, but goes beyond to reach all the middle east, radicalising country by country, putting a solid ground to the consistency of the Wahabi regime, and keeping the oil production steady to supply the west.

The lack of role models coupled with absence of national feeling of belonging in the Arab world backed with severe economic underdevelopment and mass number of unemployed young generation with the political vacuum which was created by the toppling of the old regimes, all of this created a safe ground for creation and growth of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism which has no respect of any kind of human rights dearly respected in the western world, this kind of extremism was the reason why Mursi won the elections in Egypt, Erdogan in Turkey, also paved the for the creation of what is called “free Syrian Army” and other military factions on the ground in Syria.

And finally but not lastly, all this troubled political scenery which begins with the fall of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya has created a safe heaven, for ultra-fundamentalist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat Al nusra, in Syria, those groups shown again and again that they are masters in killing and torture and have the capacity to show the world that they will butcher journalists on air and would make suicide killing all over the world, creating chaos and destroying civilization.


in order for middle east  and the world to see the glimpse of peace and prosperity, some major changes has to be made on the ground, starting from Palestine there should be a two-state solution and halt for the daily massacre of civilians in Gaza, foreign powers should make lesser interventions into other country’s affairs, in Iraq, the government should be empowered to protect its borders and fight extremist groups and factions, totalitarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran among many others, should decrease their human rights abuses for the sake of their people, the Syrian government should have a transitional body, where moderate representatives should represent different interests, and the war should be ended immediately, governments should improve their standards of daily conduct for governments are created to support people’s lives and make it easier for them not the other way around.

How ISIS is promoting itself and gaining popular support on the ground.


It is true that ISIS is the Most atrocious terrorist group living on the planet right now, but they somehow managed to create an image and to deliver their message to the globe, how ISIS managed to create this monstrous image? and how it reached the globe and grabbed the attention of the global audience will be revealed in this article.

What really ISIS did, knowingly or without knowing they used the marketing principles to create a unique product with a high demand and value for some young people in the world, and there are 5 points that ISIS succeeded to create this value chain whereas other organizations have failed and perished and they are as follows:

1- the use of Ideology as a means of justification:: ISIS repeatedly used and still using Ideology which has great influence on every Muslim person living on this planet, to justify its notorious inhumane acts of violence and torture, by doing this they pacify the guilt of killing which comes with killing another human being, they also used Qur’an verses and modified them in order to suit their monstrous goals, ISIS also rejected the modern interpretation of the Qur’an and rejected by it the modern way of life and all the complexities that comes with it, with taking this path ISIS is promoting an extreme way of Islam which is acceptable from few but large number of Muslim population throughout the world, it is estimated that ISIS global supporters reached 2 million, whereas the Opponents of this movement are 2 billion Muslims.

2-the Use of propaganda:: ISIS systematically used propaganda materials in its photography documentation and graphic designs and campaigns, it used what they claim the photo of the ring of the Prophet Muhammad as a personal Logo for their flag, also they used the black flag which used to be used in the Islamic conquests of the early days of Islamic expansion, in addition to this, ISIS implemented a unique dress code, consisted of the black fighting suit for the ISIS fighters, also derived from the color of the flag, and orange clothes for the prisoners captured, the reason for the orange color is a striking reminder of the Guantanamo bay prisoners, who’s majority were Muslim detainees, also ISIS Instrumented a money with the ISIS logo printed on it but it had a little success on the ground. And finally ISIS chose drive and show off mostly big American cars, like Toyota Camry’s to show how dominant group they are and to send a message that their group can create and maintain a grassroots movement anywhere on the globe, and its sphere of influence is not limited to Iraq and Syria.

3-The effective use of video capturing and distribution: ISIS is the first and only terrorist organization that used the video editing and post production technology as elaborately as it did, this terrorist organization took months to video capture the execution of the prisoners, it is estimated by experts, that this organization use 4 camcorders to video capture one execution, and this is not a surprising thing since ISIS have foreign fighters who used to live in all corners of the globe before they came to the middle east to fight, thus ISIS has the talent needed to create this frightening videos and show it to the public through YouTube channels, in addition to this, ISIS has creativity to show its monstrosities in a new way every day, keeping the global media on its toes, from beheadings to burning alive and recently child murderers, this reminds us of the Roman times, where the public used to get entertained by new ways of killing and torture in the coliseum.

4-The rapid recruitment, training and deployment to the battlefield: there is no close competitor to ISIS, in aspect of how fast they recruit and deploy fighters to the ground, this is mainly to the technological advances of the century, from Internet to airplanes and public transportation, the whole process starts from Facebook pages and twitter accounts, where they convince the young and the reckless of Muslim and Non-Muslim ISIS affiliates, to join the group and afterwards, they offer them fast deployment to training camps in anywhere in the desert, and after a month they deploy them back to the battlefield, cutting national and international borders, invading private lives of every troubled mind and soul, connected to the internet.

5-The persuasive communication of promises and Benefits: ISIS systematically is trying to convince predominantly the young Muslim generation to participate in its activities by persuading them to share its religious Facebook or twitter posts benefiting from strong conservative religious leanings of the Muslim community, and try to convince them eventually participating in the holy war, against the infidels as it claims in its statements, participating with ISIS doesn’t come without benefits,ISIS promises its participants, modest accommodation and shelter who will arrive at the battlefield, extensive military training and equipment, along with family monthly pay of thousand dollars, and most importantly a reserved place in heaven, it is also important to mention that ISIS provides the opportunity for perished individuals to have a family and friends and become famous while they are fighting and after their death as martyrs and heroes of the cause that ISIS is promoting.

Why The US foreign policy, got too many things wrong about Syria


For years the US foreign policy was very naive into looking to the middle eastern critical and world changing issues, those issues are very pressing in the future not only of the US, but also for the future of the world as well. In this article we will discuss some of the mistakes the US foreign policy has made from the point of view of the writer, and will show the legitimacy of the argument by mere logical examination and facts from the ground. In the beginning, some people argue, that how is it possible, that the US NGO organizations and the hidden groups who back them, send billions of dollars to other people who they neither know or trust or can validate their credibility and trust in dealing with such a huge sums of cash, this is one of the biggest mistakes that the US administration is doing in Syria, directly from the website of the US department of state, it’s mentioned that the Department is helping the moderate side of the opposition and excluding the extremist side from funds, this may seem true on paper, but in reality this is completely false, since the funds are being looted and being stealed and controlled by the strongest and most brutal opposition force on the ground (ISIS) as well as hundred more groups, things are fussy here than the pretty views from the windows of the white house, the second mistake is, the notion that with making sanctions on Syria, the US foreign policy planners, think that they will change the balance of power inside Syria, which is not true, because the only people who are suffering from those sanctions are Syrian citizens, for example, it has become much difficult to diffuse technology and scientific apparatus inside Syria, after the strong US sanctions on Syria, by doing this US policy is promoting backwardness and decadence in Syria, and not promoting freedom and democracy like it says it does, in the economic side of the argument, by putting sanctions on Syria, the US department stopped the transfer of monetary funds from the globe to the Syrian people, by doing so the policy makers thought they will gain the consent of the business community inside Syria, and bring change agents from within, this strategy didn’t work, mainly because, the business community don’t have any real power on the ground, the real change is happening in the fighting fields, not in the stock exchange rooms in Damascus, which are well controlled by a few billionaires who won’t be affected by any kind of sanctions whatsoever, all this difficulties combined made life of Syrian people much harder than it already is. And the last mistake was the demolition of chemical stockpile of Syria, was a complete failure in its face, and the reason is, that Syria, has and can have unlimited amounts of this particular kind of weapon and any other kind in seconds from its allies, on the contrary, US policy, helped Syria from cleaning its own garbage, which if didn’t been handled carefully would have been a real danger for Syria itself, as president Assad said in an interview with the CNN, “they can come and clean the rest of it, if they want, but this will cost the US government, a billion dollar, if the US public wants to pay it, so be it” In the end of this brief article, the writer suggests drastic change in the US Foreign policy not only in Syria, but complete re-evaluation of its policies throughout the middle east as well, starting at the root of some of the key issues in the middle east like the issue of Palestine, and accenting to making better relations with Iran and Russia, which is also connected to the disputed issue of Ukraine, and create more robust and realistic peace road map to the future of the region and the world as well.

A visit to the refugee school


Last week, was my first day to visit the refugee school inside Syria; it happens that it was also the first day in the SOS non-governmental organization, it left on me a lifelong lasting experience on my mind and soul, which is why it is definitely worth mentioning on paper, in this trip I learned, that most important and precious aspect of human existence is its dignity, and humans in all cultures will pay every possible price in order to save and protect that dignity, this is in general, in every case there is exceptions also to be mentioned, What I mean with the word “dignity” is constant human pursuit to save face and appear like everyone else around them in spite of life uncompromising difficulties, we see this self-evident in the case of the refugees who are staying temporarily in the Syrian schools, from the first glance we see them living a life like any ordinary life that we the non-refugees live, but after close examination we see completely different picture from the one we see from far way, the first thing that we notice is the daily stress that the refugees feel because of the rapid change in their environment, like a plant that if we took it from one botanic garden to the next, in most of the time it will die from the change in the environment that inflicted on it, this is in case of plants, in case of humans, it takes a shape of unhappiness and lack of laughter and smile, which are very essential for every human being. Another example that can be used to explain this feeling to the observing mind, is the metaphor of the naked person walking in the public streets, as we know the person is striped from his cloths and suffers from public scrutiny not just because he lacks cloths to cover his body, but because he in this norm and behavior is bringing disgrace to the laws and values of society at large.  So we conclude that being a refugee is an experience very humiliating to the human soul, no matter what people tell you otherwise, you can easily notice the pain and suffering from their tone of voice and knowing all that, you should deal with them according to that order. In spite of all the daily difficulties that people in the refugee schools encounter, you can see from time to time, some kind of order and tidiness here and there, if this shows a thing, it shows that there are always people who are fighting the adversary back and are creating that human action friction with it, like Clausewitz explains in his book “On War”, making the destructive storm postpone in motion, and opening a place to rationality and human sound calculation to appear. We see this in the constant struggle of the Syrian families against poor conditions, in order to recover what was taken from them by the brute force of war and circumstances we also see them from time to time working as a one group to fight the bigger issues that face the whole school building like the sanitary broken system or the spread of infectious disease with acts of separating the people affected and calling for assistance of the Ngo’s and government.

The school that we went was a governmental school, now is empty of students accept of 2-3 classes still functioning, the main mission of the organization that I’m volunteered in, is to provide children and families of the needy, with basic needs in times of hardship and in times of peace, in addition to this its established to provide orphan children with families in order to achieve smooth integration of orphan children back to society. This mission attracted me to volunteer in this Organization, in addition to this there was an inner motivation concerning to my sheer interest in adventurous and exciting events which push me always to this kind of humanistic situations and events, and also comes from my personal conviction that every human being at some point of his or her life, should do something to humanity no matter how small or great, and with the result of such a altruistic behavior all of humanity would suffer less and would gain more happiness on the long run. So, in a bottom line, my personal fight is with injustice inflicted on the free mind and soul of (real) human beings, who has a soul so close to in nature with the eagle than the chicken which also have wings, it will never try to fly with them let alone its wings are artificial symbol of their will to fly, and to be more specific, my personal fight is with those who has immense amount of power and greed and has a tendency to destroy other people sometimes societies and whole countries for the sake of their own personal gain and wellbeing, I’m not here to argue that self-interest is a sin, I’m arguing that the excess of it is a mere human tragedy for the person who is possessed by this tendency and all the humans who live close to him  and her, and unfortunately to amount of those people in the 21st century has increased exponentially mainly because of the upper hand of the capitalist system and the consumerist lifestyle. So, it became a normal human scene to see a person riding a very expensive car like Cadillac, which is a symbol of luxury and extravaganza, driving across miles and miles of shanty towns and poor populations without even bothering to look outside of that black window of his car, societies in this sense are becoming more and more suffering from inner separation with the use of glass windows and luxury café’s and private compounds and all the rest of the cosmetic surgeries that the modern life are doing to itself to hide its own vises and abnormalities. My personal guess is my Armenian background also play a part in this, since the pictures of genocide and mass murderer is still fresh in the memory of every living Armenian on earth.

My daily work in the school was visiting each refugee family and taking notes on their financial, emotional, and psychological condition, with the survey filling method, this type of survey covers most of their basic life aspects to make the senior management know and understand the amount of financial attention should be given to each particular family, I also took some documentary photos, some of them are really professional in quality, I also started to take photography more seriously after this experience, and realized the power of the picture especially in the age of Facebook and social media, where the written word is not much of in fashion as the picture. In the course of the visit, I went to too many houses and simply repeated what I talked earlier, the same picture repeated in every room of the school, small classrooms transformed to apartments stuffed with 5-6 people in each room, without electricity, water, or simple cloths to put on, some of the children even didn’t have shoes in their foot, I also saw plenty of children suffering from serious health issues which needs immediate attention, I clearly remember the Mongolian child which her entire special care hospital was abolished by war, so she had no other choice but to live with her family in the refugee school, I saw her wandering in the corridors of the school twice, I even had the chance to take some photos of her while she was sitting on the floor at her home. Also another human tragic case was the case of an old women which she couldn’t take care of herself and she didn’t have someone to help her either, so we see after all this analysis that mostly the most vulnerable people in society are the ones who lack the social and emotional bonds and safety nets, in which these weak existing safety nets fall in the slightest social disruption opening the doors to huge human and financial costs which can’t be reconstructed as easly as some utopian revolutionist  may presume it can.

these were the most severe cases I encountered, and they need the most immediate attention, since everyone else can push their self through the day accept those people.

Small Oligarchy in a miserable world:

As some of you realized there is a vital entity which is lacking in all this, its governance and government support and parent ship, I also asked the same question, where the heck is the government? Simply put, it’s absent, so who governs those needy people? In the midst of the chaos, the “strong” refugee families take the lead in commanding and distributing the goods, apartments and humanitarian aid, leaving the lions share to them and leaving the small bits to the more unable families, mainly the weak families lack the strong social ties and relations to push them ahead in their daily survival and small portion of them already lost some members of their families making them completely in the hand of ill fate.


In the end of this essay, I conclude that (Ngo) associations are so vital to the development agenda of any society, because it creates safety nets to the vulnerable groups of the society, I also encourage people to donate some of their time and resources to other people if they are strangers even better, who knows when and where you and I, can become in times of need and search around us and won’t find people who helps us. I also suggest that Ngo associations not only should limit their duties to funding the poor and the needy, but widen it to building the devastated states and economies with providing them with the tools of self-sustainability, in case of Syria, Syria needs not only reconstruction in the upcoming years, but also economic   re-construction which in case nobody funded it, Syria easily can become a safe- haven to extremism and terrorism, as some parts of it are already now, it will become not only an importer of terrorism which it is today, but rather to a strong exporter to this rotten apple to the world, to nearby nations like turkey Jordan in the short term, and Europe and the United States, on the long run, I hope in the upcoming years the global community will be more aware of this danger, and take the necessary steps to curb these issues on the ground before they transform from local to regional and then global one.