Kassab

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*photo: Resilience of Syrians, Old City of Homs, December 2015.

As many readers will know, I have visited Syria four times, between April 2014 and December 2015—independently on a journalist’s visa and as part of two peace delegations. When in Syria as a writer, I visited key places—including liberated Homs and Ma’loula, terror-bombed regions of Homs, and the Yarmouk district, which has been focus of slick propaganda by anti-Syria corporate media and so-called human rights groups—and have conducted numerous interviews, with Syrian political and religious leaders, as well as Syrian civilians.

I have taken many photographs and videos, collected numerous personal testimonies, undertaken my own research and investigations, visited hospitals and refugee centres, and—in every area that I visited—have conversed with Syrians about what they feel is the cause of the problems in Syria, the solution, and on their insistence for Syria’s sovereignty, and on their support for the Syrian Arab Army and their president.

In the months since my last trip, I have been transcribing interviews and testimonies and writing articles based on them, writing about my personal impressions based on my visits to Syria, and challenging the latest corporate media lies and propaganda campaigns.

I will be returning to Syria, as soon as possible, and for that I must ask for financial assistance to make this trip possible. [see:  Syrian Voices Book Project on GoFundMe ]

Why am I compelled to go to Syria?

In order to write a book that prioritizes Syrian voices from Syria: truths from some of the most highly-misrepresented, lied about or plainly ignored areas of Syria.

To do justice to the full spectrum of the stories of Syrians as told by them, it is essential that I visit areas I not previously been to, areas that have been liberated since I was last there and areas that are enduring especially egregious suffering—such as in Aleppo under terrorist bombs.

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Selma village: “Finally, after so many years, and so many martyred Syrian Arab Army soldiers, and civilians, we have victory.”

salma map1

Following are the words of a friend in Syria, on the recently-liberated Syrian village of Selma (also spelled Salma), with news reports on its liberation at bottom. This is a very personal account of Selma and the recent history of its occupation by terrorist forces, as well as some interesting history on the region:

“Selma is a very small village on the Turkish-Syrian border, just 1 hour drive North East from Latakia. With good hiking shoes you could walk to Turkey, and there was never any border fence, or guards or anything to prevent the free movement between Syria and Turkey at the location.

The local, native population of Selma numbered in the dozens. They were mainly Syrian citizens of Kurdish ancestry. They were not Turkman. Selma was strictly Sunni Muslim. Selma was not a famous place, or even a pretty place, or even a scenic place. Selma’s claim to fame was the fact it got cool evening breezes, coming in from the North and East, during the HOT and HUMID summers in Latakia (June-October).

There is a village close to Selma called Slounfa. Slounfa is higher elevation, and is even colder, but the native population are Alawi. By car it is a 15 minute drive from Slounfa to Selma. Slounfa was never in the hands of the rebels. Slounfa is a mountain resort, of the type that you find in Lebanon. Stone houses, oak trees, cedar trees, church and mosque. Slounfa’s claim to fame was also the cold evening air temperature all summer, and snow in winter, because of the high elevation. But, Slounfa is pretty, scenic and every panorama is a beautiful picture postcard scene. Selma never had the beauty, but had some of the cool temperatures during summer, and no winter snow.

Slounfa has summer house, summer cottages, and summer palaces. Slounfa’s resort status dates back to Ottoman days, and the French occupation of 1920-1946 saw added resort building, and the French built a CASINO, not meaning gambling, but a resort hotel with musical (orchestra and singer) facility. Some of the singing legends of the Arab world did perform in Slounfa, even as early and the 1940’s and onward.

Selma was the ugly ‘sister’ to Slounfa. However, during the period of 1990-2011 a steady real estate development went on there. People from Aleppo and Latakia and other places (including Saudi Arabians and Qataris) built homes, apartments and palaces there. Selma, just like Slounfa, is full to capacity in summer, and deserted in winter. Both places were “summer-use-only”.

When the terrorists became mobilized and organized in 2011, they quickly set up head quarters in Selma. They were some Syrians, and many foreigners. The Australian cleric Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub , who was born in Latakia, set up shop in Selma, and his brother was killed fighting not far from there. Sheikh Fedaa was identified as one of those involved in the Ballouta massacre in August 2013, which kidnapped 100 small children, and held them underground in Selma. 9 months later 44 of the 100 were released, and the remaining are either dead, or still in Selma? Soon we will know….
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The liberation of Kassab

Much of Kassab was torched by the foreigners who terrorized the city for nearly 3 months. Photo: Latakia News Network

Much of Kassab was torched by the foreigners who terrorized the city for nearly 3 months. Photo: Latakia News Network

Eva Bartlett, Crescent International

“We were sleeping and at 4 am they started striking us, from Turkey. At 6 am, men from our area came and took us to a village called Nab’ain, beyond the reach of the armed groups,” Suzy Mentazi, taking refuge in Latakia’s Armenian Orthodox Church, said in April, 2014.

Starting March 21, a reported 1,500 armed, largely foreign mercenaries, including Jabhat al-Nusra, crossed from Turkey to attack and take over Kassab, a predominantly-Armenian village north of Latakia and very close to Turkey.  Rafi Der Jiboujian, another Kassab refugee in Latakia, said, “Turkey opened the border, and the armed groups came into Kassab, shooting and firing missiles at us. One missile from Turkey hit the local police station. We evacuated the area, because if we hadn’t left they would have butchered us, cut our heads off.”

As it was, “at least 80 people were massacred by the foreign insurgents, who from the beginning were sniping at and shelling mortars at the civilians of Kassab,” reported the Armenian-American news site Asbarez. “They slaughtered them, chopped them up, hung them. They slaughter in the name of Allah (God), they don’t have a God,” said Mentazi.

Lilly Martin, a Latakia resident who has a summer home in Kassab and knows many of the residents, reported a larger number killed, many brutally so.  “They murdered 88 Armenians in Kassab, and beheaded 13 of them. Some residents were shot and killed immediately, without reason. One young man of 21 yrs of age was slaughtered in front of his father, just for the sheer fun of watching the father’s reaction. The father begged the terrorists to please allow him to quickly bury his son, before leaving Kassab. The killers refused.”

Martin also noted that some of the older civilians were not able to flee.

“There were a number of elderly residents who were unable to move quickly.  The terrorists rounded up these 22 elderly folks, some men and some women, and incarcerated them in a cold room.  They were mistreated for 12 days, in which they suffered greatly, all the while watching from the windows as Turkoman men in civilian clothes went house to house looting.  They stole every refrigerator, stove, TV and washing machine.  They stole video games, DVDs, CDs, dishes, pots and pans.”

The looting of every conceivable item or part for re-sale is consistent with the acts of “rebels” throughout Syria. In Homs, a resident showed video footage of his home stripped of valuables, machinery, and even electrical wiring and faucet taps.

An Al-Monitor report cites agreements between Turkey and Syria that “specified that Ankara should protect the common border between the two countries through the deployment of military forces.” Yet, according to reports and testimonies on the March take-over of Kassab, Turkey not only did not protect the border but actively participated in the attack, including downing a Syrian military plane in Syrian airspace, providing artillery cover for the insurgents, participating in the assault on the village, kidnapping Kassab residents, and ferrying wounded mercenaries to hospitals in Turkey.

Lilly Martin cites Syrian soldiers who fought to liberate Kassab. “In the very first hours of attack, it was done by the Turkish army alone. They used huge military canons. Turkish ambulances were photographed in Iskanderun with terrorists inside, and the Turkish people would open the doors and start hitting the terrorists…this was their form of protest, to show the world that the Turkish people do not support Erdogan’s attack on Kassab.”
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testimonies from Kasab, attacked by Turkish and foreign mercenaries March 21

Kasab residents take shelter in an Armenian church in Latakia, after fleeing the attacks of foreign terrorists on the village near the Turkish border.

Kasab residents take shelter in an Armenian church in Latakia, after fleeing the attacks of foreign terrorists on the village near the Turkish border.

In the city of Latakia, nearly 2000 Kasab residents shelter at the Armenian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Lady, after having fled the assault from Turkey which began Mar 21, 2014. At least 80 people massacred by the foreign insurgents, who from the beginning were sniping at and shelling mortars at the civilians of Kasab, Asbarez reports.

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“On March 21, NATO-backed mercenary forces and Turkish Armed Forces launched a massive offensive on the Syrian border town of Kasab in the Latakia province. The unprecedented overt military aggression by Turkey and its NATO allies is the clearest indication of their desperation in the face of Syria’s steady progress towards a decisive victory on all fronts.

…on March 21, backed up by the heavy artillery fire of the Turkish Armed Forces, over 1500 mercenaries launched a coordinated assault from at least five separate points across Turkey’s border with Syria. They were directly commanded by NATO’s radar base on Keldagi (Mount Aqraa) on the border and supported by the Turkish Armed Forces.  The mercenaries used pick-up trucks fitted with anti-aircraft weapons, tanks belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces, vehicles loaded with heavy weaponry and lorries. The primary and initial assault was the one launched from the Yayladagi border gate to the opposite Kasab border gate, during which masked Turkish special forces troops killed 15 Syrian border guards.

The majority of the mercenaries fighting in Kasab are of Chetchen, Albanian, Saudi and Turkish origin.18 Ambulances are regularly crossing Turkey’s border with Syria to collect the wounded mercenaries and transport them to hospitals across Turkey’s Hatay province. In fact, local protestors in Hatay’s Harbiye district blocked the paths of those ambulances.

On the other hand, by refusing entry to the mercenaries fleeing the attacks of the Syrian army, Turkey’s border guards are forcing them to continue the fighting.
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