Blog archive: Syria

  • 4th December 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    In a blog post yesterday I quoted from a study of school textbooks in an Arab country and invited readers to guess which country it was talking about. The textbook in question was aimed at 14-15 year-olds and it informed them: "Islam accepts only two choices for pagans: that they...
  • 3rd December 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Here's a little puzzle for readers. Can you work out which Arab country the the writer is talking about in the passage below? Its school textbooks for 14-15 year-olds say that pagans should be killed if they don't convert to Islam:  "It is tucked away in the ninth grade [textbook] under...
  • 25th September 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Yesterday's session of the UN General Assembly brought fine words from President Obama.  "Humanity’s future," he said, "depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along the fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion". And yet, despite the noble sentiments, his speech...
  • 5th March 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    A report issued on Wednesday by the UN Human Rights Council came closer than any previous UN report to blaming the Syrian government for the chemical attacks near Damascus last August, as well as an earlier attack in Khan al-Assal. While not directly accusing the Assad regime, the report...
  • 12th February 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    “One day, it will be an Alawite who finally kills Assad.” This rather startling prediction – that the Syrian president’s own community will eventually turn against him – comes in a blog post from Aboud Dandachi, an activist now living in Turkey. Dandachi, it should be noted, used to...
  • 12th February 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    The Geneva talks on Syria resumed this week with the opposition eager to see the question of political transition figuring prominently on the agenda while the regime seeks to avoid that at all costs. Today, the opposition played rather a smart move by issuing due to go anyway in May,...
  • 9th February 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    For as long as people have been writing books there have been others who sought to destroy them. When it's driven by moralistic or political objections, book-burning often takes a ritualistic form, carried out in public. Regardless of the books in question, setting fire to them strikes many people...
  • 5th February 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Two years ago, in a letter to potential investors Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, wrote: "By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase...
  • 3rd February 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Calling for a negotiated solution has long been a central plank of Russian policy on Syria. So long as peace talks were not in prospect this was an easy position to adopt. It sounded reasonable and portrayed Russia – despite being one of the Assad regime’s key international backers – as a potential...
  • 8th January 2014
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    "How should we judge a country's foreign policy?" Stephen Walt asked in an article earlier this week. "How do we decide whether it is smart, foolish, shrewd, lucky, successful, or disastrous?" Answering these questions is less straightforward than it might seem. Walt, a professor of...
  • 16th December 2013
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    If Syrian government forces did not launch the chemical attacks near Damascus on August 21, we have to assume that rebel fighters did. Short of denying that the attacks took place at all, there is really no other possibility. Although many people continue to dispute that the Assad regime was...
  • 14th December 2013
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Following their investigation of the Sarin attacks that killed hundreds near Damascus on August 21, the UN inspectors have continued to look into other alleged cases of chemical weapons being used in the Syrian conflict. Their latest report, issued this week, confirms that people in Syria have...

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