Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 22nd, 2013

Cheating sure death in Syria: Escaping from prison…

I heard portion of that escape in the Lebanese evening news and the tortures detainees are submitted to.

Ahmad Hamada, Louay Bellor, Fawwaz Badran, Hassane Nasrallah and Mowafaq al-Jandali managed to escape from Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt’s hell, avoiding a most certainly cruel form of death that would have eventually ensued.

Razan  Zeitoune translated this article from the original Arabic this September 16, 2013 (Don’t know the source of the Arabic article)

Out of all the stories and horrors documented within the course of my legal work, “Escape from hell” is one I replay every day.

You have 5 escapees and the monster figure of Lt. Col. Maan, known as Abu al-Mawt (father of death), who supervised the torture and execution of fellow detainees.

The five escapees delivered testimonies while we were preparing a report on what happened at the documentation center, and speaking about Abu al-Mawt gave them a sense of salvation.

That they survived this ordeal can only be described as a miracle – Abu al-Mawt represented the brutality of the Assad regime for decades and throughout the two-and-a-half years of the Syrian revolution.

Out of all the torturers at the air force intelligence prison in Harasta, Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt was a pure symbol of the hell that claimed more than 100,000 lives since the revolution first broke out.

Lieutenant Colonel Maan, known as “Abu al-Mawt,” represents Azrael (the devil) utter power, and the giver of death in the most horrendous of forms. He is the antithesis of anything that is human and has to do with life.

Abu al-Mawt used to call in those who had been detained for more than one year at the air force and tell them they would be sent to forced labor to dig trenches and build barricades for the regime’s army. When physical strength would fail them under the brunt of constant torture and hard labor, he would execute them after “entertaining” himself by torturing them a little more.

Yet, Abu al-Mawt did this only within a framework of special rituals.

Detainees, chosen to die next, would be called in and forced to go down on their knees to kiss Abu al-Mawt’s hand before they are executed. Every time, he would close in his hand on the detainee’s throat and choke them for several minutes, exercising his authority over life that was granted to him by the Assad regime.

A survivor gives the following account of his first meeting with Abu al-Hawl:

“A short, bearded officer called Maan came in. He was a lieutenant colonel known as Abu al-Mawt. He greeted us and we replied to his greeting before he said: ‘Allow me to introduce myself. I am Azrael, or come to think of it, I am God and I am taking you to the other world. But since I am God, I shall extend your life for a few more days.’”

The five detainees managed to escape on Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Destiny), which commemorates the revelation of the Quran by Prophet Mohammad, this past Ramadan as they were doing forced labor near the prison.

A former detainee said that no sane person would have tried this escape, as “guards were all around us and bullets rained down on us. But what we saw at the prison made us go mad, or else we would not have tried this.”

Aren’t all Syrian rebels like these five escapees who rebelled against Abu al-Mawt two-and-a-half years ago?

No sane person would have thought to rebel against the most brutal of regimes and go on with this rebellion, even as the international community by-and-large abstained from supporting the rebels – and disregarding the suffering of Syrian people.

Western media outlets have recently been airing images of Jihadist groups performing executions with edged weapons, the utmost expression of barbarism.

However, no one provides any pictures of Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt tying a water-filled bag to one detainee’s penis while torturing him. (Need to think of a way to record these tortures…)

No one has pictures of Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt emptying gunpowder from a bullet on the detainee’s chest and setting it on fire.

No one has pictures of Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt setting a plastic bag on fire and allowing it to drip down on the detainee’s body.

No one could ever have images capturing the stench of scorched skin as Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt emptied his Taser gun on the detainee’s body.

Nor there are pictures of the detainee begging for a sip of water shortly before his execution.

All of them were executed while thirsty.

The world would rather deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Abu al-Mawt’s role model who gives him the authority to steal away or extend one’s life.

This goes without mentioning the thousands of replicas of Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt who have been torturing and killing Syrians for two-and-a-half years. Yet, the West would then express surprise and focus most at the sight of al-Qaeda-linked groups emboldened in some liberated areas and performing theatrical executions openly using edged weapons.

And, every time I am gripped by despair, I recall the story of these five escapees and harbor the hope that we still have some time left for a miracle, which would see us collectively escaping Abu al-Mawt’s hell sometime soon.

Five detainees managed to escape on the last night of Ramadan.

Don’t be stupid: Admit you are dumb and learn from the wiser and smarter…

It’s not how smart you are: It is how smart you can help others become.

Weak, arrogant, know-it-all people need to be the smartest, they can’t seek advice.

Leaders who don’t seek advice fear looking dumb or believe they already know. In both cases, it’s arrogance not intelligence.

Arrogance pushes others down, something wise leaders avoid.

Dan Rockwell posted this June 8, 2013 “If You Aren’t Dumb, You’re Stupid”


Fearful leaders keep people in their place with fear.

Fear leads with fear.

On the other hand, confident leaders build self-confident followers.

Build-up others: Ask for advice.

Most leaders say they believe in hiring people smarter than they are. Well, if they’re so smart, why aren’t you seeking their advice?

Hiring people that is smarter than you doesn’t means you are dumber than they are.

If they’re smarter than you, tap their expertise. What do you call someone who doesn’t listen to smart people?

Who’s the smartest:

Arrogance pushes others down, something wise leaders avoid.

It’s not how smart you are: It is how smart you can help them become.

Make others powerful by making them advisers. Stop seeing yourself as the adviser, receive advice instead. Ask:

  1. What options do we have?
  2. How would you handle this?
  3. What dangers are we facing?
  4. What’s the next step?
  5. What happens if we fail?
  6. Who is essential for success?
  7. What relationships fuel forward movement?

Leaders who don’t have all the answers are smarter than those who do.


The up-side of asking for advice:

  1. Humility – yours
  2. Elevation – theirs.
  3. Options and ideas.
  4. Engagement.
  5. Connection.
  6. Respect.
  7. Loyalty.

Dumb or stupid:

You, like everyone else on the team, excel in certain areas. Hopefully, your area is leadership. Wise leaders believe answers are found by working with others, seeking advice.

Being dumb makes you smart.

Be the dumbest person in the room.

At least in some areas, or you’re stupid. The need to be the smartest person in the room, means people tell you what you want to hear, that’s dumb.

And what are the dangers of being an advice-seeking leader?

Current jobs of Israeli Forces: Manhandling EU Diplomats, Seizing West Bank Aid, storming Mosques, closing cities…

 Crispian Balmer of REUTERS Published this September 20, 2013 “Israeli Forces Manhandle EU Diplomats, Seize West Bank Aid”

KHIRBET AL-MAKHUL, West Bank — Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving it away.

“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing said.

“This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust.

Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel’s high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.

Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

The Israeli army said on Friday that security forces had tried to prevent tents from being erected in area, in accordance with the high court decision.

“At the site, Palestinians and the foreign activists violently objected, throwing stones and striking law enforcement officers,” a military spokeswoman said.

“Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are currently being reviewed, and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities.”

The French diplomat jabbed a soldier in the face after picking herself up off the ground.

Reuters reporters at the scene said they saw no stone throwing or foreign activists.


Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday ICRC staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

“It’s shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments,” said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained.

An elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus.

Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.

A spokesman at the British Consulate General in Jerusalem said London was “seriously concerned” by the Makhul demolitions and by the subsequent refusal to let villagers receive aid.

We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities our concerns over such demolitions, which we view as causing unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians, as harmful to the peace process, and as contrary to international humanitarian law,” he said.

(As they say: Israel is made to be the invisible culprit of all the worst practrices against human rights and UN charters…)

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Modern day heroes of investigative journalism?

Frank Barat conducted an interview with John Pilger and posted this Sept. 20, 2013:

As part of an ongoing series of interviews for the radio show “Le Mur a Des Oreilles; conversations for Palestine“, Frank Barat talks to John Pilger.

He is one of the most influencial journalist of the last few decades, and talked about the war in Syria, the colonisation of Palestine, the relationship between the corporate media and government propaganda and the actions of a few very brave men, Snowden, Assange and Manning.

FB: Quick question before we start, have you finished working on a new film?

JP: Yes, I’ve almost just finished a new film, which will be premiered at the National Film Theatre here on October 3 and shown on the ITV network on the December 17.

It is called “Utopia” and it is about Indigenous Australia and the secret of Australia and the way Australia has embraced an Apartheid without giving due acknowledgment for having done so. It is a subject I have written and made films about over the years but this is quite an epic film.

FB: Let’s start, so Syria is regularly headline news at the moment, what do you make of the corporate media reporting on the issue and as a reporter, do you recognise yourself in this type of journalism?

JP: Well, I’ve never recognised myself being the kind of journalism that misrepresents the Middle East as a matter of routine.

I don’t see how any journalist can recognise himself or herself. This is not to say that there are not good reporters, good journalists that work in the Middle East, but we rarely glimpse them in what we call the mainstream, that’s a miss known there is no mainstream of course and you’ve described it correctly as corporate media, we rarely glimpse these honourable exceptions.

There is a kind of Kissinger’s style to a lot of the reporting in the way that Kissinger made almost an art form of hypocrisy and looking the other way while the United States went about its rapacious business in the Middle East and the way he gave an impunity to Israel which we have to understand, if we are to understand, the problems of the Middle East and how they might be solved, but it’s almost as if Israel doesn’t exist and yet it is the core of the problem.

FB: Would it be a fair portrayal if I say to you that I can’t really see a difference between corporate media reporting on Syria and Government propaganda? It seems like they are the same sort of arms of the same Institutions in a way.

JP: Most of the mainstream reporting is simply an extension of what I would call an establishment prevailing view, it is not necessarily the government but generally speaking, it is the government point of view.

The mainstream broadcasters for example made no secret of the fact that they framed their political and to a large degree the International coverage on how the political class, the Westminster class in Britain deals with politics and international affairs.

So, you have a political reporter, he is limited to report in Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament, a so called diplomatic correspondent is limited to really reporting what the Foreign Office does.

So they are by almost their own definition simply echoes of what the government or the establishment point of view.

FB: Talking about journalists such as yourself that we normally call investigative journalists, it seems like it is a dying breed, would you say that people like Snowden and Assange are the new journalists nowadays?

JP: I don’t think it is a dying breed, I think there is a great enthusiasm among young journalists to really be real journalist.

In fact, investigating journalist is a modern invention really, I mean journalism should be about investigating, but people who do the hard work finding out things and encouraging whistle blowers and so on they are there.

You’ve got people in the United States like Jeremy Scahill and Gareth Porter. Gareth Porter especially who writes only on the Internet, he is an excellent investigating journalist. So, you know, we exist, we are not dying off, we are always under threat, I suspect we always were.

What we’ve done always in the past is recognise that our greatest source has been a whistle blower, I mean the source of great scoops, great revelations, is not always but mostly someone from within, a sort of conscientious objector, Bradley Manning played that part with great distinction and courage.

Snowden is an absolute exemplar of this.  And I suspect, in fact I know, that he represents many others within, the so-called security establishment. The biggest threat is probably still WikiLeaks because it has provided a method by which leakers can leak also blowers can blow.

It has a pretty moral principle behind it which Julien Assange has often expressed.

So, I would regard them as part of a kind of a band of brothers and sisters if you like, journalists, whistle blowers.

It is very interesting, one of the most interesting document which wikiLeaks leaked a few years ago from the Ministry of Defence in London was a document which I think entitled something like how to stop leaks and of course it was leaked, it described the biggest threats to all the wonderful things we hold here in the West, there were 3 major threats.

The third threat was Russian spies, believe it or not, the second threat was terrorists but the major threats above all were investigative journalists.

FB: Coming back to the Middle East, you’ve reported on Palestine for many years. How difficult is it to report on Palestine and what do you make of channels such as the BBC calling for impartiality on the issue? Can a journalist be impartial when the situation is so unbalanced on the ground?

JP:  Well, they don’t mean impartial, it is just a term that has been drained of all its diction meaning, it has no meaning, impartial means partial actually, it means putting a cross as I described the Western point of view and being very aware of that unless you put across on the Israeli point of view you are going to be in trouble within your own organisations.

The BBC is a particular example, and you know I made a film about this in which there were producers which I have known personally talked about being terrified of a call from the Israeli Embassy.

The routine intimidation of the BBC has produced without too much difficulty I have to say, has produced a partiality that they describe as impartiality, it is a sort of a Orwellian expression, there is no impartiality.

In the language used, so you have a BBC report in which you have two narratives in Palestine you know, the “Israeli – Palestine” conflict and so on.

There is very rarely reporting that is framed within the law. Say it was framed within the law, there would be no question of how Palestine would come out and how Israel would come out because Israel is the most lawless state in the world and what it is doing in Palestine is entirely lawless.

It’s never framed in terms of law, it’s never framed in terms of dare I say what is right or wrong; it is framed in terms of an equal conflict, which it is, of course not.

FB: You made a film called “Palestine is still the issue” in 2003, if you had to make one again today, what title would you give it and why?

JP: Well, the first film I made about Palestine was in 1974 and it was called “Palestine is still the issue”, the next film I made was in 2002 “Palestine is still the issue” and if I make one now it would be called “Palestine is still the issue” for the obvious reason.

FB: You mentioned words before, for journalists and for propaganda purposes from governments or mainstream media, how important are words? You talked about Orwellian words, it seems they can actually change the meaning of wars, they would call a “massacre” a “pacification”,”ethnic cleansing” becomes “moving borders” etc, can you tell us something about that?

JP: It comes down to much more basic that the word war. A war implies that there are two kind of more or less equal states or army facing each other.

So going to war in Syria, having a war in Syria, you hear that time and time again, there is no war in Syria, there is a war going on in Syria, but it is a civil war, but as far as the West is concerned there is no such things as going to war because apart from trying to defend itself, Syria will be attacked just as there were no war in Iraq.

A war was created, a sectarian war that was the consequence of what was a massive attack and invasion.

The same thing happened in 1991, I saw the state of the Iraqi army shortly before that and it was not equipped or able to defend itself or a country or whatever.

Yes, it could go on and invade Kuwait, but there was no real defence there. Again, that was not a war, they did not call it a war, they called it an invasion. So they are invasion, they are rapacious, they are aggressive, they are lawless.

In Vietnam, the world involvement was used, I remember that, in the Americans press. The US involvement in Vietnam you know is a useless word, it doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, it was the US invasion of South Vietnam, the country was meant to be defending, that term was almost never used.

FB: One of your last film that is called “The war you don’t see”, the people we often don’t see are the people on the ground, the people that are fighting imperialism, fighting for an intervention.

Following our interview tonight, we are going to talk to a woman activist from Nablus, a Lady called Beesan Ramadan, what would be your message to people on the ground that are suffering from Western interventions?

JP: I think we all depend on people like that; we all draw inspiration from them because it is just remarkable to me and inspiring. The Palestinians keep going, those who attack them again and again, the Israelis and Americans and former Israelis, Americans, Europeans and so on.

These constant attacks on Palestine have not even divided the Palestinians yet, I mean, yes, Gaza has been physically divided from the West Bank, the Occupied Territories, but even that division between people in Gaza and people in the West Bank as well as class division, of course there are but the fact that the Palestinian people keep going and this is a spectacle I find very moving, that Palestinian children going to school all dressed up in their school uniforms making their way through rubble, often having had disturbed nights and perhaps disturbing themselves by the attacks on them by the Israelis and so on.

So, because Palestine is still the issue, because unless there is a settlement, unless there is justice that is the key word, justice for the Palestinian people (when I said settlement I mean a just one), there is not going to be peace really in the region or in the broader world so we depend on the people there to keep going.

FB: Thanks John, thanks again.

John Pilger is an award winning Australian journalist and broadcaster/documentary maker primarily based in Britain.

Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London, UK and is coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.




September 2013

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