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News Briefing

The Week So Far – The honour of Syrian women

French President Emmanuel Macron was quite triumphant over the missile strikes on Syria - was it influenced by the Saudi Visit - TWSF

French president Emmanuel Macron can’t have been thinking about Syrian women in Asad prisons when he talked of honour, surely?

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French President Emmanuel Macron was quite triumphant over the missile strikes on Syria by his country, America and Britain, so much so he said it was carried out “for the honour of the international community” following the gas attack on Douma.

The truth is no one’s honour has been restored in Syria’s vile, complex, multi-faceted war that is a stain on the face of humanity and a prime example of the failure of the United Nations and the international community it represents.

I’m not speaking for or against the Assad regime, or their many allies and enemies in a seven-year conflict in which there are no winners. I simply want to give voice to the 7,000 women and up to 400 children being held against their will without charge or trial … not only an international crime but illegal in Syria, itself. Exposed daily to torture and rape, I doubt if they care that Monsieur Macron feels his honour has been restored by lobbing a few rockets on the Assad regime.

Powerful men in powerful places like Macron are more to blame for the state of this troubled world and seem to find it difficult to grasp that it’s always women and children caught up in their war games who really suffer. A few weeks ago I spoke to some Syrian women who could give world leaders a lesson in honour and humanity.

The weasel words of Macron and that fool Donald “Mission Accomplished” Trump remind me of the powerful but softly, spoken words of Noor, who stood in front of her tormentor in the notorious Branch 215 run by military intelligence in Damascus.

She told me how her “investigation” (a code word for rape and torture) was interrupted by a ringing telephone and she watched and listened with incredulity as the voice laughing and giggling down the line prompted her torturer to break into a warm smile, in seconds he softened the tone of his voice – for that is the effect most daughters have on their fathers.

The brutal monster before her morphed in to a doting father. Her story serves as a reminder to us all today that the monsters who rape are also fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and sons serving in Bashar Al-Assad’s prisons. Just let that sink in for a few moments because the mass rapes, sexual assaults, punishment beatings and mental torture are being inflicted on women daily by these men.

So please, Mr Macron, don’t talk to me about honour. The women of Syria don’t want more of your bombs, they want justice and peace which is something neither you, Trump nor anyone else in a position of power seems capable of delivering.


New man in Havana

I see Cuba’s parliament has selected Miguel Díaz-Canel as the best man to succeed Raúl Castro, bringing the family’s decades-long rule to an end.

Mr Castro, 86, took over as president from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006 but now he’s stepping down, although he will remain a powerful influence in the communist state and is keeping his title as head of the Communist Party until its next congress in 2021.

Cuba's parliament has selected Miguel Díaz-Canel as the best man to succeed Raúl Castro

Cuba’s parliament has selected Miguel Díaz-Canel as the best man to succeed Raúl Castro

The National Assembly, the country’s legislative body, is expected to pass Díaz-Canel’s nomination as a matter of course on Thursday. I wish him well but all may not go smoothly since he is inheriting an impatient, young population with high expectations for change.

Juggling that while stepping into the boots left by two legendary revolutionaries is not going to be easy.


Snap, crackle and vote

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan uses the element of surprise to keep one step ahead of his political opponents and enemies, as proven by his shock decision to hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.

He’s obviously confident of winning with a clear majority if not a landslide. After all, who would be mad enough to call a snap election … it certainly backfired on British Prime Minister Theresa May who struggles these days to keep a majority.

The news will certainly have caught his adversaries on the back foot since all his political rivals were not expecting to run for office until November 2019.

In a live TV broadcast, Erdogan said Turkey needed a new election to rid it of “the diseases of the old system” adding that the ongoing war in Syria and elsewhere “have made it urgent to switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country’s future in a stronger way.”

The President said he reached the decision after talks with the head of the nationalist MHP party, Devlet Bahceli, who is expected to form an alliance with Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in the parliamentary polls.

Well from where I’m standing, it’s quite clear he’s in it to win it!


Fake news, news 

After the poison gas attack in Douma the heroic White Helmets were accused of producing fake photos after a cardiologist announced that the EEG pads placed on the dead and dying children were “misplaced.”  The heart doctor’s tweets went around the world having been RTd more than 12,000 times.

That was on April 14 but two days later the same cardiologist apologised and said he’d made a mistake and that the pads had been fitted correctly. His correction was RTd a measly 22 times … proving that gullible fools who feed off fake news are quite happy to be lied to and duped. Try telling them the truth and they’re not interested!


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