1. Jadaliyya (with data from the International Crisis Group) continuously updates a very useful “Month-by-Month Summary of Developments in Syria”, which clearly shows how the democratic uprising in Syria began entirely peacefully and then was systematically militarised, first and foremost by Bashar al-Assad’s own brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and subsequently by the aggressive militarisation of the opposition by regional and global powers. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/6343/month-by-month-summary-of-developments-in-syria-%28u

  2. Woman’s Work: The Twisted Reality of an Italian Freelancer in Syria
    by Francesca Borri

    People have this romantic image of the freelancer as a journalist who’s exchanged the certainty of a regular salary for the freedom to cover the stories she is most fascinated by. But we are not free at all; it is just the opposite. The truth is that the only job opportunity I have today is staying in Syria, where nobody else wants to stay. It is not even Aleppo, to be precise; it is the frontline. Because the editors back in Italy only ask us for the blood, the bang-bang. I write about the Islamists and their network of social services, the roots of their power—a piece that is definitely more complex to build than a frontline piece. I strive to explain, not just to move, to touch, and I am answered with: “What’s this? Six thousand words and nobody died?”


    • Catmari, thanks for this. I think this piece highlights a major problem with mainstream Syria coverage — because the conflict is ongoing, and (some) editors are looking for headlines that will attract readers, stories about dramatic battlefield deaths are deemed more “saleable” than stories about the social aspects of the conflict. Sadly, this focus means that the public don’t get the fuller picture, and instead get easy narratives about “Al Qaeda” and so on.

      The fact that Islamist groups are providing a network of social services — as this freelancer points out — is a hugely important and fascinating story, and a development that will play a large part in how the conflict develops. However it is far harder to cover than the “Syrian Observatory reports that 24 people died today in X village” stories because it necessitates ongoing research and monitoring to assess what is happening, where and why. So I’m grateful to people like this freelancer for the work she does in that area (regardless of their gender).

      News organizations are turning to freelancers because it’s cheaper to pay per story — and not for the days that it takes to do all the research and interviewing that lead to a report, which they would have to do if they paid a full time salary.

      • I knew you would like this story! :-)

        RE: “News organizations are turning to freelancers because it’s cheaper to pay per story — and not for the days that it takes to do all the research and interviewing that lead to a report…”

        .. or for their insurance, safety training, transport, per diem, healthcare, equipment, fixers …

  3. Eagle in a China Shop

    “One pervasive, troublesome feature of U.S. foreign policy is the tendency to view all countries as more or less coherent national entities. American officials and opinion leaders are “map centric.” If they look at a map and see an area bounded by solid lines with a large star somewhere in the center to mark the capital city, they assume it is a real country with a national identity. And the usual procedure is to regard the supposed leader, whether his title is president, king or some other honorific, residing in that capital as someone who exercises authority throughout the country.

    But in many parts of the world, the Western concept of a nation-state is extremely weak. The primary loyalty of an inhabitant is more likely to be to an ethnic group, tribe, clan or religion than to a country. U.S. officials appear to have difficulty grasping that point, and as a result, the United States too often barges into fragile societies, disrupting what modest order may exist. America is the bull (or more accurately, the eagle) in the china shop, flailing about, breaking delicate political and social connections and disrupting domestic balances of power. Washington’s ambitious agenda typically is to try to forge or strengthen a cohesive national identity in client states, even when the real power and cohesion lies at the local or subregional level. The results have ranged from disappointing to calamitous.”

  4. Rather than strict focus on Homs City wouldn´t it be better to look at the Homs Governorate at all? There is an Al-Arabiya (usually pro rebel) map here http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=620_1374753302 with Houla and Rastan pockets remaining of what was left in the west of The Homs Governorate. It´s even likely Rastan will fall before the last occupied areas of Homs are freed.

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