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What was Syria like before the war (searchingforsyria.org)
283 points by iheredia on May 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 204 comments



I lived in Aleppo with my family 1962-1964. My dad was a US consul at the time. It's heartbreaking to see those pictures of that great city trashed. Half a century is a long time in the history of an American city, but the twinking of an eye in the history of Aleppo.

The people of the city were incredibly supportive of us -- their guests -- in the aftermath of JFK's murder. Strangers on the street came up to us to express condolences.

There was violence back then; the pan-Arab movement of Egyptian president Gamal abdel-Nasser was stirring up nationalist fervor, pro and con. He was frightening and annoying Hafez al-Assad, the father of the present ruler, so government forces were cracking down on Nasser supporters.

But nothing like this.

A family of Syrian refugees lives in my town, and I'm proud to call them friends. Their eldest daughter is pulling straight As in high school. They get hassled sometimes by 'murican yahoos, which is stupid, but still better than being in the Jordanian refugee camp they came from.


i am syrian from aleppo, so proud to hear someone talk nicely about my destroyed city, thanks man.


I was lucky enough to have visited Syria in 2009. I spent 3 weeks in Damascus. My impressions at the time:

    * The pepole were surprisingly westernised
    * Most younger people spoke great English
    * Alcohol was available, but limited because *most* people didn't drink (instead people socialised in tea halls)
    * Cheap oil meant that the taxi to the burger joint cost less than the burger did
    * The people were extremely friendly
    * I never felt unsafe
    * The city was extremely clean
    * ...however, the air was polluted
    * Bakdash pistachio ice-cream was AMAZINGLY good https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakdash_(ice_cream_parlor)
    * The old city was beautiful and packed with history...
    * One day we rented a van to see some surrounding areas. The driver was extremely friendly. He showed us around and told us about the history of the places. I still have very fond memories of that desert trip
I had never considered visiting there before that, but left thinking I'd love to come back. I guess that's no longer possible and I shudder to think that everything I saw might be destroyed and wonder if the people I met are ok. It really was an incredible place.

The signs of the Assad regime were everywhere: posters of Bashar al-Assad were everywhere and armed police on most street corners. Beyond that, it felt very normal (from a westerners perspective) and I never felt like I was in (what the US calls) a "rogue state".


Yeah, this mirrors my impression. It was unequivocally a controlled society : one simply didn't speak about the regime in anything less than absolutely glowing terms. The threat of the secret police was persistent.

As far as the people go, your odds of being hustled in Syria were pretty high (but not any worse than, say, Thailand) - other than that I totally agree wrt the westernization and general pleasantness.

I don't think it's really possible to argue the country is in any way better off than it was before the insurrection. I don't want to trivialize the experience of living in a police state, but there are worse things in this world.


I was in Syria in 2010 (backpacked around Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, also hitchhiked across the border from Baalbek/Lebanon to Homs). At the time, I found it rather similar to experiences in South-Eastern European countries around 2000 [1]: friendly, curious, cynical, indifferent, defiant, ambitious. You could feel something was about to change, but I never expected this :(

[1] I lived in Bulgaria 2003-2006. Sorry to generalize so broadly.


    I don't think it's really possible to argue the
    country is in any way better off than it was 
    before the insurrection.
The question is then, what would have been a better solution? Surely as long as Assad was ruling they were stuck (at best) at a local maximum and would have never transitioned to a free democracy without overthrowing the current government.


If it's a free democracy we're after, we should get rid of the western double standard provided to other states that had Arab Springs which were violently suppressed by their undemocratic governments. Such as Saudi Arabia[0], Bahrain[1] and Yemen[2]. I don't remember hearing about rebels being armed, no fly zones being established and missiles being launched by western states in these countries.

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011%E2%80%9312_Saudi_Arabian_...

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahraini_protests_of_2011

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemeni_Crisis_(2011%E2%80%93pr...


Generally I agree, but the West's double-standard does at least benefit some countries, such as Tunisia.

Also, even support for Syria is based to a great degree on the Western nations' own interests and not those of the Syrian people. Most of the West's involvement is to destroy ISIL and to contain Iran and Russia.

There was no credible possibility that the Saudi Arabian government, for example, would be overthrown; there was nobody for the Western nations to support. If there was a credible possibility, of course the Western nations might have decided supporting the Saudi rulers was more important, as they have many times in the past, and portrayed the rebels as terrorists.

Finally, it all begs the question: Revolutions are very risky; often the outcome is worse than the starting point, with many dead, a generation in ruin, and no improvement in government. When are they worthwhile? How can they be made more likely to obtain worthwhile outcomes?


   as long as Assad was ruling
Assad's secular dictatorship is massively preferable to ISIS rule, especially to the 25% of the Syrian population that are non-Sunni.


And here we have the last 70 years of United States foreign policy in a nutshell.


> United States foreign policy

Western foreign policy.

And in many ways extending back well into the time of European Colonial powers carving out territory and promoting the interests of more friendly tribes/ethnicities to maintain stability and keep the money flowing.


Sigh, it seems so surreal now that the Arab Spring was once cheered on by the whole world.

Edit: word


The less Arab revolutions were stomped on, the more favorable was the outcome. The progression from Tunisa through Egypt and Lybia to Syria is quite evident.

What's really surreal is so many people in the (still relatively free) West denying basic agency to their fellow human beings in the Middle East.


> so many people in the (still relatively free) West denying basic agency to their fellow human beings

Because there's a lot of cynicism with charities and foreign aid. There is an active campaign here in Britain to reduce the latter and anecdotally, I have friends and relatives who refuse to donate to aid agencies because they believe that the whole thing is a sham.

Sure there's bureaucracy, but most of them are genuinely hardworking and already operating on shoestring budgets...


You could point them to clearinghouses like CharityNavigator [0] (which is probably US-centric) that rate the charities on things like how much of their donations go to administration.

The short of it is that one can donate to Oxfam, Save the Children or Medecins san Frontieres and remain confident that >95% of funds raised go to direct relief efforts.

[0]https://www.charitynavigator.org/


Agency as having their own interests and following their own agenda, it has nothing to do with charity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)

For example the view professed here by you and the GP, that Arabs should have quietly suffered in their dictatorship without right to dissent, is denying the agency.


Too many people believe in the movie version of the American revolution.


God I agree, can you imagine how Ethan Allen would be covered today? I don't know enough to have a side in the Syria conflict, but man, the Green Mountain Boys weren't so far off from a lot of modern non-state actors.


Google tells me he's a furniture store these days.

(I'm a Brit, so my knowledge of the American Revolution is cobbled together from popular media, Sid Meier's Colonization, Wikipedia, anti-colonialist literature, and a trip to Boston. The latter led me to believe it was mostly about lobsters. This may or may not be more accurate than what's taught in US schools)


I agree, but that wasn't my question - can Syria have something better than Assad eventually, and how do you get to it without overthrowing Assad?


One suggestion has been that Assad gets help with fighting ISIS on condition that he participates in fair, open, democratic and internationally monitored elections as soon as Syria is pacified.

As far as I am aware this was discussed. I'm not sure (please correct me if I'm wrong) but I seem to remember that it was not Assad who rejected this scheme.


There's also the rebels, not only ISIS.

And what would be the consequence of him not complying after the fact?


Assad eventually dies, probably of old age.


Current Assad is already the son of the previous dictator.


You can eventually "sublimate away" a hereditary ruling family; that's what lots of European countries have done. In some cases (like Pinochet or Franco), the ruling dictator simply accepts there is no point in continuing and just dies away without bestowing the country on his children.

People tend to forget that Middle-Eastern countries are all pretty young from an institutional perspective. Before the mid-XX century they did not exist in forms resembling the current ones. Ottoman collapse, Arab consolidation and general decolonisation were fluid processes that sprung (or were forced to spring) very complex entities with all sorts of growing pains.


> In some cases (like Pinochet or Franco), the ruling dictator simply accepts there is no point in continuing and just dies away without bestowing the country on his children.

Yeah that's not what happened in Franco's case. He appointed Juan Carlos to succeed him as King of Spain. Juan Carlos was crowned after Franco's death, and decided to turn the country into a democracy. So we got lucky in that sense.


For all of Franco's troubles, the conclusion was basically foregone when he appointed as heir a member of the royal family. Juan Carlos's father had long accepted an evolution into a constitutional monarchy should he ever regain the throne, as an inevitability; any smart person in JC's shoes would have seen the writing on the wall and would have acted in the same way, imho. I don't think it was luck, the forces in motion were already there; in a Cold War setting, a Franco-less Spain would have been subject to infighting between different franchist groups and would have suffered infiltration from Washington and Moscow, with the risk of a new civil war. A transition to a more legitimate government was the only way to reduce instability, it simply couldn't be done with Franco alive. South-American countries went through similar transitions at one point or the other.


> any smart person in JC's shoes would have seen the writing on the wall and would have acted in the same way, imho

I disagree. As evidenced in the 23-F coup, the armed forces were either opposed to democracy, or loyal to the king. If Juan Carlos had wanted to remain an absolute monarch, all the machinery of the state would have kept turning as usual. The same way it did during 30 years of dictatorship during the Cold War.


Can we get his children interested in programming or something?


Assad is an ophtalmologist with a British spouse. Didn't seem to help much.


bashar started off as an american-educated dentist


There was a lot of high hopes in Israel when he succeeded his father, that his rule would be pro-western.


I suppose this kind of question can only be answered in hindsight. If indeed there is a transition to a free, stable democracy, I suppose we could argue that what happened was ultimately worth it. But I don't know if such a thing is likely to happen.

It seems quite possible to me that all this turmoil will lead to another local maximum that isn't much better, and perhaps even worse, than the previous one.


So basically they're eternally condemned to live in either a failed state or a harsh dictatorship?


Afghanistan used to be a normal country in the 70s by Middle Eastern standard. Not too different from Iran, Iraq, or Syria of those days.

It hasn't recovered for over 40 years.

Iraq doesn't seem like it will recover any time soon.


But aren't they stuck in abyss now? If that's the choice, maybe it wasn't a good plan after all.


The current situation is not a stable state, at some point one of the combating sides will win or the country will split into several independent states.


The combating sides include outside parties, so the war could continue until every Syrian is dead and then beyond even that.


I don't think it will ever recover to pre-war levels. Not in our time.


Meta-commentary: This is one of the more fascinating threads I have seen on HN. It seems to parallel many of the problems with political discourse in the world today - maybe it's always been like this, but I'm not old enough to know.

I would break down the comments into several types:

1) conspiracy theorists who believe in some secret cult that is unilaterally organizing everything

2) trolls - state sponsored or otherwise pushing an anti-humanitarian cause. They are throwing chaff into the discussion to confuse and disorient and to detract from the real issues.

3) people with experience in these events trying desperately to be heard - these are the people meant to be drowned out by the trolls

4) alarmists - people with relatively little knowledge of the actual goings-on who insist that every minor event is the end of the world (or Syria). I'm not saying that Syria hasn't been decimated, but that it was (and is) a process not an event

5) the rest of everyone who is trying to make heads or tails of things and seems to fall into one of those camps.

So, to one of the brighter communities on the internet (that's you HN) I ask: how do we (humanity) convey a full, factual picture to one another so that we may use those facts in conjunction with our values to agree or disagree with one another?


It's not easy, but it's pretty simple. Longer attention spans, and not treating all opinions as equally reasoned and/or valid. We are in the midst of a terrible anti-intellectualistic & dirt-kicking-religious-fundamentalism conundrum globally. Education is the only atmosphere where growth is the only goal - every human enterprise involves winning and losing, more or less.

In the context of Education, the goal is self-reflexive when employed properly - as in, discussion and growth and learning for their own sake, not because some asshole in the Federal Government wants every kid from Baton Rouge and Seattle and San Diego to be able to pass a highly sterile, multiple-choice "NCLB" type test. There's a lot of stuff to un-screw up.

A person like Betsy DeVos is akin to Emperor Nero's Horse.


Wealth inequality is higher than its been in quite a long time. Massive numbers of people feel that they aren't being represented in government, which at its root, is usually accurate (1). This results in distrust of economic elites.

Since economic elites are usually also leaders of establishment, it is easy for ire for one camp, to bleed over to the other. Especially since talk of economic inequality rarely finds its way into (American) public discourse.

Once you adopt that mindset, it is easy to become jaded. At that point, anything elitist or intellectual starts sounding suspect and untrustworthy.

I swear, 99% of the issues in this country (us) boil back to wealth inequality one way or another.

1 - https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-poli...


> how do we (humanity) convey a full, factual picture to one another so that we may use those facts in conjunction with our values to agree or disagree with one another?

I think this is an essential question, and one that people often dismiss as having no solution. IMHO it's an excellent, highly valuable problem for someone to solve. In my very humble thinking, I've come up with or collected these ideas:

1) You are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. Facts are can be common ground on which all good faith people can stand, and in which they all share an interest - whatever your opinion, you want it to be true and consistent with the facts. Of course, that's trickier in practice than in theory; see the note on propaganda.

2) Some fields have methods for separating fact from fiction, such as science and law. Some parts of those methods can be applied here, though of course people in Internet forums don't have the resources (especially time) to utilize those methods completely.

3) We must decide to trust some people and sources to a greater degree than others. As someone said, there is no art, no judgment, in trusting nobody. I trust the NY Times more than (some random conspiracy site), for example.

4) Propagandists try to disrupt all of the above; keep an eye out for their tactics. A/the fundamental tactic of professional propaganda (and seemingly adopted by amateurs, maybe unwittingly) is not to persuade but to create uncertainty: Portray all fact as equivalent opinions and discredit any trust in anything, from science to government to news media. Consider climate change, where false uncertainty has brought U.S. federal government action to a standstill; that is exactly the means and outcome of propaganda (as I understand it). Another tactic is to drown signal with noise using a barrage of baseless allegations.

5) As a way to both filter out propagandists and greatly improve the content of forums, focus on input that are based on sound factual foundations and which contributes value - which significantly adds to the reader's knowledge. The propagandists generally reduce knowledge or create uncertainty; they raise endless questions without basis. (Other people do this too; they aren't all intentional propagandists, but it has a similar effect.)


Nice of you to label everyone who preferes a more isolationist approach to global policy as a "troll"

How open-minded of you.


'Isolationist' and 'anti-humanitarian' are not the same thing.


While I agree, it seems to happen quite often that the two are deliberately conflated.


I see nothing in the parent's comment that insinuates this. What specifically are you referring to?


Whenever syria comes out, the propagandists come out. These people try to label people in order to marginalize their views.

You can spot them easily because they use labels like "trolls", "conspiracist", "tin foil hat", etc to label their enemies.


You mean labels such as "propagandists?"


> trolls - state sponsored or otherwise pushing an anti-humanitarian cause.

I've seen this idea brought up a few times here in our community, and have been accused of it at least once for expressing an unpopular opinion.

I have such a hard time believing there's state sponsored posters who troll hacker news. It seems extremely tinfoil hat to me. Honestly folks we're not that important.


It's fairly well established that intelligence agencies have active "social media" operations, and that there's paid distributors of "fake news" about.

Establishing any particular account as a paid troll is almost impossible, although the moderators might be able to infer things from the login IP addresses if their opsec is bad.


How is it established? What proof of any kind do you have that people are being paid to troll in our corner of the internet? Even if agencies had a presence on social media, what advantage do they having coming to HN and trying to convince a bunch of computer nerds that life was better in Syria under Assad?


The Stratfor leaks show the US government contracting out the development of astroturfing software.


NSA and GCHQ document leaks outlining their shilling operations.


You can find plenty of articles in serious sources which contain serious research on Russian astroturfing operations. Based on those, any forum is a target and HN is more influential than most.


I am afraid that burden of proof is still on you. The habit of throwing in an accusation and suggesting that your opponents go and look for proof, became too widespread.


> The habit of throwing in an accusation and suggesting that your opponents go and look for proof, became too widespread.

Generally I agree, but in this case it's very easily found.


you can't be serious.


Not really, if you choose to silently disbelieve that is fine. Expecting anyone else to spend their time and energy on "proving" some thing to someone else, should only happen if there is a pay off.

https://xkcd.com/386/


shitgoose to pm24601: you suck!

pm24601 to shitgoose: why!?

shitgoose to pm24601: go google it yourself!

pm24601 to shitgoose: why should i google why i suck?

shitgoose to pm24601: if you choose to silently disbelieve that is fine. Expecting anyone else to spend their time and energy on "proving" some thing to someone else, should only happen if there is a pay off.


I think Occam's razor is applicable with our discussion. Are the people who are disagreeing with you a paid shill from the government trying to advance a particular agenda, or is it just a person who disagrees with you?


The simplest explanation that fits the facts is that it's a mix of both, as both are solidly established to exist.

Occam's razor doesn't really apply to determining an individual account, as there's no model difference in a particular account being either, given many accounts and each being some.

You should respond based on considering it a superposition of both (and more exotic states, like a non-shill blindly repeating shill points), based on the distribution of likelihood given their speech patterns, background prevalence, etc.

That's really the simplest model which lets you incorporate all the information you know in crafting a response -- not a false dichotomy of making assumptions you know will sometimes be erroneous. (...Which is not what Occam's Razor is about.)



Honestly to explain the nuance of the situation would take too long and isn't super easy to reduce to right and wrong. The background required to understand how syria came to be is not something that can be sufficiently and succinctly explained in a comment thread.

Attempts to simplify it run into the exact issues you've noticed above. You're bias comes into play which conflicts with various other peoples PoV, and it all devolves into a shouting match.

Also the pipeline/Syke-Picot people will interject themselves into any conversation about the middle east because "this one simple event explains everything" is appealing to a ton of folks.


> Also the pipeline/Syke-Picot people will interject themselves into any conversation about the middle east because "this one simple event explains everything" is appealing to a ton of folks.

Do the "Sykes-Picot people" attribute everything to that agreement or just view it as a logical starting point for many of the current political problems seen in the Middle East that can not be attributed to other factors (geography, sectarian conflict, control of natural resources, migrant populations that defy modern borders, a history of historical conflicts/slavery, and/or pressure from environmental, political, and cultural changes)?

Sykes-Picot isn't exactly a fringe internet theory.... any textbook on the modern Middle East is going to devote substantial time to it.


I dislike it personally because it robs any agency on the part of the locals and ascribes everything happening because of Westerners. I think the simplistic view presented in textbooks is wrong. Sykes-Picot never really came into effect and as much as the British/French tried to control the area their attempts at control were co-opted by savvy local nationalist parties to establish local nation states after the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

The map of the modern day middle east has more in common with Ottoman Provinces then it does with the Lines of Control that Sykes-Picot proposed. Now I am not trying to absolve the west of all it's guilt, it did a number of shitty and horrific things, but I think the narrative that the West screwed up the Middle East ignores both a significant history of conflict in the area over land and resources, as well as the political situation on the ground being influenced more by locals then outsiders. I am also not saying that colonialism is not a horrific thing, I think that efforts elsewhere(Africa, Asia) started earlier and were more heavy handed.

The reason why Sykes-Picot appeals to so many people is that it provides a simplistic political narrative for why the region is so messed up, and allows blame to be shifted on a politically convenient scapegoat. Hopefully as we shift away from the "Great Man"(and I think Westerners trying to impose their will on the Middle East were bad folks) theory of history we will come to view these simple theories as useless and try to understand the nuance of how the modern Middle East came to be as not something that two Westerners in 1917 could ever hope to dictate.


Fair enough - as you indicate, nuance is important and sadly it's often lacking from many media articles and debate these days.


> state sponsored or otherwise pushing an anti-humanitarian cause.

What's the anti-humanitarian cause? Throwing enough resources at the fight to keep it going for years instead of weeks/months, but not enough to actually end it, for what I hope are callous realpolitik reasons and not simple incompetence?


You hope that the international actors- among which, prominently, the USA- have willingly fuelled a bloodbath for years for "realpolitk" reasons instead of having done that unwillingly, out of incompetence?


I hope that there's been some hidden benefit I'm unaware of that's so large it could from some point of view that's not simply insane or stupid justify fueling a massive immigration crisis in Europe, with all the consequences that've fallen out of that, and causing years and years of suffering and death in countries halfway around the world from us while in many ways strengthening the radical jihadist movement(s), yes.

The alternative is that we've been too dumb, for years on end, to just stop, or else that we've done it because we made a (huge) mistake initially and are trying to save face, both of which I judge to be somewhat worse.

Iraq may have been more expensive but this is shaping up to be a much bigger strategic blunder, if there's not some really smart hidden agenda driving it. It's certainly a massive humanitarian disaster. I've found it utterly bizarre that in all the partisan bickering this didn't take central stage in the "Obama (and Hillary) aren't fit leaders" narrative, since on the surface the whole thing looks like a gigantic policy disaster on the part of the US—and I feel that way as someone who almost always supports Democrats over Republicans, and protested Iraq II. I don't get how more blame for the situation isn't publicly falling on the US and the Obama administration.


Then it seems to me that you're missing a third option: the bloodbath has been fuelled for years because it benefits some of the players directly or indirectly involved; and there's no greater good that justifies what's happening, only gains of one party or group over the other. Which would mean it's not incompetence and it's not for the greater good either.


There are a bunch of reasons. I recently sat next to an Asian mom at the passport office and when the news came on about Syrian refugees she said to me "no Syrian refugees." She complained they cost us money. I asked her a couple questions about Syria and Iraq and she was completely clueless and not interested in learning about the situation. With her accent it's likely she emigrated from Asia. People constantly amaze me.


Don't forget 6) agenda driven propagandists like you...


We've banned this account for making personal attacks despite our asking you to stop.

I agree with you that people are far too quick to cry 'troll' and that it's not a legit move unless there's evidence. But that doesn't mean you can personally attack people and expect not to get banned here.


What I find interesting about the Syrian issue is that it is becoming increasingly clear that diplomacy, the UN, media exposure etc is failing. Despite this "humanitarian crisis" (which I fully agree is reaching crisis levels), my impression is that almost all the media outlets and pundits are ignoring the obvious solution to this problem... unilateral US military intervention (and before we go there... keep in mind that if that doesnt solve the problem, nothing can).

So the question I have for the parent is as follows: how far do things have to deteriorate before military intervention is the only viable and recommended solution?

It is 100% within the means of the United States to end this situation.


What would such an intervention involve? Shoot the bad guys? Which are the bad guys and how do soldiers identify them?


If by the bad guys you mean only ISIS (and not Assad's or the rebel forces), that's what the people currently fighting there are doing. Why would it be harder for US soldiers?


If you think bad guys are sitting in glaring colourful robes for the US military to come and shoot them, you are way off the mark. Political crisis like this are difficult to contain by external players because you never know the good guys from bad.

Maybe US (and other powerful nations) can stealthily fund the locals and arm them to face the radicals, so that the change comes from within rather than outside. Again the problem lies in identifying the innocent locals from the radicals.

At this stage, I'm not even sure if there is a solution for syrian crisis.


"Maybe US (and other powerful nations) can stealthily fund the locals and arm them to face the radicals"

That sort of activity usually ends with local radicals having externally find arms. Also, it hardly counts as change from inside when you armed one fraction of the conflict giving it advantage.

Innocent locals tend to be the ones who don't want guns, sadly. Or are not experienced with them.


i have absolutely no idea how anyone could think major US intervention would improve the situation after iraq, afghanistan, libya, etc. it creates huge power vacuums and decades of conflict in its wake.


The issue is that unilateral US military intervention hasn't solved similar situations in the past.


> What I find interesting about the Syrian issue is that it is becoming increasingly clear that diplomacy, the UN, media exposure etc is failing.

Sadly, those institutions aren't "failing" - its just that those tools are working for people that want to stay in power.


This is a civil war funded by Saudi Arabia and Iran on opposite sides. Stepping in the middle won't solve the issue.

edit: I'm not advocating doing nothing. But just that thinking getting boots on the ground will easily solve this.


I wish there were more definite sources detailing what the actual conflict is about. People are giving all sorts of accounts online and it seems to be divided into a few camps:

1) western and sunni middle eastern press: it's all Assad's (government's) fault. People want democracy. Specifically this is supposed to be a response to violent repression of pro-democracy protests from March 2011.

Problem: very hard to believe. The attitude of the government against the people of Syria has not changed, and the "protesters" do not seem very pro-democracy at all.

Second problem: the middle eastern press (al Jazeera) is owned by a government that would stand to benefit substantially from the pipeline issue. Even aside from the pipeline, that government is involved in funding the exremists in Syria.

2) shi'a middle eastern press

Coordinated Sunni attack against one of the two last multicultural/tolerant middle eastern Countries (the other one being Iran, and while Israel is multicultural/tolerant Iran doesn't see it that way). It's an attack to massacre the last vestiges of tolerance in the middle east.

Problem: obviously this is state propaganda. That doesn't mean it's not true, of course, but there are military interests at stake by the same people who own these press.

3) Russian press (there were/are hundreds of thousands of Russians from the Soviet union who lived in Syria)

This is a coordinated assault against the last Russian ally on the mediterranean. They note the same as the Shi'a press does (attack on tolerance for non-Sunnis), and also note the pipeline project that would deliver oil from.

Problem: of course this too is state propaganda.

4) Catholic information sources (there is/was no shortage of Monasteries in Syria)

Well-funded Sunni extremists attacking (and killing) everyone in sight, with no identifiable cause. Ethnic cleansing, including even of Sunni's that don't want to fight for them. They seem to disagree with the notions that the fighters care about either Russian interests, or the pipeline (though the funding parties might think differently)

Problem: They're not very willing to come forward with information, and the few times they do they say they really fear retaliation. The ones that come forward are refugees.


Not that I have followed it that closely, but of course it's not a black vs white conflict, more like several factions wanting to win power/suppress their enemies.

I think it started as a demonstration against the corrupt Assad that turned violent when his army started shooting. The "rebels" picked up arms and probably brutally kills pro-government soldiers/citizens, so they are not saints either. Meanwhile ISIS takes advantage of the chaos to try to win control of regions. The Kurds are fighting them because there's probably a Kurdish area in Syria? But Erdogan doesn't like a Kurdish rise, so he's probably quietly looking the other way as European ISIS sympathisers travel via Turkey in and out of Syria. Russia wants Assad to stay in power because he's a puppet, so he's bombing "rebels" and ISIS.

We haven't even mentioned Iran and the USA. As this report https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/16/world/middlee... says, in one side of the conflict USA (at least Obama's USA) is working with Russia, in another side they're backing opposing sides.


   started as a demonstration 
   against the corrupt Assad
It's unlikely that this was spontaneous, and most likely the first public result of a planned and well-funded regime-change operation.


There's no conclusive proof it wasn't spontaneous and in both cases it was legitimate.


Yeah, never in the history of mankind has anyone protested without being paid by George Soros, right?


I'm not sure in what sense your answer is a constructive contribution.

There is a long history of engineering 'grassroots movements' toward overthrowing governments. All powers have been engaging in this practise, and you can find how-to manuals -- I recommend reading some, it's highly enlightening. For example many of the de-colonialisation movements in the second part of the 20th century were actively run by the Soviet Union, leading to such absurdities as Cabo Verde becoming an independent state.

Clearly various powers had strategic interests in destabilisation of Assad. [1] is an interesting document in this direction.

[1] https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/18328


That document doesn't prove anything. It's clearly an email send to Clinton, so it doesn't reflect her views any more than whatever spam she got. Plus there's actually nothing nefarious in there. Nobody is disputing that the US government's position is and has always been that Assad needs to go.

If it were written with more than public knowledge, it would actually proof that the US and Clinton did not organise any sorts of fake-grassroots protests, considering the document is arguing for US engagement against Assad a full year after the war started,


   doesn't prove anything.
The world of regime change isn't one where things are "proved". The Wikileaks mail I cited gives evidence, plausibility. That's the best we can hope for.

Your counterevidence is not going to be a proof in ZFC set theory either ...


And even before that. A few examples:

- Lenin famously had to ride a train through half of Europe to get back into Russia and stir up trouble. The involved countries knew very well who he was and what he was going to do (he was under surveillance, like most activists before and since), but they let him pass in order to help destabilise a neighbouring power.

- Italian unification was aided by the British, which controlled most of the Mediterranean at the time. Whenever this or that bunch of "united Italy" guerrilla left a port directed to the country, the British would help them by providing cover and supplies. This was done in order to create new headaches for France and Austria, then the dominant powers in fractured Italy.

- The Spanish civil war was heavily influenced by foreign powers, with Germany and Italy instigating and materially supporting Franco, the USSR helping the Republic, and everyone else providing covert support for this or that faction.

Etc etc.


> - The Spanish civil war was heavily influenced by foreign powers, with Germany and Italy instigating and materially supporting Franco, the USSR helping the Republic, and everyone else providing covert support for this or that faction.

There's a pretty high jump from "Hitler helped the rebels during the war" to "the Civil War was orchestrated and triggered by foreign powers".


If I tell you that I'll give you weapons and support "should you decide to rebel", am I "orchestrating" or "helping"?

Semantics.


If you don't tell me such a thing during the months of planning before the war starts, you aren't orchestrating anything.

It's not semantics, sometimes people happen to rebel without it being the machinations of a foreign power.


I think most people would strongly disagree if these things make the difference between success and failure of a rebellion.

I would strongly disagree regardless of that factor. If there's a realistic chance it'll make a difference, I would say you're orchestrating things. Even if not, it still is.

There are always people looking to rebel. For all sorts of reasons. Injustice. Ethnic alliances (esp. popular in Africa). Regional alliances (e.g. Catalonia, and the Balkans in general: the cities want to secede from their countries). Religious differences (esp. one particular religion, but not exclusively). And some want to purely for personal gain (famously in South America).

Even when there is no chance of making a difference. You could say yesterday's attack in Manchester was carried out as a rebel act, to get the UK to govern itself according to the islamic religion. That is certainly a true statement, even if very unpopular. Providing material support for such things is definitely orchestrating, even though it has essentially zero chance for success.


The Spanish Civil War wasn't, to quote OP, a "grass-root movement engineered" by Hitler; it was a failed coup.

Both Hitler and the British intelligence offered logistical help to the rebels. The coup was already planned for months by the generals, and they were just waiting for the appropriate time to strike. The moment came when the police murdered Calvo Sotelo, not when the Nazis and British encouraged them.


Excellent summary. One addition: The Kurdish vs. ISIS conflicts are, or at least were, mostly in northern Iraq, where ISIS started back when Syria was still a stable Dicktatorship, but the Iraqi government was (and still is) weak and hated.


One can argue over what's driving the conflict today, but how it started back in 2011 is very well documented by every current news source at the time.

It began when Assad's security forces tortured children for spray painting anti government graffiti in Deraa. Protests, in the spirit of the Arab Spring which had spontaneously consumed the region, then followed. Assad met these protests with total violence, including shooting unarmed civilians.

Assad's security service continued to kill and torture unarmed civilians until eventually people started shooting back. Thus began the civil war. Had Assad merely stepped down, as Mubarak did in Egypt, then Syria today would likely be as peaceful as Egypt is.

Here's an excellent documentary, filled with primary sources and not made by some conspiracy nut in their basement, on how the conflict started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njKuK3tw8PQ


There is a lot more to it than that. A lot.

"tortured children for spray painting graffiti" (which resulted in the sudden sprouting somehow of heavily armed and trained jihadists, many of whom were foreign).

You don't have to be much of a cynic to see the deep influences of foreign powers in this conflict. It's so deep that media takes (such as the view you present) don't do much to cover it up.


Ethnic cleansing is most likely. Some Syrian protesters chanted "Christians to Beirut; Alawites to the coffin" [0].

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectarianism_and_minorities_...


Another theory I've seen is that the Iraq war left a huge amount of weapons lying around, plus a large number of Islamists driven out of Iraq into Syria. This aligns with your (2) or (4).


Stuff like this doesn't happen for some pipeline. In this case, the theory has the following problems:

- The supposed Qatar->Europe would have to cross Saudi Arabia, which is a much larger obstacle to any pipeline project.

- Same for Turkey

- Dependence on Russian gas isn't so much a "European" problem, as a Eastern-European problem, from Germany to Greece. These are countries that aren't really known for 007-style false flag operations in the middle east

- There doesn't seem to be a pipeline being build anywhere near Syria. This outcome wasn't that surprising, considering almost every other conflict in the region also turned into a decades-long quagmire

- The further destabilisation of the middle east creates risks that dominate any supposed gains from lower energy dependence: the migrant crisis was among the worst in the European Union's history, at least in terms of its potential to unravel the union. The power vacuum that was created gave rise to ISIS, which the west will have to grapple with for decades in some form or other

- The supposed perpetrators in the west are democratically elected politicians, not actually psychopaths trying to amass natural resources.

- Even if they were so inclined, they'd have a really hard time profiting from it because

   (a) elected politicians think in much shorter timeframes
       than what would be required for this pipeline 
       to start making money, 

   (b) they would never be able to actually do anything 
       with any money they made, being constantly in the
       public eye even after their terms are up, 

   (c) they'd be dead by then anyway, 

   (d) most politicians have actually proven that 
       they have below-average interest in monetary 
       riches compared to public admiration, and 

   (e) they could never get that, either, because 
       they'd be prosecuted and ostracised if it 
       ever came to light.
It's really very simple: Assad is and always was a brutal asshole. At some point, hatred of him turned violent, and everything escalated. There are two dozen different foreign and domestic powers with a stake in the outcome, and each of them funds this group or that, securing a continuing source of violence, just add angry young men.

Some of the opposition may have democratic ideas, some may be communists, or fascists, or islamists, or hairdressers. There's no easy way to label the opposition because Assad really managed to get a lot of people rather angry, for all sorts of different reasons (but mostly for killing people other people liked)

As another point: if you take a really good look at Iran, you'll find they are a lot less bad than one might think. They are without any doubt the second-best democracy in the region–behind Israel, but quite certainly ahead of today's Turkey. And while that democracy is incredibly flawed, Iran is so much better than Saudi Arabia, it isn't even funny. With the added knowledge that all the islamic terror against the west since 2001 has been Sunni, it's really strange to see who's an ally and who is in line to get bombed when the US President next has a bad day.


You seem to be emphasizing that european energy 'independence' is the only reason for the pipeline without noting as a result, it also shifts significant funding bases for all the producing nations involved and therefore also shifts the geopolitical balance of power viz-a-vis state finance, and that the orientation of major producing nations has direct bearing on the global balance of power / energy / finance. See also: BRICS

You also presume that the short-term interests of politicians is not heavily tied to the long term interests of their major constituents.. See also: think tanks

As for brutality: Try to create a 'peaceful and inclusive' society when a significant enough minority to overthrow a weaker regime is always present and agitating to do so (e.g. jihadi sympathizers).. it might be more difficult than you imagine, which is not to say that conflict never exacerbates extreme positions. You might find that some normal people would prefer a harsh regieme keeping those people out than a week democracy which they expect will likely fail (see also: egypt)


"It's really very simple: Assad is and always was a brutal asshole. At some point, hatred of him turned violent, and everything escalated."

Nothing is simple in that area of the world.

There are a lot of forces at play. One of which is upset Syrian citizens. Another of which are interested foreign powers.


In 2010, before this war, the BBC produced a 5-part documentary series called "Syrian School" -doing a fly-on-the-wall in four schools in Damascus. I only saw half of it, but looking back it is heart breaking. The short answer is, day-to-day life in a Syrian school was very similar and recognisable to e.g. the UK. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUDxznlkm6Y


Not Syria but Syrian music, from Aleppo to be precise. I saw the Al-Kindi Ensemble (http://www.alkindi.org/) many years ago, and you can find an album on Spotify.

The whole evening was enchanting, and reading up on their story, then seeing footage of Aleppo, I realised how completely gone all that old beauty is. Daesh hates them too, no doubt, but then that's their thing.


This is totally off topic (and may even be taken to be insensitive considering the plight of the Syrian people), but I had to ask: is there any way that you/anyone/HNer could offer suggestions on how to deploy such a site for a non-developer...are there free/self-hosted themes and/or frameworks whose installation and use is noob-friendly enough to lend themselves well to interactive storytelling...? Any help/pointers would be immensely appreciated.



I think a lot of animated presentation software like prezi can also do this.


From a "I think it's more technical" to "I think it's less technical" order:

* This website uses fullPage.js [1], which is a widely used javascript library for such full screen presentation (for instance Apple use it in their Mac Pro promo page [2]). You can get around it's API if you know a little HTML and a little javascript, but it's still a lot of manual work. And the neatier features are locked behind a (totally justified) paywall.

* One neat generator I know is Jack Qiao's Expose[3] which he mainly uses in his travel photography website [4]. Check out those sweet cinemagraphs ! Unfortunately it is a command-line program which may be a bit obtuse to non-developer (especially on Windows), and the text placement has to be set manually

* Shameless plug: as a side project, I made a clone of Expose in Python [5] (demo [6]) with no video support but explicit Markdown support (so you can embed maps, youtube videos and others ). It's still a command line app, but I'm working on a second version that uses Electron and has a more WYSIWYG approach. It is still very much a side project though.

* You could look at some web-based presentation framework. Slid.es [7] is an WYSIWYG builder for the reveal.js library [8]. It's mainly used for Powerpoint-ish presentation (ex. [9][10]), but with a touch of creativity you can do neat thing, like this portfolio [11].

[1]: https://alvarotrigo.com/fullPage/

[2]: https://www.apple.com/mac-pro/

[3]: https://github.com/Jack000/Expose

[4]: http://jack.ventures/

[5]: https://github.com/PetitPrince/pyxpose

[6]: http://petitprince.github.io/pyxpose-demo/gallery.html

[7]: https://slides.com/

[8]: https://github.com/hakimel/reveal.js

[9]: http://motivate.slides.com/motivateco/deck-8-9#/

[10]: https://ourworldindata.org/slides/world-poverty/

[11]: http://ianspiro.com/portfolio/

EDIT: Whoa, paradite mentionned Pageflow. This seems really neat !


There was a huge discussion of scrollytelling (company creating propitiatory interactives with Pageflow) accusing Al-Jazeera of using their code:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12524998

https://www.scrollytelling.io/al-jazeera.html

That's when I learnt about Pageflow.


Hi paradite.

Pardon the late reply, I have set up fairly aggressive noprocrast settings which means that I am not always in a position to reply immediately.

Pageflow is especially neat: the pages load fast, the pricing is friendly, and the company can self-host the page. Thank you for taking the time to reply- will be checking this out with my buddy over the weekend.

PetitPrince also provides appealing options, some more noob friendly than the others... I will take the time to download the git repos and see just how successful I can be installing/deploying the code.

All in all, thank you guys for reaching with helpful suggestions.


Refugee stats:

3.6 Women and Children

1.6 Men

God, I hate stats like these, why is it so hard to break up men, women and children separately to give more insight. Women are not the same as children.

Or is google trying to tell us that woman are basically, well, children?


UNHCR has detailed stats, here: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

If you draw the line at age 18: Roughly, 27% male adults, 25.5% female adults, 47% children.


I think it was done to appease people. I have an impression most would feel more compassionate knowing that there are little men, since they tend to cause more issues. Though when you split the stats, you see there's actually more men than women refugee.


I agree that women and children should be reported seperately, but there is a logical reason for the breakdown.

Men are much more likely to be warriors historically.


Maybe because of traditions like this? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_and_children_first


Not that women are children, but that women and children's lives are more precious than men. Men are disposable. They are supposed to fight and die. (Obviously not a video that I endorse)


I'm pretty sure it has to do with women and children are seen as more important and if any gender is suppose to survive a conflict, it's the women and children. Men are supposed to accept the situation and allow women and children to survive. I find this very old and outdated but it still fits when it comes to statistics.


I think it says more about the society that the refugees are fleeing from. Imagine some hypothetical civil war in Florida with millions of refugees -- the American women would not be lumped in with the children.


In this case, the lumping together of the stats is likely done by westerners. They are trying to dispel the notion that a large amount of the refugees are ISIS fighters in disguise trying to infiltrate the west.

The source stats aren't lumped together. That's the journalist's decision.


The funny thing that this site is forbidden in Syria (By Google themselvs).

I am currently in Syria, tried opening it, it gave me 403 response (As all sites based on Google cloud services do)



>Meet 7-year-old Bana, who shared her experience of war on Twitter.

It's like the movie Wag the Dog. Sad to exploit a child like this.


She posted on Twitter:

> Why would they bomb us and kill innocent people everyday? > - Bana

So I doubt that being "exploited" by the evil UN anti-warmongerers is of particular concern to her. I'd even guess she would want to help to stop this, and prevent further atrocities of this magnitude.

You've really gotten away with the wrong lessons from Wag the Dog if you consider this exploitative. The problem in WtD was that it was intended to rouse nationalistic furore justifying a military intervention. This is intended to produce goodwill for refugees.

And, of course, the problem in Wag the Dog was that the girl was an actress in California, and there was no war.

Are you doubting that there is a war in Syria?


Well I mean this, and it's just the info you find on wikipedia, there is more:

> Observers have questioned whether Bana understands the concepts that she tweets about. She is a seven-year-old child who does not speak English. A journalist for The New Yorker noted that her "video statements often have a scripted quality, as if she is being coached by her mother to communicate her thoughts in a language that she is only beginning to learn."

> In a now deleted tweet, Bana said it is "better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia & assad commit #HolocaustAleppo".

> In a separate incident, Bana appeared on Turkish television program Channel TV, where she was asked what her favorite food was, and she replied, "Save the children of Syria".

"Bana" is a media campaign.

>The problem in WtD was that it was intended to rouse nationalistic furore justifying a military intervention.

Yes


""Bana" is a media campaign."

A child.


"Bana" is both a real child and very likely a well resourced propaganda operation.


So many conspiracies!

I simply must put on my white helmet to keep out the radiation..


Nayirah, for example, was also indeed a child. But she was also a propaganda operation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayirah_(testimony)


I covered what it was like growing up in Syria before the war with fellow software developer Nada in my podcast if you'd like an in depth answer from an actual Syrian: https://mattfraser.co.nz/2017/04/08/s1e1-syrian-woman-nada/


Thanks for this. It's always great to hear personal experiences.

I read an interview of a female architect still living in Syria. If anyone has a source, I would appreciate it.

If I recall correctly, she said what follows. I hope I am not putting words into her mouth.

She had been urged to get out of the country. She chose to stay as she wanted to be involved in rebuilding her city.

She criticised those who wanted to go back to what it was like before the uprising. She said that all was not nice in the past.

She pointed to the corruption in the exam system. She pointed to the fact that people could not travel freely throughout the city, as different parts of the city were controlled by different factions.


The UN is not objective. They keep repeating the "peaceful protests" thing, but what sort of peaceful protests would aim to take down the president by force ? I'm not an Assad supporter but come on, we saw how that peaceful protests ended up in Libya; France was doing air strike to stop the Libya government to interrupt the protests, people killed their former leader with their bare hands.

The only peaceful end during the Arab spring was in Tunisia as their former president escaped in the beginning. A coalition of western countries took over their country to "establish democracy", and now Tunisian people are letting Europe teach them how to be a democracy. It's not free of course. I met bunch of Danish people getting paid really well for working for Tunisian government, as a part of the transition.

Syria was a failure for whoever organized Arab spring. Assad gave a CNN interview in the beginning of the war, saying that he'll lead the transition to democracy. But, he'll fight whoever choose violence. Whoever organized those protests already wanted a war, so it didn't matter what Assad said. Please go back to 2011 editions of your favorite western papers and look at the news about Syria, reporters based in London were hysterically telling people about how peaceful protesters in Syria are being killed by a demon, Assad. Same propaganda machine most recently made campaigns about a group called White Helmets, founded by James Le Mesurier, a well known MI6 agent.

I traveled three times during the war to the Turkey - Syrian border, volunteered in the refugee camps there. There was not even one UN tent although every year they make big promises such as water pipeline, schools, etc. If you look at UNCHR website, you'll see they are asking money for regions where they don't even report from because they got no volunteers there at all. Later, I traveled to other middle eastern countries around Syria and met chance to meet UN volunteers, told them my observation about their operation. They explained me how they basically count victims and collect money. They bring an NBA or Hollywood star to one of the camps in either Iraq or Lebanon, take some photos and fill the pockets with millions of money that will be spent in 5 star hotels, business class flight tickets, western bars and restaurants in the wealthy neighborhoods of poor middle eastern towns.

If you're looking for truth, don't expect these corrupt organizations to tell you, do some research. Who was the US foreign minister during arab spring, who has been backing his/her political campaigns ? If you find this name, all you need is to research that person and find out what he has been organizing "peaceful protests that turn to violent" all over the world, from Ukraina to Egypt, from Libya to Syria.


The protests probably started organically, the neighbouring Arab Springs seemed successful at the time and Syria was dealing with a long drought, food being one of the primary causes of major protest. Various Sunni generals then defected, probably figuring it would end quickly and they would be primed for chief roles in the new government. al-Assad didn't step down though, and outside help started pouring in from both sides.

Whether Clinton got involved before the Sunni generals defected or after, I can't say for sure. The US has no qualms supporting potential coups but Sunni's rising up against an Alawite leader isn't surprising either. Blaming her for the protests seems like a stretch. Acting like she's some lone agent in the US pushing this kind of stuff requires ignoring centuries of history.


I was not talking about Clinton :) Political actors are just actors, we need to look at who are behind them. She got most of her funding from George Soros, also let him made speech in her campaign meetings about how Soros wants to take down authoritarian regimes in middle east without military invasion, in 2008. At that time, Soros was offering a model that worked in Ukraine. And that model was used in Arab Spring.


What a load of conspiracy-bullshit:

>If you're looking for truth, don't expect these corrupt organizations to tell you, do some research.

Here's the data, from the horses' mouth: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php. UNHCR runs accommodation for half a million refugees. More importantly, they have changed tactics in the last decades, and are trying to get refugees to live among the normal population, instead of tent cities.

If you doubt their numbers, a simple search on youtube will give you hundreds of videos from UNHCR camps. Are they all fake? Here's one of many: https://youtu.be/04sN1xn5tTQ?t=3m17s

> Who was the US foreign minister during arab spring, who has been backing his/her political campaigns ? If you find this name, all you need is to research that person and find out what he has been organizing "peaceful protests that turn to violent" all over the world, from Ukraina to Egypt, from Libya to Syria.

Ohh, now I get it! It's the evil zionist George Soros, isn't it? Yes, I'm sure it's Hilary Clinton's jewish conspiracy that started all this.


How does a civilian population suddenly get a bunch of training and weapons all of the sudden? Why are (or were) so many of the "upset civilians" of foreign origin?

Cmmon, no need to yell "tinfoil hat Zionist Clinton Soros conspiracy theorist"! in an attempt to discredit. That doesn't help the "story".

It's plainly obvious there are a number of interested parties who are participating by proxy. Or openly even. There is nothing conspiratorial about that. It's pretty obvious.


I follow UNCHR's budget, reports and their activities since 2013, also met a lot of people working for both UNCHR and UN. Discussing this issue with a hysterical internet troll would be an offend.


>The only peaceful end during the Arab spring was in Tunisia as their former king escaped in the beginning.

Tunisia is not a kingdom, never had a king.

> A coalition of western countries took over their country to "establish democracy"

Again, this shows your lack of knowledge, there was no take over or any coalition that went to Tunisia.

> letting Europe teach them how to be a democracy

Working for someone and "Teaching them" are two different things.

> Syria was a failure for whoever organized Arab spring

If you don't know who initiated the Arab spring, you should probably not talk about it as if you were an expert.

> Assad gave a CNN interview in the beginning of the war, saying that he'll lead the transition to democracy

Ohhh, Thank you. Let's all believe the guy who is and was using violance before the arab spring even happened and is a dictator.

> Please go back to 2011 editions of your favorite western papers and look at the news about Syria, reporters based in London were hysterically telling people about how peaceful protesters in Syria are being killed by a demon, Assad.

That is actually true. Other parties/nations got involved in the conflict with different interests. Situation escalated and became what it is today; a nightmate.


They're not repeating the "peaceful protests" thing just like that:

    The conflict in Syria is complex

    It dates back to March 2011, when several teenagers 
    were arrested for painting anti-government graffiti 
    in the southern town of Daraa.

    Public demonstrations calling for democratic reforms
    spread across the country, meeting swift government
    opposition. Peaceful uprisings gave way to violent 
    clashes, and ultimately a brutal civil war.


can you please write more about this and especially about your personal experiences? or provide some links so that we can do our own research. but i wouldnt even know where to start....


This focuses on the tragedy but is unrealistic about the social reality. Syria has been loaded with sectarian divisions and strife for thousands of years. Many of the clans fighting in this war have been in conflict for very long periods of time already. The quote peace unquote that existed in Syria did so in large part because the leadership had so aggressively murdered its detractors. It is true that much has been lost, but it is false that this is all some kind of strange mystery that was put upon Syria from the outside. Conflicts festered in Syria for a very long time and eventually without adequate solutions bubbled over and initiated this catastrophe.


I visited for a couple of months just before the war. Such an amazing country with beautiful ancient cities.

Here are some photos I posted a while ago from a similar thread:

http://imgur.com/a/gkqlj#0


Highly recommended read (and less political than the title might imply): https://theringer.com/syria-barack-obama-legacy-853644abdd1b

The author has some great personal stories of what it was like to visit family in Syria under the Assad regime.


Would love to read this, but no scrollbar. I don't like websites dictating to me how I should consume content.


Not the time...


Nice presentation. First time I ever saw a web site use phone's gyrometer to rotate around for 360 view.


Have you seen hypernom.com for visualizing 4 dimensions?


I dislike intellectually dishonest titles, that try to hide the humanitarian or politically oriented motif.

In this instance, much of the material is not about what Syria was like before, but about the horrors of war. And that Syrians are great refugees to have...

a) they do not really want to leave Syria and live in first world countries

b) they are more educated than Americans... With a strange 'inference and comparasing'

" .. 18 in 100 Syrians* have advanced degree vs 11 in 100 Americans ..." *Based on Syrian immigrants living in the US

What does it even mean? Syrian refugees have a projected higher contribution to US economy than Americans?

Overall, the article should have been in Arabic, English, Spanish and Chinese.

The article should have been labeled: "50 great reasons why you should want displaced Syrian refugees to immigrate into your country..."


It's an interesting article, but they really should have stayed away from the fancy navigation. I found it so unusable on my ipad that I gave up halfway through.


Syria was and still is beautiful and very rich in culture.

Just a pro-Assad post

Although it is a very complicated conflict, I would argue that most Syrians like Assad and not "just speak good because their afraid of the secret police". Just by looking at the videos [1] [2] which capture refugees voting, we can see genuinely excited people going to vote in someone they always believed. Even mainstream outlets had difficulty to capture otherwise. You can see in several places people talking like few would do of their own presidents. Obviously it was not the perfect country like every other, and there was people dissatisfied. But what the rebels want is not democracy, is Assad out. And Islamic law.

[1] Massive turnout for Syrian vote in Lebanon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vgx6ZmWywM

[2] Syrians abroad begin casting votes in presidential election https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyD61Q5KVNk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXt5MhiPHas

Syrian to BBC Reporter: "You Are Not Telling the Truth About Syria" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKjsjEJDMUk

Most Syrians back President Assad, but you'd never know from western media https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jan/17/syrian...

Syria: Damascus celebrates as Assad wins re-election https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zufjMn8Jf0

Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad wins post of President of Syria with sweeping majority of votes at 88.7% https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-e7W_INzbo

Syria Election Celebrations 2014/06/05 إحتفالات سوريا بفوز الرئيس بشار الأسد بالإنتخابات https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsgEJvAMt4s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6jMxI16VAg

Video Pro-Assad used mistakenly by anti-Assad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X18sC1kCoK0

Pro Assad Rally - 03a - Aleppo, 19-10-2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3f9QB_z-_Q

Pro Assad Rally Damascus, Syria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsDP8S3ry1A

Millions attend pro-Assad rally https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNEFfdTNaqk


"I wish there were more definite sources detailing what the actual conflict is about. "

The death of Hamza Khateeb[1] comes to mind. Political and civil unrest was already underway, but the open violence against civilians including children sent Syria down a path. The government butchered that child among others caught for demonstrations or showing dissent.

"The attitude of the government against the people of Syria has not changed"

Laughable commentary in the face of regular chemical weapons attacks by the regime and it's paramilitary forces/Hezbollah allies.

This is a government that besieges and pummels civilian areas with indiscriminate weapons until they accept forced displacement under the 'reconciliation' campaign. To say it's attitude has not changed since before the protests is absurd.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Hamza_Ali_Al-Khateeb


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14408068 and marked it off-topic.


Why would the Syrian government torture and mutilate a 13-year-old boy and then return the body/proof to the parents?

Same with the current gas-bombs. What is the rationale behind this besides being pure evil? Assad made great progress in Syria and is pushing back ISIS and Al-Nusra. There was no strategical need for dropping gas but still, he apparently did... why would he?

Doesn't make sense to me...


It doesn't make any sense, unless you realize that the deep state wants to destabilize Syria and dethrone Assad by force.

Then suddenly the narrative we're being offered starts making more sense. And I stress the word narrative, as in "story".


Sorry for my ignorance but what is the 'deep state' . Never heard of it.


Late reply. Not sure if you will see this, but think of it as the part of the government that doesn't change with the new administration. That is very much simplified, but gives you some idea.

You think some greenhorn administration comes in and says how things are done? No, the deep state makes the rules. They know the game, they have played it forever, they make the rules. What changes every four years is just a facade.


[dead]


Sure, burying your head in the sand is a strategy too. Good for you.

Which people on the ground? You sound like you're getting your talking points from CNN.

How about a reporter who has personally visited Syria and Aleppo herself?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueyWGyddepw

You do not seem to be aware that there are terrorists operating in Syria that are funded by the west. Let's just start with that.


> Why would the Syrian government torture and mutilate a 13-year-old boy and then return the body/proof to the parents?

The obvious possible motive is to send a signal that that's what happens if you oppose the regime. Your kid disappearing isn't as strong a message as receiving his corpse in pieces.

> There was no strategical need for dropping gas but still, he apparently did... why would he?

There was strategical need to drop bombs, even Assad and Putin acknowledged that. Why not gas? The lesson from the previous gas attack a few years ago, whether or not he did it, was that he could get away with it.

And there's been ethnical cleansing going on on both sides in that region. So it isn't the most surprising thing either.


> The death of Hamza Khateeb

Ok, but how do you go from that to islamic state ? And frankly, how does a protest like that get organised in the first place by the locals ?

> regular chemical weapons attacks by the regime

Maybe I'm misinformed, but I seem to only recall that the government was accused of doing this once. This is neither regular, nor was it the cause of the conflict.


Islamic state really doesn't have much to do with the conflict, except that there was suddenly a lot of territory in eastern Syria that the Syrian state could no longer defend, i. e. a power vacuum.

Northern Iraq was similarly weak, and there was a lot of frustration against the Iraqi government, plus many unemployed former members of Saddam Hussein's military with some experience.

So they thought "fuck it, lets start our own country. With blackflags and dead hookers". A bit like these sovereign citizens, but with better social media.


>Ok, but how do you go from that to islamic state ?

Through two years of civil war, causing unrest, instability, and dissatisfaction with both sides of the conflict. Add in the fighters who had been in the same situation for the past decade in neighboring Iraq, and you end up with a large group of armed people that want nothing to do with Russia or the US.


> Ok, but how do you go from that to islamic state ?

How did Trump win the election?


Collusion of the DNC and Hillary campaign to hurt Sanders, Hillary's not ever turning over her work emails when she was done at the State department, Clinton's universal college plan which would bankrupt the United States... and it goes on and on.


Nobody seems to care what Trump does with his emails: https://thenextweb.com/politics/2017/01/26/trump-staffers-in...

More generally, he's been even more disastrous than people campaigning against him expected, up to the point of letting Russian intelligence wander around the Oval Office and take pictures.


"accuse"

Not accused, found culpable by OPCW[1] along with ISIS. The chlorine attacks have been on-going, including the siege of Aleppo, on Hama and north Homs, and in the Damascus area. Method of delivery has been air dropped[2] or IRAM type.

" And frankly, how does a protest like that get organised in the first place by the locals"

I'm hoping this is not a joke. Local coordination committees[3] have long been involved in organizing demonstrations and media exposure. People voted on the weekly theme[4] for Friday protests even. When you see logos of Syrian media on CNN and other outlets it is often bearing the logos of these groups.

Yes, locals and organize protests among themselves and others in their nation.

[1] https://www.opcw.org/news/article/opcw-executive-council-ado...

[2] https://youtu.be/PiDntC_E0SY

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Coordination_Committees_...

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8...


You have an agenda dude.


I helped disseminate numerous live feeds of demonstrations, ones people flippantly suggest locals were incapable of organizing, like this one from Houla Syria[1].

Months later a massacre[2] was committed there by government forces.

Yea, I have an agenda.

[1] http://bambuser.com/v/2394719

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houla_massacre


Wow, I'd love to check this out but I got this message:

"It looks like you're using an older device or web browser. Please update your browser or visit on a newer device."

A bit of an odd thing to see when I'm on the latest version of Chrome on a Mac and it says "In partnership with Google" right under that. What gives?


I got this message as well, latest Chrome, on Sierra, MBP 2016. Also saw this message on the map of land ownership in England that was posted today.


I got the same message, with a pretty recent version of Chrome, for the "ownership in England" site as well. Turned out, they're browser detection was based on/foiled by some third-party JS I had blocked, by default, with uMatrix.

Whitelisting that JS solved the problem.


I got this one too, but solved it accessing with FF.

I prefer migrating to FF rather than restarting chrome at this very moment. They lost a user.


I get this too.

I don't think this is how the internet is supposed to work.


Same.

Working on my phone, I think it's mobile only?


Works for me... Sierra, tried Chromium, Chrome Canary, Safari, and Firefox. Possibly hardware-related? There was a similar complaint in another thread yesterday and it apparently had to do with WebGL not being supported with some GPUs.


It isn't mobile only. I visited it using Chrome Version 58.0.3029.110 (64-bit) on Windows 10. Works fine.


Version 58.0.3029.110 (64-bit), except I'm on a Mac. Is it possible they've got a bug that misidentifies Mac browsers?


They probably assumed everyone using Mac is using Safari. I have seen lots of code shared on programming forums that simply check for Mac and assume the person is using Safari.


It's not a mac problem. I'm on a mac. The site doesn't work in Chrome, but it does work in Safari.


Then you should read better "programming forums", because I haven't seen anything like that since the late 1990s, and it's preposterous to think that something produced with this level of quality would commit such atrocities.

Also, it does work on Chrome, Chromium, Firefox.


One of those forums was Stackoverflow. I don't know a better programming Q&A forum than SO. Please share so that I can switch to them.


The site didn't work for Chrome on Ubuntu either with the same version. Firefox on Ubuntu worked though.


No, same problem here with latest Chrome on Windows 10.


Version 57 on Mac. "Older device or Web browser"

Edit: updated to 58, still get the message. What a joke

Edit2: Worked under FF on Mac


I am Win10, Chrom 58, same message. Yeah, what a joke.


Maybe it is a load balancing strategy. Randomly tell people that they need a modern browser to control trafic.


Maybe they are sniffing for OS and assume you are using Safari.


For me it didn't work in Firefox on macOS, but it worked in latest Chromium. What a mystery.


For the record: I don't think that Mid-East is ready for democracy yet (the majority wouldn't support basic human rights IMO) so the biggest mistake was for the "West" to support the Arab Spring. Yeah, those dictators were bad, but they were predictably bad.

Nature abhors vacuum and radical Islam is filling in.

P.S. I don't care about down votes.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14410329 and marked it off-topic.


Iran had democracy in 1953. The democratically elected prime minister was overthrown in a coup that was orchestrated by the CIA in order to protect the profits of BP. This isn't a conspiracy, this information has since been declassified. Look it up on Wikipedia. If there's any truth to your statement that the middle east "can't handle democracy" it's in no small part due to our interference.


I think there is a finer point to be made here.

For instance, the CIA couldn't care less about BP. Now, MI6 surely did. Rather, the CIA influenced action against Mossadegh because it thought he was a Communist.

Whether MI5 convinced the CIA that he was a communist threat is the more critical question. Some have thought that MI5 simply convinced the CIA of such a story to take out their own bogeyman while keeping their hands clean. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

Of course, whether or not he actually was one is less notable than his association and support for those who were, as well as his nationalization of the oilfields (technically not the nationalization of BP, but close enough).


Name one Mid-east democracy right now that "we" would want to live in /where basic human rights are protected 1

1. Minus Israel....not that it fits my description.


So what?

1764 America was a subjugated colony of a monarch, I'd hate to live there. 1863 America was embroiled in Civil War, I'd hate to live there. 2017 America? Democratic global superpower, lots of room for improvement but I still love living here.

What about Germany? 1944 Germany was a fascist racist shithole. 2017 Germany is one of the leaders of the free world.

We don't control the past... shit happened, get over it. We learn, mature, and build the future.


The time will come when Westerners stop pretending Democracy is more important than a roof over your head and food on the table. All the praise in the world for North America and Western Europe for managing do develop with democratic governments, but China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and others are there to show that prosperity reaches a broader definition than liberal democracy. Developing countries need growth, not ballots.

From someone who would be really happy with a Pinochet-style dictatorship instead of their current gov


The saying is "A democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch"

By democracy I mean a system where basic human rights are protected and cannot be voted out. Would most Saudis, in a fair vote, allow for Catholic Churches to be open here? If the answer is no (and I think it is) then democracy is bad. Same for women rights, criticizing their faith, gay rights etc.


Given the current US climate I think a public vote about mosques being allowed might well fail.

Gay rights in the USA is a fairly recent thing in the scheme of things, and it's still not evenly distributed or enforced across states.

And if you think you can get into any public office in a large number of states if you criticize Christianity or even support a women's right to abortion, let alone gay rights, you must be joking.

All I'm saying is America isn't a basition of equal rights by a lot of measures, some in name more than in practice. The last lynching was in 1981 for Christ's sake. So lambasting other countries for not being so tolerant is not a great point to make, IMO.

1. https://www.aclu.org/map/nationwide-anti-mosque-activity


So majority rule is bad if you don't agree with the majority?



upvoted; I think you're wrong, but that is a position worth discussing.

Fascism and fanaticism are primitive modes of society, a stable society with extensive trade inevitably learns and matures towards liberal democracy.

The Middle East was making progress before the west destroyed stability in the name of exploitative exports and proxy wars. We are directly and exclusively responsible for the return of fascism and fanaticism. Violence only begets more violence; ISIS is just another head on the hydra, murder everyone and 3 more organizations will take their place.

The path to peace is deep and sustained economic aid, funding native education centers, rebuilding national identities, and facilitating mutual demilitarization... in addition to weening the west off of oil through deep investments in modern energy sources.


Democracy is working great in the US though, right?


Well, yes it is! Trump may not be the liberal, modern president you might have wished for, but compared to pretty much any non-democratic leader, and even many supposedly-democratically elected leaders, he's pretty good if you ask me (I don't support his policies, but he seems to defend his country's interests sincerely and honestly, something most people in the world wish they could say about their leaders).


Actually, yes!

Have you ever been on an ops-heavy software team? Change never happens until the right level of management feels pain. Politics of all forms is the art of managing pain. It's never perfect, and will never be perfect.

If you really care about this stuff, focus on the second derivative. The status quo doesn't matter, the present is too short to fix. The direction we're headed matters a little bit, but 300 million people take ages to change so that's a very laggy metric. What's important is how we are changing the direction we are moving in.

America has flaws, we feel pain, and now we're self-correcting :) Lots of change in the pipeline, Trump is a symptom of how bad it got and now good it's about to become.




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