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Category: Syria

Study of foreign journalists covering Syria

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In April 2014, the results of a study on the traumatic effects on journalists covering Syria were published in The National. The article includes comments from journalists Lyse Doucet and Janine di Giovanni, as well as notes on my own experiences of covering Syria. Prof. Anthony Feinstein has studied the effects of covering war on journalists for over a decade, and his detailed examination of the data will appear later in 2014.

The BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet is seen reporting from a school in Damascus which had been hit by mortars. BBC / Getty Images

Between the lines: counting the cost of reporting from Syria

Stephen Starr

April 24, 2014 Updated: April 27, 2014 15:12:00

“Nothing prepares you for what you witness yourself on the ground and come face to face within this worsening war and grave humanitarian crisis – no video on YouTube or timeline of tweets can fully convey the enormity of what it feels like on the ground,” says the BBC’s Lyse Doucet, one of the world’s most respected journalists who has covered war around the world for almost three decades.



The Daily Beast names ‘Revolt in Syria’ a best book about the rest of the world

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The Daily Beast

From The Daily Beast December 24, 2013:

“Why has the Syrian revolution faltered? Why is Bashar Al-Assad still in power? Starr’s book, published in 2012, now looks remarkably prescient—not because it sets out the answers, but because it introduces us to the anxieties of a cross-section of Syrians as the uprising against Assad acquired momentum. Starr, an Irish journalist, is familiar with Syria, having lived and worked there as a journalist for four years. He supplies a vivid picture of a tyrannical state that eradicated political opposition with chilling efficiency. But like the best reporters, Starr lets the people do the talking—and many of them side with Assad’s dictatorship against the revolutionary alternative.”

Read the rest here.

‘Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising’ page 194

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Here’s page 194 of ‘Revolt in Syria’:

Amazon author’s page is here. Reviews and comments are welcomed.

Food aid being sold in Syrian stores, activists says – Globe & Mail

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Syria Live


The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Mar. 28 2013, 9:12 AM EDT

Since late last year, there have been reports of foreign food aid being sold in stores across government-controlled parts of the city of Homs.

An activist in the city now says more types of tinned fava beans have been found for sale at stores in the city.

The photo accompanying this post is one of three sent that show tins of fava beans with the World Food Program’s logo displayed and the message ‘this can not for sale.’

Geo-tagging information on these photos tells us they were taken in or close to Homs.

Alaa, an activist who uses the pseudonym Big Al Brand, said he bought several of these tins before realizing they were WFP aid. The photos are his.

He says other food aid for sale in the city includes flour which had been divided up into smaller portions and re-sold in one kilo bags.

“The flour prices are high, around 90 (Syrian) pounds (about 85 Canadian cents) a kilo,” Alaa said. “It was 45 pounds last year.”

He added that the WFP tinned beans were being sold slightly below the market price – “50 pounds a can while regular non-WFP are 60-65 Syrian pounds.”

The owner of the shop where the food aid is being sold was apparently shot multiple times by security forces in late 2011 and fears speaking to the foreign press.

Of course, we can’t verify the extent of these claims. The Syrian government carefully vets the reporters it grants visas to, and journalists inside Syria are heavily restricted in where they can work and whom they can speak to.

The WFP denies that food aid is being sold in significant quantities in Homs, but reports of aid being seized by Syrian troops have surfaced in the past.

“In all the sites, villages and sub-districts visited by WFP, our teams did not notice or see any WFP food commodity being sold in the market,” said Laure Chadraoui, a WFP public information officer.

“In some very limited cases, individuals might resort to trading some commodities we provide for cash example to pay for transportation. But again, this is not a phenomenon at any scale.”

Huge pledges of money for Syrians were made at a major conference in January, but those inside are expected to receive only a fraction.

Only one-third of the $1.5-billion (U.S.) pledged at the gathering of countries in Kuwait on Jan. 30 was designated for Syrians displaced inside the country. The $591-million that is to go to people in-country will be handled by the Syrian government, something that has angered activists and opponents of the Assad regime.

In February, the World Food Program announced plans to reach 2.5 million people in Syria by April. The UN says more than a million people inside Syria are in need of food aid.

Looking to Canada, of the $23.5-million disbursed to Syrians by CIDA last year, only $9.3-million was provided for operations inside the country. The WFP says that on average 40 to 45 per cent of the areas it has been reaching are opposition-controlled, but violence regularly stops it from reaching communities most in need.

The drums of war beat louder for Syria – Globe & Mail

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Syria Live


The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Mar. 07 2013, 11:59 AM EST

After meeting Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference he was convinced weapons being sent by Qatar to Syrian rebels were being transferred to “moderates” among the disparate groups of fighters.

This new rhetoric represents a definitive, if perhaps subtle turnaround in Washington’s stance on the Syrian conflict.

Spencer Ackerman on Wired points out a top US commander told a Senate panel this week that options are being readied to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.

“That’s a marked shift in attitude, at the very least, from previous U.S. military assessments,” he says, referring to past statements from U.S. military brass saying 75,000 troops would be required to secure the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons.

All of a sudden things are moving very fast indeed. Syria’s disparate political opposition is to meet in Istanbul next Tuesday to appoint an inaugural prime minister, something it has been attempting to do for months. One of the international community’s longstanding demands of the opposition has been to get organized – organize and elect leaders Washington and Europe can sit down with and talk to before Western states makes any commitments to the Syrian opposition.

Britain’s foreign minister has also been upping the rhetoric this week. Regarding the arming of moderate rebels, William Hague said Sunday: “You can reach consensus [on arming fighters] eventually when humanitarian need is so great and the loss of life is so great that you have to do something new to save lives. That’s why I don’t rule it out in the future.”

The Syrian regime in Damascus continues to believe – publicly at least – that it will win the war. President Bashar al-Assad made this clear in an interview with the London Sunday Times newspaper last week.

For the first time, Washington is talking to Syrian rebels. Fred Hof, until last year the State Department’s point man on Syria, wrote this week how President Obama “seems to have overcome his understandable, if regrettable reluctance to enter this key arena.”

This will embolden France and Britain – long-time supporters of arming theright rebels, particularly with a European Union arms embargo on Syria up for review again in May. With hundreds dying every day on the ground, a refugee crisis that risks destabilizing neighboring countries and with Washington leaning ever closer to the idea of arming some rebels, the drums of war in Syria beat louder.

Five Years in Damascus – ForeignPolicy.com

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A bloated dead donkey greeted me as I entered Syria in January 2007. “Welcome to Assad’s Syria” read a huge billboard hanging over the Bab al-Hawa crossing with Turkey.

The first person I spoke to upon arriving in Damascus was a machine gun-toting soldier guarding a government building. “Where is the Harameih hostel?” I asked. He had no idea what I was saying, never mind what I wanted.

Mosquito and bedbug bites, sunstroke and diarrhea. Agonizing Arabic-language classes and cold showers thrice daily. Weight loss. Dust. I had no idea how I had found myself in this country. But I would stay five years, before the horrors of the country’s incipient civil war drove me away this month.

Syria’s Economic Implosion – Foreign Policy.com

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Inside Syria’s Economic Implosion

Under the weight of sanctions and eight months of protests, the Syrian economy is starting to buckle. But that doesn’t mean business leaders will abandon the regime.

BY STEPHEN STARR November 15, 2011

DAMASCUS, Syria – A Quran sits atop a 4-foot Sony speaker in Wissam’s modern Damascus office. It is 9 a.m., and Wissam, a stout 30-something businessman, seems flustered. He arrived a little late for this interview, wiping beads of sweat off his forehead before sitting down next to a cabinet, where books authored by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett peek out. Wissam’s company owns the import rights for Sony products in Syria, but he’s unlikely to sell many speakers or flat-screen televisions in the near future. Read on here.

Gorillaz stage historic gig in Syria – The Guardian

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Arabian heights: Gorillaz stage historic gig in Syria

The biggest western act to play Damascus, Damon Albarn’s band avoid Glastonbury mistakes for a rapturous welcome

  • Stephen Starr
  • guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 27 July 2010

    By John Wreford

    From the moment Snoop Dogg’s face appeared on two giant television screens at the back of the stage, set against the walls of the historic 11th-century Damascus Citadel, the Syrian crowd knew they were about to experience something never before seen in their country.

    Syria’s new best friend – Le Monde diplomatique

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    Exclusive June 2010, by Stephen Starr

    Up until very recently, Syria had its eyes firmly fixed on the spoils to be offered by the United States and its western allies. Today, the same may not be so true. For several years Damascus has been hoping to realign with the West and welcome famous politicians and diplomats to the “new” Syria.

    Mobile Library project – JO Magazine

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    JO Magazine

    In rural Syria, where state institutions are poorly funded, getting access to cultural resources is difficult. But a new initiative is putting culture on a bus and sending it to schools in far-flung communities.

    Words by Stephen Starr. Photography by John Wreford.

    By John Wreford

    IN EIN AL TINEH, a mountain village overlooking the coastal city of Latakia in northern Syria, local schoolchildren are rushing from their classrooms. It’s not break time, nor is school finished for the day. Instead, a small bus parked outside the spartan classrooms is causing the stir this Monday morning. From the outside the Mobile Library is painted with pictures of books and children. Inside, the bus displays several dozen books on subjects ranging from fairytales to science to wildlife stacked along the back and sides.

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