The aftermath of a barrel bombing by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Aleppo on March 18 (Getty)
Earlier this week the famous-for-being-famous celebrity Kim Kardashian regurgitated Syrian regime disinformation about a rebel massacre of Armenians in the town of Kasab in the country’s northeast on her Twitter feed after it was captured by rebels.
The Tweet – Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get this trending!!!!
#SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide – went viral, further damaging the reputation of Syria’s opposition, a ragtag rebellion struggling to make inroads against Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who continues to massacre hundreds of people daily in bombing raids and inside his dark dungeons. Unlike in Kasab, these murders have been meticulously documented by independent human rights groups and the UN. Read more
Anyone who thought references to the Assads’ “killing machine” in Syria’s civil war was hyperbolic metaphor should read a horrendously literal report that has just surfaced, detailing the “industrial scale” killing of about 11,000 detainees in the regime’s dungeons. It provides harrowing confirmation of what organisations from the UN to Human Rights Watch had partially documented: the systematic liquidation, usually by or after torture, of those who question or combat the Assad tyranny.
The report is based largely on evidence assembled and smuggled out on a memory stick by a Syrian military policeman, codenamed Caesar to protect him and his family from reprisals, whose job it was to photograph the dead bodies, often up to 50 a day. The evidence has been examined by lead prosecutors for the war crimes tribunals of Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia and top international forensics experts, commissioned by a London law firm on behalf of Qatar, which has been a leading supporter of Syria’s rebels. They found it to be credible evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes that would stand up in a court of law. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Aid workers’ comparison of typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines with the one after 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is “daunting”, says Shawn Donnan. It raises questions about whether the world has learned lessons and will apply them now.
♦ In Europe, Germany’s “holy trinity” – tight monetary policy, export-led growth and financial system dominated by small banks – came under fire last week from the ECB and the European Commission, comment’s Peter Spiegel in Brussels.
♦ Three hospitals in northern Israel have been treating severely wounded Syrians, reports FT’s John Reed. Some of the wounded are civilians, while others acknowledge affiliation with the Free Syrian Arming fighting Bashar al-Assad.
♦ Outside private funds are helping sustain the Syrian conflict, writes The New York Times. They exacerbate divisions in the opposition and strengthen its most extreme elements.
♦ Mike Giglio, from BuzzFeed, tells the story of a Syrian activist who believes the revolution is already lost.
♦ Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s organisation Setad has been used to amass assets worth tens of billions of dollars. Its holdings rival the ones of the late shah and support Khamenei’s power over the country, according to Reuters. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ “Assad is using starvation to commit his murders”, says FT columnist David Gardner. The many Syrians who face starvation are victims of a “silent massacre”, which does not seem to call as much international attention as the use of sarin nerve gas did.
♦ In Roula Khalaf’s opinion, Egypt is in the wrong path and deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s trial is a clear sign of that. As military rule creeps back, it seems that a much broader intolerance is setting in.
♦ Somalia’s pirate king Mohamed Abdi Hassan wanted to be immortalized on the big screen as a seafaring bandit and got arrested instead. He was caught by the police in Belgium, where he wanted to consult on the film based on his life. Known as “Afweyne” (“big mouth”), the pirate made Somali piracy into an organized, multimillion-dollar industry.
♦ Somali piracy is so lucrative that the Global Post asks: “Do you earn more money than a Somali pirate?” The World Bank, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Interpol’s Maritime Piracy Task Force estimate that the owners of 179 ships hijacked between since 2005 paid out ransoms totalling over $400m.
♦ In Murder on the Mekong, a report supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Jeffe Howe writes about the largest massacre of civilians outside of China in over half a century. It all happened in 2011 in the Golden Triangle – the borderlands between Burma, Laos and Thailand – and was first explained by Thai military commandos as a regular confrontation with drug runners. Read more
♦ Zhou Yongkang, a former security chief and member of the Chinese Communist party’s Standing Committee of the politburo, looks set to pay the price for defending Bo Xilai as China cracks down on corruption.
♦ Although Ireland has been lauded for its austerity programme and is about to leave the EU and IMF bailout, concerns persist that its recovery will run out of steam.
♦ Michael Goldfarb at the New York Times thinks the London property market “is no longer about people making a long-term investment in owning their shelter, but a place for the world’s richest people to park their money at an annualised rate of return of around 10 percent.”
♦ Take a look at these photos: the Mark Twain branch of Detroit public library is another casualty of the city’s bankruptcy.
♦ Yassin Al Haj Saleh, who was jailed for 16 years under the Assad regime and whose family was jailed by Islamist rebels, says a poignant goodbye to Syria. Read more
♦ The value of the drone market has soared to more than $5bn in just a few years, helped by Pentagon and CIA reliance. However, privacy worries are threatening the burgeoning domestic market.
♦ The fourth-largest auction house in the world is run by Wang Yannan, the daughter of former Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang and child of the cultural revolution. Its success has come from Chinese collectors and investors seeking art that might have destroyed lives during the cultural revolution.
♦ The “Death to America” slogan has been a feature of public life in Iran for more than three decades, but Hassan Rouhani’s push for moderation has prompted calls for the slogan to be dropped.
♦ Some Republicans are sceptical that a default would actually be a catastrophe for the US.
♦ David Gardner thinks Bashar al-Assad’s diplomatic luck could run out as the “killing machine grinds forward”.
♦ Islamists entering Syria are starting to prefer transit towns, with good food and video games, to the fighting front.
♦ Gulf states are going to test people to “detect” homosexuals entering their countries. Read more
♦ Serbia plans to borrow billions from the United Arab Emirates – the country’s deputy prime minister warned that it could face bankruptcy without urgent steps to cut public sector wages.
♦ The Washington Post breaks down the effect of the US government shut down on individual departments.
♦ Ezra Klein at the Washington Post argues that “the American political system is being torn apart by deep structural changes that don’t look likely to reverse themselves anytime soon” and a “deal to reopen the government won’t fix what ails American politics.”
♦ Slate reports on how the Egyptian army is stepping up its efforts to shut down the illicit trade tunnels between Sinai and Gaza. Its campaign in north Sinai is affecting both civilians and militants.
♦ Bashar al-Assad’s regime is waging a PR campaign, spreading stories of rebels engaging in “sex jihad” and massacring Christians, according to Der Spiegel.
♦ British artist Banksy’s latest work, which focuses on Syria, has Syria-watchers bemused, the New York Times reports.
♦ The latest book from Paul Collier, co-director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, examines the impact of migration and the benefits of it to migrants, host communities and those left behind. Read more