by Ken Stone
I have been invited to join the Second International Tour Of Peace to Syria. The purpose of the mission is to show solidarity with the people and government of Syria who, for five years, have been resisting an invasion and occupation, launched by western countries (including Canada) and by oil-rich Arab monarchies.
For five long and bloody years, the people of Syria have endured attacks by terrorist mercenaries, recruited mainly from foreign countries, who have killed nearly half a million people, turned 11 million Syrians into internal and external refugees, kidnapped women and children for the international sex trade, laid waste to housing and civilian infrastructure, committed unspeakably barbaric acts on Syrian civilians and soldiers, levelled churches and mosques and killed their faith leaders, destroyed world historic sites and looted their artifacts. Yet, the Syrian people and the Syrian Arab Army, with the help of their Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese (Hezbollah) allies, not only continue to resist their attackers, they have recently turned the tables on them and started to liberate the terrorist-occupied areas of their homeland. Currently, a Russian-American partial cessation of hostilities is in effect and peace talks for a political solution to the Syrian crisis are set to resume on April 13, 2016.
In this context, the Second International Tour of Peace will leave for Syria, with delegates from several countries, in mid-April 2016, hopefully to observe the Syrian parliamentary elections that have been set for April 13, to visit the ancient city of Palmyra (recently liberated from ISIS), and to join in with the celebration of Syrian Independence Day on April 17. The parliamentary elections were called the day after the Russian-American partial cessation of hostilities was declared (in February 2016) and are an ambitious war-time attempt to show the world that Syria does indeed have a functioning democratic system, contrary to the picture painted by governments and mainstream media in the West. The visit to Palmyra, a world heritage site, is to applaud its recent liberation from ISIS, thanks to the Russian air force and the Syrian Army. (The US-led coalition, which let the ISIS head-choppers cross the open desert in a convoy to capture Palmyra ten months ago, were nowhere to be seen in Palmyra’s liberation.) Thanks to a Russian team of de-mining experts, Palmyra will be open for tourism again shortly. The Syrian government has pledged to rebuild the Arch of Triumph and temple destroyed by the ISIS barbarians. However, the looted artifacts may never be recovered. The celebration of Syrian Independence Day will be an opportunity for the members of the Second International Tour of Peace to Syria to demonstrate that peace activists and ordinary people in the West do NOT support the illegal war of aggression against Syria being waged from Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa, Canberra, Riyadh, Ankara, Tel Aviv, and other world capitals.
I have been personally invited to join the Second Tour of Peace because of my five years of active and vocal opposition to the illegal Western war of aggression against Syria. My intention is to take advantage of this peace mission to take photographs and write articles about what I hear and see in Syria and to post them at Crescent-Online.net (and possibly on my Facebook page if the internet is available) in order to share the experience of solidarity with the courageous people and soldiers of Syria among the widest possible global audience. Upon my return, I plan to make myself available to travel to speak to audiences in Canada – without honoraria – about my experiences in Syria and to argue that the Trudeau government should quit the US-led coalition, bring home all Canadian troops and equipment, end sanctions against Syria, re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria, and leave both the FSG and NATO.
I am very pleased to have been invited by Zafar Bangash, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, and member of the editorial board of Crescent-Online, to submit my reports from Syria to this online magazine, which has a world-wide audience. Zafar has been a longtime colleague of mine in the Canadian peace movement and someone whose views on West Asia (the Middle East) I share.
I look forward to submitting several more articles about my experiences in the coming two weeks.
Visit the Facbook page for International Tours of Peace to Syria, where many photos and explanations from the Second Tour are posted.