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Three Monsters


An interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh on the role of culture in Syria’s struggle

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer, intellectual and former political prisoner. In 1980, while studying medicine at Aleppo University, the 19-year-old Yassin was arrested by Hafez al-Assad’s government for his membership in the Syrian Communist Party-Political Bureau. He remained in prison for 16 years and 14 days. Since 2000, Yassin al-Haj Saleh has been writing on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world for several Arab newspapers and journals outside Syria. In addition, he has authored and edited four books about Syria, including one about his experience in prison. His fifth book is a critique of contemporary Islam and a critique of the critique.

When the Syrian revolution began Yassin al-Haj Saleh, then working in Damascus, went into hiding for two years in the capital. In 2013, he and his wife, the revolutionary activist Samira Khalil, moved to Douma to work for the revolution. Later that year he travelled to his family home in Raqqa where Da’esh was gaining control, and where two of his brothers had been abducted by Da’esh. His brother, Feras al-Haj Saleh is still in their hands. After living in hiding in Raqqa for two and a half months, Yassin was forced to flee to Turkey where he now lives. His journey is the subject of the documentary Our Terrible Country. Samira Khalil was abducted in Douma in December 2013, along with three other well known activists, Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamda, and Nazem Hammadi, and their whereabouts are still unknown.

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Critical Moments: Strength Through Unity


The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. Instead of directing the game and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own.

Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932)

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Sunday Reading


Zack Fair:


Kerim Friedman:

Reclaim UC:



Jacob Remes:




Cross-Border Operations


It is no longer plausible to describe the state’s borders as geographically fixed or the state as distinguishable from capital or “markets.”

In the international industry that has sprung up around border control and migrant detention, Australia has played a leading role. But anti-border activists there have also kept pace with its innovations, mounting effective boycott and divestment campaigns that disrupt the risk management strategies of contractors who attempt to profit from the industry. Angela Mitropoulos is a Sydney-based academic and theorist who has written extensively on the political-economy and financial systems of migration controls and borders. Since the early 2000s Mitropoulos has also been involved in organising and supporting activists projects through the xBorder network both in Australia and overseas. In the last two years Mitropoulos has been working on Cross Border Operational Matters (xBorderOps), a project that was launched in late 2013 following a sharp escalation in the state’s efforts to militarise the Australian border. XBorderOps campaigns for the abolition of the Australian immigration detention system, but its analysis encompasses a view of borders as an international industry for which Australia continues to function as something of a laboratory.

MATTHEW KIEM: Just recently, we have seen the conservative ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott deliver a speech in London calling on European leaders to adopt more of Australia’s hard-line border policies. This repeats arguments made in April this year by retired Major General Molan (an architect of the Naval interdiction system) following the drowning of more than 900 people off the coast of Libya. In the same period we have seen various far-right groups in Europe – from Dutch anti-immigrant politicians to German neo-Nazis – appropriating Australian government video and graphic propaganda as part of their own campaigns against migration. These are a few of the more obvious or crude signs of how Australia’s border-industrial-complex (BIC) is integrated into an international political-economy of border control. What is your perspective on how Australia’s border control systems have changed in recent years and the significance this has internationally?

ANGELA MITROPOULOS: Xborder has been around since 2000. It was part of the Noborder Network, first emerged alongside De Fabel van de Illegaal and Kein Mensch Ist Illegal within the anti-summit movements as part of an anti-nationalist bloc, and it organised the protests in Woomera (South Australia) in 2002. Though it has been always been project-based, its focus since 2013 has been on the boycott and divestment campaign.

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A Connecting Thing


What if
In the silence that lives deep in despair
Where it’s unclear how life can go on
There, in that moment
That space
Parisians turn their gaze eastward
To Beirut and Baghdad
Libya and Palestine
And Yemen
Somalia and Egypt

What if they looked now
With a knowing they didn’t know last week?
With a connecting thing
With the humble impulse of grief
That reaches for itself

What if they stayed a while longer in that silence
To find what they know little about
But which was done in their name
By ambitious politicians

By pitiless men who
Call for “pitiless” wars
Merciless thugs
Declaring “merciless” (profitable) wars

Maybe walk Haiti’s streets
Potholed and cracked
To pay a “debt” owed by the enslaved
To pave a French terrace

To visit the remnants
Of a former colony’s blast
In Beirut one day before.
See the same tears
Of the same anguish
Then remember, together
Adel Termos and Valentin Ribet

To discover how utterly splendid
How glorious was Iraq
How precious was Baghdad,
Even under a tyrant.
Then see what they did to her
Really, really see.
Be horrified
Aghast at such profound,
Irreparable harm to
An ancient people
And fabled land.

Then dig into the words of rules
Like Rule #81
To see how we are all being duped
And robbed and broken
By the same monsters
Who create proxy monsters like IS

You know,
Syria did not ask for this
They had already splendor
A subversive sophistication and beauty
That minisculed senior and junior tyrants

Palestine did not deserve this fate either.
Our Jerusalem was your Paris.
Romance, religions, books and song.

What if Parisians would see?

What if U.S. Americans saw after Nine Eleven?
Shunned their cowboy and sinister senators?
Read and investigated, instead?
Tried the guilty and damned
The reorderers of world order?

If so, for Americans then
Maybe there’d be no need to ask
What if
For Parisians now.

Connecting Thing