Sunday, August 14, 2016

544 Where has the Syrian Observatory gone? My search for the SOHR in Coventry.

On my holiday in England I decided to try to buy a T-shirt from the famous  Ossama Suleiman, better known under the name Rami Abdul Rachman or Rami Abdulrahman, a name he uses for all his political activist work, which he started in Syria, before he fled to the West.

According to the New York Times ( in 2013) he and his wife run two dress shops in Coventry, England.
Rami has about 200 persons living all over Syria who keep him updated about what is happening in Syria.

He spends many many hours on the phone. Not only calling to Syria, but also to Reuters, CNN. The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel etc. etc.

We can easily say that all the media in the world know about Rami.  Even Putins spokespeople have mentioned him several times.

Rami has a website, and I must say that  I agree very much with the goals off Rami and his SOHR:
More democracy, freedom, justice, equality.  He also is very angry about those who facilitate the destruction of Syria for their own agenda, and wishes these criminels to be sent to the ICC in The Hague.
I fully agree with Rami.

I would love to buy a fine T-short from him and ask him if he thinks his SOHR has taken the right people to side with. ( Criticism)

Coventry has only 300.000 people, and Rami is most certainly the only man in Coventry who is known from Moscow to Los Angeles, and from Oslo to Cape Town.

So when I arrived in Coventry I just asked the people: Where are the shops of Rami Abdulrahman, the man of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights ?

To my surprise only two people had ever heard about him, vaguely, from the news.
And nobody knew where his shop would be.
Nobody had ever seen him.

So I went to the City Council, but for reasons of privacy they cannot confirm if Ossama Suleiman ( Rami)   is or was a citizen of Coventry.

They were helpfull though: If I would have the adress of his shop, they could tell me who was the owner of this property.  If it would not be Rami, then I could ask the owner if he had a tennant named Rami.
But nobody knows where Rami's shop is or was. Nobody heard about this shop or about Rami.

Rami has disappeared from Coventry, and from the memory of the Coventry muslims.

In the Reuters article from december 2008, Rami complains about angry muslims calling him and criticising him.  But where are they now?   ( I have a copy the Reuters article below, in purple.)

At least : I was not able to find anyone with a memory of Rami.

I went to the local Newspaper  (The Coventry Telegraph). I gave them all the time in the world, and finally they admitted that once they had published a very small article about the only person from Coventry who is cited in thousands of papers and other media  for five years now. But they did not meet Rami,  the article was 'lifted': it had been copied from another paper.
The same wit the local radio station Coventry Plus:  they have never seen or spoken to Rami.

I had a list of 8 mosks in Coventry and planned to visit them all, around the prayer time. I got as far as 4 mosks.  Nobody had a clue. Nobody knew of a Syrian muslim with a T-shirt shop in Coventry.
I saw no point in going on and visit the other 4 mosks.
If Rami had ever had a shop in Coventry, some imam or muslim youngster who is politically interested should have known Rami.
If Rami was a real person, the local Newspaper and the local radio station would have been all over him: "Our Rami in the New York Times, ànd in le Monde , ànd in The Guardian, ànd on the Chinese CCTV channel !"
I mean: any Coventry sporter that makes it to the Olympics wil make it into the Coventry Telegraph, even if he has not the slightest chance for a medal and nobody will ever hear of him again.


Reuters,  december 2011:

Coventry - an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist

By Mohammed Abbas | COVENTRY, ENGLAND
With only a few hours sleep, a phone glued to his ear and another two ringing, the fast-talking director of arguably Syria's most high-profile human rights group is a very busy man.
"Are there clashes? How did he die? Ah, he was shot," said Rami Abdulrahman into a phone, the talk of gunfire and death incongruous with his two bedroom terraced home in Coventry, from where he runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
When he isn't fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.
Cited by virtually every major news outlet since an uprising against the iron rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March, the observatory has been a key source of news on the events in Syria.
Most foreign media have been banned from reporting in Syria.
"The calls come 24 hours a day, you've seen how many I've had in the last hour," Abdulrahman, 40, told Reuters as he answered reporters' calls, as well as calls from his network of sources in Syria.
"My job, my clothing business, my nerves have all been affected due to the pressure. Some nights I only get three hours sleep," he said.
Surrounded by the trappings of family life -- a glitter-spangled card made by his young daughter, a monkey doll with "Best Dad" on its belly -- Abdulrahman sits with a laptop and phones and pieces together accounts of conflict and rights abuses before uploading news to the internet.
After three short spells in prison in Syria for pro-democracy activism, Abdulrahman came to Britain in 2000 fearing a longer, fourth jail term.
"I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I'll return when Bashar al-Assad goes," Abdulrahman said, referring to Bashar's father and predecessor Hafez, also an autocrat.
What began nearly nine months ago as a peaceful protest movement against Assad, inspired by the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, has slid closer to civil war as armed opposition groups organise and protect city districts.
According to the observatory's latest figures, 3,441 civilians and 1,280 security forces have been killed. The United Nations says at least 4,000 people have died, with about a quarter of the dead from the security forces.
Video footage and witness accounts tell of Syrian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters, mass arrests and the torture of people in prison, some to death.
Assad, who is under growing international pressure, including the threat of sanctions from the Arab League, on Wednesday denied ordering his troops to kill peaceful demonstrators.
With infiltration attempts by Syrian agents, misinformation from rival opposition groups, threats from Assad supporters and even pressure from pro-Assad members of his own family, Abdulrahman's mission to document the violence is no easy task.
"We want accuracy and transparency in the news," he said.
"We have had many infiltration attempts by the Syrian intelligence services, but we don't put any news out until we are 100 percent certain about our source. If the source is new, we have to verify the information with other sources," he added.
His sources, some cultivated over many years, risk their lives to investigate incidents and call him with information.
Six have already been killed, Abdulrahman said, but despite the danger the observatory's network of contacts has expanded to more than 200 people from 54 since the uprising began, he said.
Abdulrahman, a Sunni Muslim, is acutely sensitive that his reports are seen as free from bias, given accusations against him of sectarianism, of being in the pay of foreign agents or of being swayed or infiltrated by Assad's security services.

Sunnis are the majority in Syria, but the country has long been dominated by Assad's Alawite minority sect.

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