FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

“Go Tell It on the Mountain, From the Peaks of Qasioun!"

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Damascus.

At the height of the war scare here in early September, a group 9 primarily Sunni, Christian, and Alawite students and activists, led by a charismatic and agnostic pro-Hezbollah Lebanese Shia woman from Hermel in Lebanon’s North Bekaa Valley, set up a Human Shields and Observers camp to protect the Syrian TV channels, radio and communication towers situated at the crest of Mount Qasioun which rises up 1,151 meters (3,776 ft) at its crest. The small community has the air of a sit-in as well as a teach-in. Within a few days, their numbers exceeded 200, and at weeks end the “Ala agsadona” (“over our dead bodies”), website was hosting thousands of visitors every day.

“We are prepared to take the first cruise missile with our bare chests,” explained one young man, an architecture student at Syrian University, a relatively expensive private institution which offers majors in French, English, German, Italian and other western languages.

Mount Qasioun, transliterated from Jabal Qāsiyūn, is the high mountain that overlooks Damascus from the north, and many assume its communication towers would be among the first targets of American cruise missiles. Normally a popular tourist spot for hiking and rock climbing, the area is cherished by Syrians as a place of beauty and peace, where one can get away from life’s pressures and enjoy the mountain’s cool temperatures. Here one may also dine at a range of glass-fronted restaurants from which the whole city may be viewed in panorama—and as Damascus has expanded over the years, some districts have even been established on the foot of the mountain. Perhaps as a sign of the times, these days Qaisoun is also honeycombed with Syrian armed forces.

The special connection of Mount Qasioun and the people of Syria is perpetuated by oral and written histories signifying what the Mountain has meant to this region since prehistory. On the slopes of Jabal Qasiun, just above the “Ala agsadona” camp, is a cave, which, it is said, the first man, Adam, inhabited for a period. Historians have recorded a variety of stories about Ibrāhīm (Abraham), and ‘Īsā (Jesus) also having sheltered and prayed in it. Medieval Arab history books speak additionally of it as the site where Qābīl (Cain) killed Hābīl (Abel). Moreover, it has been known for hundreds of years as a place where prayers would immediately be accepted by God, and in Syrian history when a calamity threatened the people, and especially in times of drought, rulers of Damascus would climb to the cave and pray for safety and often for rainfall.

During these days of slaughter and the threats of US-led western bombing, the camp has come to symbolize Syrian resistance to foreign hegemony and occupation.

Sitting below “Adams cave,” not far from the camp, this observer listened as some of these students and activists, many of whom have taken to sleeping on foam mattresses in or alongside tents, explained for me their involvement in the Human Shield project and their objectives. One is Alaa, a United States social history buff, who, to my great enjoyment, sang a resistance song she is writing, asking me my opinion. The song is adapted from the Afro-American spiritual classic, written by John Wesley Work, Jr. in the mid-19th century, with just a few changes to the lyrics:

“Go Tell It on the Mountain, From the Peaks of Qasioun and Everywhere;

Go Shout It out from Adam’s Cave– Where Syria’s Blessed Resistance Was Born!”

Some of the most active and inspirational youngsters up at “Ala agsadona” camp are in their “adolescent” 60’s and 70’s. Many of them have lost loved ones during this God-awful continuing crisis. The camp is on high alert 24/7 given the threats against its dwellers from foreigner jihadist groups—given also that the mountain was targeted by mortars, as well as bombed by Israel, last spring. Several army check points minutely screen all traffic heading up its slopes. But despite the various threats, the attitude and general esprit inside “Ala agsadona” is one of resistance, pride and patriotism, not exclusively for the current regime, but intensely focused on Syria—its ten thousand-year history as the cradle of civilization and culture, as well as its centuries as the region’s superpower.

Ogarit Dandask, whose idea it was to establish the camp, explained: “We will protect our land with our bodies, for we prefer dying in dignity than living under any occupation. We call on all the Syrians to join us, because it’s our country that is being threatened, not the regime or any specific person.”

After hearing of preparations for large numbers of Americans and other foreigners to come to Syria to serve as human shields and international observers in solidarity with the Syrian people, Ms. Dandask made an appeal to “all the free people in the world, all those who believe that people have the right to decide their own future,” to join this grass roots campaign. Many Syrians have offered to open their homes to foreign supporters of Syria, who likely would be camped at key potential bombing sites.

Asked if the current pause in Obama Administration bombing plans would lead them to break camp, the response has been that the participants will remain vigilant, prepared to resume their full numbers, and to man their posts should the threats of immediate bombing re-surface. A majority of the Quisoun “minute-men and women”, reflecting the Syrian population’s general view, believe that the current pause is just that. And that American bombing is still likely.

Yet as appears to be the case across Syria, there is a palpable sense of relief, even some limited euphoria at the moment, along with hope and optimism, that the United Nations, Russia, Iran, the USA, and Syria can settle this crisis that has destroyed such a great part of Syria and brought widespread death and destruction to so very many of her families.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
In Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail