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Death in Syria has become so normalized that 100 people being killed in a day no longer warrants any international media attention. But there are some images that are so brutal, so gruesome, so inhumane, that they shock us all, no matter how normalized we may be. Well, most of us, anyway.

The discovery of tens of corpses near the Qouaiq River in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood in Aleppo is one of those images. This image will certainly be one of the images that remain in our historical conscience, long after the Syrian revolution is over.

Bustan Al-Qasr is a neighborhood in Aleppo that is famous for its enthusiastic, critical protests (which I have written about before here). Yesterday, the residents of Bustan al-Qasr were doing this:

And today, they are doing this:

A few of the dead have been identified. Their names are:

Mohammad Dahala

Mohammad Mounir Rabhaoui

Anas Jamal

Yousef Oudba

Yousef Jalilati

Mohammad Dakki

Mohsen Ali Abd El-Qader

Ammar Sankri

Mahmoud Ramadan

Mohammad Kousa

Mohannad Hamndoush

Mohammad Kaj

Mohammad Qattan

Mohammad Kassah

Abdo Mouqresh Ibn Yahya

Mohammad Abd el-Rahman Badawi

Mohammad Yahya Najjaz

The corpses pulled out of the Qouaiq river by Bustan al-Qasr activists.

The corpses pulled out of the Qouaiq river by Bustan al-Qasr activists.

 

The rest of the 80 bodies have not yet been identified. Pictures of the unidentified martyrs have been posted online. Once seen up close, it is evident that those who were killed had undergone a lot of torture and brutal treatment before they died. Some have parts of their head missing. Others’ faces are so decomposed that they are hardly recognizable. The images recall images of corpses from the Houla Massacre, and images of corpses in general after they undergo torture by Assad’s Shabiha.

There is no shortage of crimes being committed in Syria today. Many of the armed rebels have made mistakes. Some have committed crimes against local residents. Others have looted and robbed. But despite all that, despite all their misgivings, there is only one party that is capable of such sadistic and heinous brutality and inhumanity. It is not the Free Syrian Army. It is not Jabhat al-Nusra. It is the Shabiha of Bashar al-Assad

The protesters of Hama graffiti’d in 2011: “Here, humanity stumbled.” That is not to say that other humans outside of Syria have failed Syria. That is not to say that other humans should have pressured their governments for a “humanitarian” intervention. What it means is that, in Syria, the concept of humanity was defeated. When the Shabiha step on Syrians’ faces to the point of deformity with their iron boots, they are stepping on much more than a human face. They are stepping on the concept of humanity altogether.

Written by @DarthNader and @thatkhaleeji

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Yesterday’s emergence of a “Black Bloc” in Egypt on the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution has sparked the interest–and criticism–of many.

Black Bloc’s militant tactics are almost always characterized as “senseless violence” or “violence for the sake of violence.” At best, Black Bloc participants are written off as “insurrectionary Anarchists,” at worst as “stupid kids.” But senseless violence is, in theory, inimical to what Black Bloc tactics stand for.

Black Bloc is not a group of people, but a tactic. In any protest or social movement where a large number of people are participating, nonviolence is usually the preferred mode of struggle. However, given that a social movement has no leaders and no laws on its own, it is up to every individual to decide whether they want to use nonviolent pacifist tactics, or militant (militant not necessarily meaning violent in this context) tactics. Thus, the term “diversity of tactics,” is not, as some liberals insist, code for “let’s use violence.” It is simply an acknowledgement of the reality that in social movements, no discipline can be enforced on any people. The only way to enforce a strictly non-militant nonviolent discipline on people involved in a movement would be through use of violence. This is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, yet it has occurred on many occasions. On one occasion in Oakland during the Occupy Oakland General Strike, many “nonviolent” participants used physical violence against people engaging in militant tactics, insisting that “the movement must remain nonviolent!”

In essence, no one can enforce strategic discipline in a mass movement. There will always be some prepared to use militant tactics. Black Bloc is simply a way to do this in an organized fashion. People dress in black to safeguard their anonymity, but also to show other participants in the movement that one is prepared to use militant tactics if necessary to protect protesters, and that if some are uncomfortable with these tactics, then they should make sure to keep a safe distance. These tactics should be strategic actions to protect a movement, and not “senseless violence” that attempt to “hijack a movement” and “elicit a harsh police response.” One example of a militant tactic frequently employed by Black Bloc groups is marching at the front of a march with shields to protect protesters from police batons. Black Bloc participants should also, ideally, have an intimate understanding of how the police work and what tactics they use, and therefore be the most most capable of keeping protestors safe. That isn’t to say that they should lead, but rather that they’re best equipped to deal with the threat of confrontation with security forces.

However, a fringe element of Black Bloc participants haven’t always adhered to this role historically. There have been instances where people allegedly participating in Black Bloc have engaged in counter-productive insurrectionist actions (within anarchist circles, these actions are not celebrated and are, in fact, often blamed on police infiltrators aiming to give Black Bloc a bad name). Black Bloc is a tactic, like any other, that if used correctly, can be beneficial, but if done in a chauvinistic manner with little concern for the safety of others, will elicit the contempt of fellow participants in the movement (which is what really counts, as the media will portray the Black Bloc negatively no matter what they are doing).

There is an underlying logic in Black Bloc tactics, which is to facilitate the necessary protection for protestors through the use of direct-action. And there is potential for this logic to be utilized in a way that is beneficial to people engaged in a movement, especially in a place like Egypt, where Ikhwanji’s and police forces alike have shown a willingness to inflict harm on protestors. Although people supposedly participating in Black Bloc can do stupid things, Black Bloc itself is not a stupid, senseless tactic, and should not be written off.