Side with Syria’s Oppressed: An Interview with Mohamed Khairullah

by Louis Proyect on March 20, 2013

Shortly after the two-year anniversary of the Syrian revolution, I conducted this interview over Skype with Mohamed Khairullah, the Democratic Mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, a Syrian-American deeply involved with humanitarian aid missions to Aleppo. The city has been devastated by heavy artillery, aerial bombing, and most recently Scud missile attacks by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Just as the people of Aleppo remain steadfast in their determination to live free in a democratic Syria, so has Mayor Khairullah remained steadfast in coming to their aid as reported by NorthJersey.com:

Mohamed Khairullah woke up one night in December in Aleppo to feel the ground shaking as a bomb landed outside with a boom and a plume of smoke. The Syrian sky never quieted during his next three days in the embattled city.

“You’re always watching the sky above you and when it comes there’s not much of a warning,” he said. “But we had a purpose and a cause and we had to continue.”

Between his jobs as mayor of Prospect Park and as a high school administrator, Khairullah has rallied to help his native Syria, where, where rebels have been fighting for the past two years to overthrow the Assad regime, whose fight to stay in power has cast the country into war.

He raised $18,500 for a 12-day trip in December that he used to bring supplies to schools and hospitals in Syria and to a refugee camp in Turkey.

Khairullah is going back in April, in spite of the danger, and aims to raise $50,000 by Sunday to bring more food, clothing and fuel to Syrians. He is appealing to donors in large part through daily social media posts to Twitter and Facebook.

My interview with the mayor was about the urgent need for humanitarian assistance but also about the politics of the revolution. Anybody who watches the interview will understand the Syrian uprising is one of the most important revolutionary movements of our epoch and will be studied 100 years from now as it will have as much of an impact on the Middle East and North Africa as the French Revolution of 1789 had on Europe by lifting it out of feudalism and into a modern, democratic age. While neither Libya nor Syria were feudal, they were run by tyrannical family dynasties—something that simply does not deserve support in any form.

The mayor addresses all the key questions facing the Syrian people as well as Americans who remain undecided about a revolution that is attacked physically by Assad and the states that support his dictatorship and verbally in the U.S. by pundits who would rather talk about “jihadists” than the right of a people to be free from tyranny. Of particular interest is Mayor Khairullah’s report of the embryo of a new post-Assad society developing in Aleppo even as it is under attack.

I have donated $100 to the Aleppo relief campaign and strongly urge others to do so either by credit card or by Paypal (recipient is the Mayor at [email protected].) As much as I would like to see folks chip in $100 if they can afford it, surely everybody can afford $10 or $25.

For the price of a movie ticket, children in Aleppo can get hot meals for a week.

For the price of an entrée at a decent restaurant or a good bottle of wine, a field hospital can get fuel to continue operating for a month.

This is about as good a way as those of us living in the rich industrial countries can show solidarity with a people in struggle. The stakes in this fight are very high and we should do everything we can to help it succeed.

Footage from Khairullah’s last trip to Aleppo

More coverage of the Syrian revolution from The North Star:

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  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    I put in $20. Pony up, revolutionaries.

  • Aaron Aarons

    What is it about Mohamed Khairullah, the Democratic Party Mayor of a U.S. city, that makes his political evaluation of the forces in Syria something that should influence leftists?

    Why ignore the fact that there was no uprising in the city of Aleppo, but the entrance of rural fighters and the abandonment of the city by much of its population even before any government bombing?

    Why should leftists support Islamists and pro-Western bourgeois elements against “tyrannical [bourgeois] family dynasties” — even if that were an accurate characterization? Do we have to take sides in such a struggle? And how would the victory of such a struggle be in any way comparable to the destruction (even if not total) of the old order, including of the power of the church and the feudal landlord class, in France in 1789? Wouldn’t the political, and perhaps physical, elimination of the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf Monarchies — all supporters, to some extent at least, of the so-called ‘revolution’ in Syria — come closer to the French revolution in importance for the global struggle against oppression, exploitation and environmental devastation?

    Having watched the interview, I still totally reject the assertion that “the Syrian uprising is one of the most important revolutionary movements of our epoch”. That assertion, if fact, confirms my opinion that Louis Proyect’s evolution from some kind of anti-capitalist, proletarian revolutionary politics to bourgeois liberalism is nearly complete.

    BTW, there are plenty of struggles in the world where the left-right political divide is much clearer than in Syria, even if not all of them involve an anti-government force that is presently capable of armed struggle. In most of those cases, money to anti-state forces would be well-spent, even if illegal in some cases under U.S. law. Some examples:

    Haiti (to the poor communities most oppressed by the U.N. occupation)
    The Philippines (NPA, et al.)
    India, including the Maoist+indigenous armed resistance and various other mass struggles, as well as the (more politically ambiguous) resistance of Kashmir and the massive, long-term military occupation of same
    Colombia (FARC-EP, et al.)
    Chile (Mapuches, et al.)
    South Africa
    Bahrain

    Also, tomorrow (this evening, U.S. time) is the 10th anniversary of the heroic anti-imperialist action of U.S. Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who, while stationed at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait, single-handedly attacked the command tent at that base (not, as is sometimes asserted, his ‘fellow soldiers’), killing two officers and injuring many more. He is presently being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, facing possible execution, and deserves a lot more support than he has been getting.

    • Louis Proyect

      What is it about Mohamed Khairullah, the Democratic Party Mayor of a U.S. city, that makes his political evaluation of the forces in Syria something that should influence leftists?

      I am not going to waste bandwidth answering Aarons except to say that in brief that his anti-imperialism consists of putting a minus where the US State Department puts a plus, as Trotsky put it in “Learn to Think”. Except in this instance, we are dealing with the CIA stationing its agents on the border with Turkey to make sure no surface-to-air missiles gets in the hands of the missiles and now considers using predator drones against them, all in the context of almost daily bourgeois press reports about jihadism, Salafism, al Qaeda, etc.. This is obviously a case of Aarons putting a plus where the State Department puts a plus and even evoking the argument made a decade ago about neocons being inspired by Leon Trotsky–like Kenan Makiya, for example. Is Aaron Aarons the 2013 version of Paul Wolfowitz? I vote yes.

  • Aaron Aarons

    So I don’t, by your own admission, always put “a minus where the US State Department puts a plus”. More accurately, I don’t always put a plus where the US State Department puts a minus, although the correlation between my views and those of the U.S. ruling class, when the latter does have a unified position, is probably around minus 0.99. More to the point, I am against U.S. intervention anywhere, except for when, if ever, it gives humanitarian aid, and does so transparently and without strings, for reasons of sanitizing its image, in which case I look for other issues on which to attack it. (It would be much better for leftists to campaign for the U.S. and its client Gulf dictatorships to provide humanitarian aid to all Syrians who need it, regardless of their political alignment, than to use our limited resources to provide such aid.)

    By your reasoning, Louis, Paul Wolfowitz, if he were alive, would be expressing solidarity with an African-American Muslim U.S. Army Sergeant who killed two U.S. Army officers and wounded 14 others who were about to take part in a war that Wolfowitz advocated for. Oh, wait! Paul Wolfowitz is alive, so maybe Louis can ask him to form a defense committee for Hasan Akbar. I would gladly join such a committee if it existed, if only in some parallel universe.

    BTW, I also doubt that Wolfowitz or any neocons would join me as celebrating the attack on the U.S. station in Benghazi last September. They and I are likely to approve of some things that Islamists do, but not the same things.

    • Aaron Aarons

      This was a reply to Louis Proyect’s reply to me. It wasn’t supposed to appear at the top level (without indentation). I also messed up with italics in a couple of places, which caused a couple of words to look like links.

      BTW, I’m still looking for some evidence, aside from one article by Anand Gopal about one place, of any liberatory social (as opposed to political) content to the Syrian ‘revolution’. And, despite all the photos from Syria that I’ve seen on this web site, I don’t recall seeing any of demonstrations involving women.

      • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

        @Aaron. Your memory is failing you. You posted this comment before about the absence of women and I then provided you with half a dozen links – and the offer of more if your wished. You declined commenting that you didn’t know why the editors of the site hadn’t posted them. Jog your memory?
        As for “liberatory social content” I would think that being liberated of a regime prepared to rain shells and bombs down on its own people would count as a pretty significant “liberation” in any one’s books.

        • Aaron Aarons

          My response to Louis wound up in the wrong place again. Not having either previews or the ability to correct comments after posting them makes the comment facilities on this site almost as annoying as those provided by, e.g., Disqus.

          Brian: Could you please post here the URL of the page containing those links. This time, I’ll try not to overlook them. On the other matter, I don’t necessarily think that replacing a regime that stays in power by violence with one that stays in power with the active support of privileged social classes and strata, and the passive consent of the rest of the population, is necessarily “liberatory”.

          • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

            @Aaron: You didn’t overlook them because you commented on them, as I pointed out. You could locate them yourself by using a search engine, but since its you, here is a repeat of our exchange:
            Brian S. January 10, 2013 at 7:18 am
            @AaronAarons: If you’re implyying that women are not involved in the Syrian Revolution you couldn’t be more wrong. Try:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wxBIwCq9rY
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wxBIwCq9rY
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=WsJSu88ylEY
            If this doesn’t satisfy you I can offer several dozen more.
            And for textual accounts take a look at:
            http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/30/syria-s-women-of-the-revolution-indispensible-to-rebel-fight.html
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17341613
            http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/08/199489.html
            Brian S. January 10, 2013 at 7:28 am
            PS: Sorry I mistakenly posted on of my links above twice – it should have been:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=c7J5HRxL5ys
            Reply
            Aaron Aarons January 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm
            I will leave it to the editors of this site to explain why the photos they selected are virtually exclusively of men and boys.
            If this post doesn’t reproduce the live links go to the original post: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=4507 and scroll down.
            If you can’t see the difference between rule by mass slaughter and rule by manipulated consent, then you’e obviously lived a very sheltered life.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              He also missed my post about the Syrian-Palestinian woman who goes by the name Guevara:
              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9845535/Syria-the-former-English-teacher-turned-Aleppos-female-sniper.html

              “When I was a student in Aleppo University – years before the uprising began – we created an underground
              opposition newspaper. We formed a political party for
              Palestinians and held secret, underground meetings to
              discuss how to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”

              Che would be proud.

            • Aaron Aarons

              There is obviously a difference between rule by mass slaughter and rule by manipulated consent, but that doesn’t mean that replacement of the former by the latter necessarily advances global, or even local, liberation from capitalism. In fact, in, for example, Chile, rule by state terror softened the population up for the kind of neoliberal bourgeois democratic dictatorship that has ruled there for over 20 years, much more securely than the Pinochet dictatorship could.

              I read all three articles you linked to, though I haven’t gotten to the videos yet. I’m not surprised that some women are risking their lives helping the armed anti-government struggle in Syria, but I still don’t see any indication that the forces that might take power in Syria will be better for women than the Assad dictatorship has been. Nor do I see any other social advances coming from that direction. I see no reason to get involved in that conflict, and certainly no reason for supposed revolutionaries to divert their very limit resources to giving humanitarian aid to people whom many non-revolutionary types, including all kinds of bourgeois governments, who actually have money to spare do support or pretend to support. (I’m all in favor of agitation for greater aid in the form of food, clothing, shelter, medicines, etc.. by imperialist governments.)

              Incidentally, the most pro-‘revolutionary’ article of the three you cited is from Al Arabiya, the mouthpiece of what is, with the possible exception of Israel and the U.S. fleet, the most reactionary and repressive force in the Middle East: the Saudi monarchy.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Women fighters in Aleppo:
        http://pic.twitter.com/wvU7VinxgQ

  • Louis Proyect

    My email to Aaron Aaron’s alter ego:

    My dear Mr. Nile Bowie (btw, are you related to the Alamo martyr?):

    You wrote on Counterpunch today:

    “One should not cynically credit Syrian government forces with intentionally killing their own people; this does not serve the purposes of the state in anyway. Civilian deaths that have occurred as a result of government forces engaging the insurgency should more accurately be seen as a heinous by-product of a foreign campaign to topple the Syrian government.”

    I quite agree with you. My feeling is that Bashar al-Assad would never have used cluster bombs and Scud missiles had he not been provoked. In fact, it is common knowledge that the protestors who took to the streets of Syria 2 years ago were not really Syrians. This Youtube clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jizmdudi3fukme reveals that they were actually Chechnyan terrorists flown in for the occasion. If you squint carefully at the man with the beard down to his ankles, you will recognize him immediately as the feared jihadist Ali Mushminskykoff, aka “The Vengeful Jackal of Allah”.

    Mushminskykoff was a frequent guest at the home of Daisy Rothschild, a major donor to HRW and the brains behind George Soros. He was infamous for torturing a 4 year old Russian girl who got caught eating a ham sandwich in a Grozny day care center.

    Thank goodness, Putin is bringing back the Cossacks who will teach these dirty Jihadists the lesson they deserve.

    In Solidarity,

    Louis Proyect

    • Aaron Aarons

      My response to this nonsense got misplaced above, but it’s concise enough to repeat here:

      Can you ever, Louis, respond to what your actual critic is actually saying, rather than responding [sarcastically!] to something else that somebody else has said that is somehow somewhat related, at least in your mind, to what your actual critic has said?

  • http://arabmaoist.wordpress.com arabmaoist

    the western left lost the battle of human dignity,freedom,and people’s emancipation… they lost it because of their narrow minded thinking… where US say yes..they say NO…where USA say NO, they say YES…this is not a revolutionnary analysis comrades…you should think and act better than as a pavlovian left

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    A TV interview with the good mayor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh4C6mM4r8s

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Khairullah’s first report from his trip to Aleppo:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=236471056499564

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  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Mayor Khairullah in action in Aleppo:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nQChjb7ftI

  • RanDomino

    The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

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