Our next international peace and reconciliation group visits the Syrian Arab Republic for the feast of St Patrick, Friday March 17 2017. Plans are near completion and thus this re-edit
Objective: The objective is to help Syrian civil society’s struggle for peace, bread and humanity. Journalists, medics, academics, artists, clerics and others experienced in such activities will join the delegation and help in their various, semi-autonomous ways.
Dates: The main dates to be in Syria are March 16-19. People will arrive alone or in small groups and will be shuttled to base camp Damascus.
Logistics: Delegates first fly into Beirut Airport. People are arriving on 7, 8, 10, 11 March. Be sure to contact me on my Syrian mobiles Delegates are ferried in special, pre-arranged taxis from the airport or, as a back-up plan, from a designated nearby hotel to the centre of Damascus, where we have our organisational base camp. There are Syrian and Lebanese taxis who specialise in this work, with the Syrians I work with being considerably cheaper on average.
Beirut Airport Taxis: The taxi drivers who stand by Beirut airport are their own mafia. They over charge. If you cannot avoid them haggle with them to get to the Beirut hotel. It’ll be $20-$25 for a $7 trip.
Visas: We have been given high-level assurances that visas will be issued free of charge. In 2016, visas for Irish citizens cost US$150. Securing the visas involves several steps, the first of which is to contact me directly. All visa applications are, as at 1 March, being worked on.
Visa Check: If you are coming via Lebanon, please check the relevant information for your country and visas. Here is Wikipedia information for Iranians, Irish, Italians and Indians. Please check in person the status for your own country.
Embassies, Sanctions & Visas: Because of NATO’s war of aggression against Syria (and also Iran), most of Syria’s embassies are closed. That means you cannot get a visa by going to the Embassy in London, for example, because NATO made it cease trading as part of NATO’s regime-change programme. That means you are wasting your time applying there for a visa as there is no one there to consider your application.
Syria’s Consular Services & Visas: Most Syrian consular services are frozen because of the Crisis. Many of those which still operate are swamped with the magnitude of the Crisis Syria faces. It is anything but business as usual.
Visa Channels: Very few visas get issued now. Most of those that do get issues are through various unorthodox channels, ie with invites or references from non-consular Syrian officials.
No Visas: Neither Lebanon nor Syria give visas to those with Israeli stamps on their passports. Known supporters of Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood and other terror gangs/ terrorist godfathers and/or their front groups will not be given visas for obvious security reasons.
Suicide Bomber Khalid Kelly’s Friends: Those who attacked Dublin’s Belgian and Russian Embassies with suicide bomber Terry Khalid Kelly need not apply,
Lebanon Exit Visa: Be sure to get the exit visa stamp from Lebanon to Syria. It saves a lot of hassle on the way back. Our designated drivers know the ropes.
Transit Caveats: The three hour road to Damascus is very safe and very heavily patrolled on both sides. The Lebanese side passes mostly through Shia, Christian and Druze areas. There are very many road checks on the Syrian side, which is probably the most secured road in the country.
Costs: Because of EU sanctions in support of the terrorists, the Syrian economy is on life support and those with hard currencies will find it very cheap.
Currencies: Lebanon uses the US $ inter changeably with its own currency. Beirut airport ATMs give US & Lebanese currencies. Syrian currency can be bought at the Syrian border or in Damascus.
Syrian Hotel Payments: Foreigners are required/expected to pay in hard currency.
No Visa/Debit/Credit Cards: As part of the EU’s sanctions in support of the terrorists, plastic does not work. Cash only.
What to Bring: Both travel and semi formal clothes. Fresh shamrock and green bunting if you can. Pack a green tie/shirt/dress for the cameras. (Orange if you prefer)
Shopping/Tours: Syria needs your money. Tours or shopping can be arranged, preferably for a fee to the guides.
Hotels: We normally stay in a top hotel where (subsidised) prices for us have averaged $75 a night per single room. Though much cheaper accommodation is available, a trade off between convenience, cost and security is needed.
Danger Level: Damascus and environs are very safe. One of the saddest things about this extermination war is Syria was one of the world’s very safest countries before it was put on the hit list.
Bombs & Bullets: Very little, if any of this as the Syrian Army have continued to extend its safe zone.
Hot Zones: Special permission is needed from the Syrian military to go into war zones. These are not for everybody as serious business is afoot there.
Yarmouk Palestinian Camp: Is at a stalemate. It is possible to meet Palestinians on the Syrian side of the lines but, like others, they need material help more than compassionate tourists.
Internet/Wifi are available in hotel etc.
Sim Cards: Can be bought at special stores. Top ups are widely available. These may or may not be worth the hassle, depending on the length of your stay. I intend to reactivate mine.
Alcohol: is widely available in government-held Syria. NATO backed rebels murdered an 85 year old Christian in Idlib for selling booze. Syria is not the place to get sloshed.
Cigarettes: Syrians smoke much too much. The government’s plans to curb this revolting practice was put on ice as a result of the rebel invasion. The ability of ISIS to prohibit smoking leads one to ask how they could implement that very non Arab rule. Arabs have a big problem with smoking.
Shaking Hands: is another national addiction, large numbers of Muslim women excepted.In government-held Syria, religion hangs loosely on their shoulders and should just be respected on a mutual, non-aggressive basis.
Main Itinerary (16-19 March)
1. St Patrick: Present shamrock, children’s peace march. These simple, low-cost acts are a step in returning Syria to normality.The Shamrock has been bought in Ireland and will be distributed the the great and good of governnment-held Syria as a gesture and hope for peace.
2. Medical/Boxing/Artistic Fact-Finding/Ambassadors: These simple, low-cost acts are both an important step in returning Syria to normality and to getting the true picture of government-held Syria out. The March 2017 trip has a heavy emphasis on the artistic, which is great in catharsis.
3. Pilgrimages/Sunni, Shia, Christian Shrines: As Damascus and environs are home to many important shrines, visits to these places will be accommodated and some journalists are concentrating on it. Again, the only problem here are the foreign rebels who want to physically exterminate minority groups and their cultural footprints in acts of genocide that, incredibly, go lauded in the West and unpunished in the countries supporting them. The Shia shrines, in particular, are necessarily under very heavy guard as a result of this genocide campaign.
Main Itinerary Objectives: The main objectives include helping to rebuild Syrian civil society in the face of the onslaughts it faces, allowing Syrians rather than self-serving foreigners tell their stories in the most efficacious ways possible and to bring much needed practical help to the people of Syria as possible.
Why St Patrick
Equal to the Apostles: Patrick of Ireland along with Mary Magdalene of Palestine, Thekla of Syria, Helena of Constantinople, Cyril, Boris I of Bulgaria, Olga of Kiev, Vladimir the Great and Stephen I of Hungary is one of those saints regarded as being equal to the Apostles. He is widely revered in both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions.
Why a St Patrick’s Day March in Syria: The USA and Australian traditions of marches on St Patrick’s Day began as protest marches against discrimination and later evolved into self-respect celebrations; it was not, ab ovo, an Irish thing. Because their people are being silently slaughtered, Yemen and Syria fit the original bill admirably.
Why Present St Patrick’s Day Shamrock: Shamrock, Ireland’s national emblem, has long been regarded as a peace symbol. Where better than Syria (or Yemen?) to offer a peace symbol?
Our Twelve Steps to Syria’s Recovery
1. Presenting Irish-grown shamrock to Syria’s leaders at the same time POTUS Trump gets his clump. Most independent-minded Irish people would consider Syria’s leaders to be as worthy of receiving shamrock as other dignitaries such as POTUS Trump and the British Royal Family, who are also traditionally given big bowls of the stuff. As it seems POTUS Trump is particularly controversial this year, Syria is the place to be.
2.Syria’s Annual St Patrick’s Day March, complete with fife & drum bands, dancers and what not. A fun day for all Syrian families and more fun than even New York, Boston, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, Taipei and Dubai where marches are also held. Syrians deserve this normality. This has been arranged and from little acorns..
3. Medics for Peace: An international group of medics/surgeons give their expertise gratis to those Syrian civilians who need it. This is important as it is eminently practical and it shows the results our criminal sanctions have on Syria’s most vulnerable, a war crime that is not tempered by our governments and their chosen agencies ferrying dual use aid to the Muslim Brotherhood and other murder gangs.
4. Artists for Peace:Professional artists experienced in conflict zones give remedial help to Syria’s children, who will need such help all their lives. This is part of our efforts to combat the cultural genocide the rebels are committing in Syria which is not only a war crime in its own right but it also a means to emasculate and enslave its Yezidi, Druze, Armenian, Christian and other targets.
5. Boxers for Peace: We’ve assembled the appropriate conduits to replicate the joy Australia’s Fr Dave Smith and his colourful Ocker mates brought to Yarmouk, Damascus, Palmyra and Latakia with a few pairs of boxing gloves and a few skipping ropes. The war against Syria has deliberately deprived its children of any semblance of joy and there is a huge thirst amongst Syria’s children, orphans and their guardians for anything with even a whiff of normality.
6. Swiss Atheists for Peace: Swiss atheists who’ve already delivered tonnes of aid to Catholic nuns in Syria join us for Paddy’s Day in Syria. The challenge here is to coordinate and scale up efforts not only in Switzerland but globally.
7. Secular Syrian Women for Peace: We will bring secular women to Ireland to bear witness to the huge burden Syria’s women & children bear as a result of NATO’s genocide campaign. That is one of a number of separate but related moves.
9. Russians for Peace: Because Russia underwrites Syria’s peace process, we work through and with them not only in arranging charity boxing exhibitions, but also in all logistics. The efforts of Russian civil society need to be further publicised, helped and harnessed.
10. Iranians for Peace: I return to Tehran in February with outstretched paw for Syrians of all religions and none. The help Iranian civil society has given Syria puts the West to shame.
11. Children for Peace; We have a number of schools now ready to adopt Syrian schools on a school to school and children to children basis. Children’s pennies defying Empire. This can and will be scaled upwards.
12. Academics for Peace: We have organised seminars with academic support from four different countries and counting on Atrocity Studies on the days around St Patrick’s Day, both at established institutions like Damascus University and newer ones our Syrian partners are establishing in Syria. Again, this is very important to allow the truth about Syria, Yemen and Nigeria emerge.