Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Playing by Hama Rules in Deraa

The main focus of the uprising continues to be Deraa in Southern Syria. It seems now clear that a massacre has taken place during the night and early hours of the morning. It’s the number so of dead and injured that are hard to confirm on account of the information blackout imposed by the regime. Most news agencies seem willing to report that 15 are confirmed dead, but activists on the ground report that the number is well beyond 150, as many of the wounded were in serious condition when they were removed from the streets by army vehicle and taken to unknown destinations. Sources confirm that they were not taken to any hospitals in Deraa or surrounding counties.  

Video of the Dead in Deraa
Videos of nightly raid at Deraa’s Alomari Mosque

Videos of Deraa Martyrs

Eyewitness report on the massacre
Funeral Processions
Unarmed protesters shouting “Peaceful Peaceful” as security forces open fire  
Security forces attack and insult protesters
Security forces conducting arrests
Gunfire in Deraa after 1 pm
Thinking that the army was on their side, or in the hope of co-opting it, Deraa inhabitants had welcomed army units with chants of jubilation.

Thanks to Zenobia at http://egyptianchronicles.blogspot.com for bringing some of these videos to my attention.

The massacre received wide international attention, with many media outlets reporting on it as it happened, due to buzz generated by Twitterverse and outreach efforts by exiled activists and human rights groups.

Meanwhile, Syrian officials are mounting an extensive public relations campaign, as their spokesmen flood TV stations speaking as if they were members of the opposition, calling for reforms, admitting mistakes, saying the “President” intends to call for a major conference on political reform, all while raising all sorts of doubts about foreign agendas, infiltrators and suspicious happenings in Deraa. This is an old tactic and, despite the greater exposure by Syrians to different versions of the “truth” thanks to satellite channels,” it can still be effective, among those too scared to act ad are in search of excuses and justifications for their behavior.  

How effective this tactic will be demonstrated on Friday. Activists are calling for mass demonstrations to take place following the Noon prayers, the size of the crowds willing to respond will divulge much about the pace, course and nature of events in the days and weeks to come.

On a personal note:
I have published the following article in the Guardian yesterday:
Today, I have made several media appearances, including France 24 and Al-Hurra, and gave various statements to the press. I will send links in future updates.