Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Update: New Massacre Could Be Unfolding In Deraa As Revolutionary Spirit Moves Across Syria

Almost every major city and town across Syria is witnessing an anti-Assad protest at this stage. Deraa of course is hosting the largest protest with around 50,000 participants by some reckonings. Not all protests have gone peacefully. In Homs, riots police interfered with tear gas, and there were reports of gunfire in certain neighborhoods and 3 are said to have died, but so far no confirmation.

In Sanamein Town near Deraa, however, events took a more violent turn, with 20 protesters reported dead. Number is expected to climb. But Deraa City is witnessing the most violence again, with the Hafiz Al-Assad statue set on fire, and people adopting chants aimed against Maher Al-Assad specifically, whose battalions were responsible for the Massacre at Alomary Mosque. A new massacre seems to be unfolding. We need to keep monitoring the situation closely.

Lattakia is also said to be witnessing major demonstration at this stage, with authorities using force, casualties reported. The situation in Lattakia is potentially explosive due to its ethnic diversity, and closeness to Alawite strongholds.

In Damascus and surrounding towns, protests too numerous to count, some demonstrations had less than a 100 participants, while others, the one in Suq Al-Hamidiyyah in particular had around 3,000.

In Qamsihly, armed gangs patrolling the streets in their cars shouted anti-Assad slogans and insulted the Kurdish protesters, in an old tactic often encouraged by the authorities in that city to intimidate the mostly-Kurdish population.

Assads spokesmen keep flooding the satellite network, given more air-time to spread many blatant lies regarding the demonstrations, their nature, size, prevalence, than allotted to any dissident or opposition figures. This is surely not going to be an Al-Jazeerah Revolution, or a Satellite Revolution of any sorts. But the revolution continues to unfold in manner commensurate with Syrian realities. Protesters in major cities Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama are taking every precaution to avoid sparking a violent crackdown by authorities by mounting numerous small demonstrations in different neighborhoods. The reasoning behind this is that violence in these major cities could easily assume sectarian overtones if Assad thugs got involved, and that seems a development that Assads would really want to see to justify a major crackdown.  

It would be important at this stage if the UN got involved and issued a clear statement on these developments through UNHCR, ICC or the General Assembly itself. Sending clear signs that Assad’s could be frozen should violence continue would be helpful as well. Early action by the international community to help chart an exit strategy for the Assads could help prevent further bloodshed in Syria. The situation will not be contained if left to be managed by the Assads alone. Now that Lattakia and Homs, Hama and other cities have thrown their lot with the Revolution, and joined Deraa, slow reactions by the international community could allow the situation to spiral out of control.

Early videos
Aleppo - Great Mosque
Damascus - Umayyad Mosque
Damascus - Rifai Mosque