Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aleppo Stirs!

As Banyas remains defiant and under siege, its women and children join the protests movement, and Aleppo awakens.   

Death toll since March 15: 250-350. Arrests since  March 15: 1,500. Political Prisoners: 5,000.
Communities under total siege: Deraa, Banyas, Hawla (Homs), Madaya & Douma (Damascus)

Banyas continues to be the main theater of developments at this stage. The hundreds of arrests that took place since Friday April 8 in Banyas have left many women and children to fend for themselves, especially in the village of Al-Bayda. But rather than quell the protest movement, the arrests and the bloody crackdown that took place (and the picture below shows just how bloody it was) inspired the long-dormant Aleppo to stir back to life, and drove Banyasi women and children to take to the streets to demand the return of their family members, effectively joining the protest movements, in a development that is likely to inspire women (and young teen) in other communities as well. The protests are widening. 

Indeed, the women and children of Al-Baydah village, accompanied by the few older teens and men remaining, spent the entire day blocking the main highway and preventing movement of army tanks. At one point young teen age boys lay in the middle of the highway hindering the movement of army tanks. Although some arrests were reported, the new pedigree of protesters proved to be a resilient lot, and only returned home at sunset. Their choice of tactics is also pretty indicative of the nonviolent character of the protest movement. On the down side, army and security forces are preventing shipment of food, including bread to the city, and supplies are running low.

In Aleppo, the students at the College of Literature organized a small protest of their own, the first since the beginning of Syria’s Revolution on March 15. In a sign that this is only the beginning of a trend, another protest reportedly took place almost simultaneously in the suburbs of Sakhour and Al-Shaar. Both protests were quickly dispersed by pro-Assad security officers chanting pro-Assad slogans.

Elsewhere in the country, the Damascene suburb of Jeramana witnessed another protest by women in the form of a brief candlelight vigil quickly dispersed by security officers. Meanwhile, Damascus School of Law witnessed another campus-based protest, as students seem bent on taking the struggle to the capital despite the threat of summary expulsions. The protest was quickly brought under the control of security officers chanting pro-Assad slogans.

In Zama Village near Jableh, the son of a retired Alawite general, Wafeeq Dalilah, was killed by a gunman while driving his car in a move taken to be a sign of a worsening internal strife between Assad opponents and loyalists within the Alawite community. The general was no loyalist. Another Jableh subrn, Al-Qassam, witnessed major protests in support of Banyas.

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Deraa Governorate continue to hold large funerals to bury their dead, as the entire Governorate continues to be under siege and running low of certain food supplies.

There were also protests in Deir Ezzor Governorate in the town of Markadeh, as well as in Kisweh near Damascus, and parts of Homs.

Another interesting development that took place overnight and that could be interpreted as a sign of growing dissention within ranks, is the leaking of a top secret document that details the Assad regime strategy for dealing with crackdowns. The document was adequately summarized in this article by the Time, but a full translation will be provided tomorrow. 

                                           Security Doc Page 1             Security Doc Page 2
                                      Security Doc Page 3                        Idlib Doc

Another leaked document shows that the Governor of Idlib and in an attempt to contain the Friday-centered protest drive as well as any protest activity off-hours has in effect suspended weekends by asking employees to work through them until further notice. The document also calls for keeping a 24 hour work cycle and calls for organizing shifts. No word yet as to employees response to this.

On a personal note, it seems I have become public enemy number one for the Syrian regime. First there was a TV report, now a long written one about my activities. The author is struck by my honesty over the years about meeting Israelis and accepting American funding. But his assertion that I received Mossad funding is wrong. My foundation, the Tharwa Foundation, has received American funding only between 2007 and 2009 as a non-profit organization based in Silver Spring, Maryland, a fact that we have always been open about. Anyway, the author accuses me of running a large network of in-country activists, which is true, but, the reality is, the revolutionaries on the ground come from outside the network. The message for democratic change has long become an organic one, and many independent networks have long emerged to take up the call.

Banyas Videos

Banyas Highway: young men stop army tank by lying on the ground in its way. Where are the violent infiltrators here?
Banyas, Al-Bayda: children and women protesting demanding return of kidnapped family members: “Where are the men of Baydah” “We want our children”
Banyas, Al-Baydah: women carrying flowery branches at army checkpoint demanding release of their family members. At one point one of them tell the camera man don’t videotape the young  men among us, only the women, for fear the young men would be identified and arrested later. “Where are the young men of Baydah?” 
Banyas, an Old Woman Speaks: “I am from Banyas the free. I am free daughter of the free. The people of Banyas are under siege… they deprived us of phone service, they deprived us of bread, they deprived us of water… they’re taken our children… they left us nothing… we call upon the Arab World, the people of Lattakia, the people of Aleppo, the people of Damascus, let them help us… long live Banyas, long live Banyas. God is Great, God is Great. Down with the Regime.”
Banyas, Al-Marqab: A woman asks “we were only asking for freedom, now where is my son?”
 Banyas: This child (Fayiz Fayyad) being washed in preparation for burial is from the village of Talbisseh near Banyas. He was killed alongside his mother on April 11. Eyewitnesses say the two were wounded and left to bleed to death. The father and other brother are still missing.
Banyas: Funeral of Fayiz and his mother. Chant near the end: “The People Want to Topple the Regime”

Deraa Videos

Jassem: Funeral for Diaa Al-Shimmari
Deraa: Old Woman recites poetry and cries for her dead children and family members: “o worms, by the Prophet David, I beg of you, don’t eat the black eyes of my dear ones, and stick to the cheeks” “El-Mahbous wal-Mayyit Sawa: The prisoner and the dead are the same”
Deraa, Al-Hara: Funeral of Muhammad Al-Jarad. Chant: “The people want to topple the regime”  
Deraa, Jassem: Funeral. Chant: “[We choose] Death over Humiliation”

Miscellaneous Videos

Jableh, Al-Qassam: protest in support of Bayda. Chants: “We’ll sacrifice ourselves for you Baydah”
Damascus: protest and arrests at the Law Faculty
Aleppo: protest at College of Literature
“The Syrian People are One” “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you Deraa” “Hurriyyeh Hurriyyeh: Freedom Freedom”
Kisweh, April 12