Will the tragic bloodshed that took place in Syria on Good Friday usher in a watershed moment in the international community’s handling of the situation? This is what many Syrians hope for in order to prevent further escalation of violence on parts of the authorities.
With death toll of over 100 in the span of few hours, this was by far the bloodiest day in the Syrian Revolution, so far. The story gets more tragic when we take under consideration that we are not talking about a violent conflict here in which both sides are heavily armed, but one that pits unarmed civilians chanting for freedom against thugs armed with electric batons and Kalashnikovs and snipers with orders to shoot to kill. As the world watched, Good Friday in Syria turned into an open season on protesters dreaming of freedom. But if the Assads were hoping that this will serve to intimidate the protesters or help contain their movement, they don’t have long to wait before they learn how wrong they are. For the thirst for freedom is no less irrational than that for blood.
While protests broke out in almost every major city, town and suburb in Syria, violence, for the most part, was restricted to certain Damascene suburbs and neighborhoods as well as Deraa and Homs. But while in Deraa the intention seems to have been to punish the people who started it all, in Homs and Damascus, the thinking was to prevent, by any means necessary, an attempt at marching towards and occupying the main squares.
Still, today, and for the first time since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, Damascus itself witnessed major protests (3,000-4,000 participants) that took place in some of its more traditional neighborhoods, Al-Midan and Al-Qadam (Eyewitness from Damascus), in a development that might have wider repercussions over the next few days.
The main demand of protesters everywhere has become regime change. It will be foolish to believe that after today’s bloodbath, protesters would settle for any scenario that will keep Bashar in power. Whether he is losing control of his security apparatuses, as some still claim, or not, ultimately, he is the one responsible, and he is deeply and widely believed by the protesters on the basis of his performance during this crisis to be part of the problem, if not its very embodiment.
Three items in particular deserve to be highlighted today: 1) the use of tanks to besiege the suburbs of Mouaddamiyyah and Darayyah near Damascus, 2) the prevalence of elderly security officers in the streets, which denote that the Assads are relying heavily on the reserves, perhaps as a reflection of their inability to trust all available army units in this crackdown, and 3) the use of explosive bullets to kill as evident in the type of wounds made.