Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Bloody Friday! Part Two: Stories of Massacres Foretold

Massacres are currently unfolding in Deraa and Homs.

As you read these words bear in mind that events continue tom unfold in the city of Deraa and Homs. Deraa, where we have more information at this stage, is currently under siege by new army units that seem to have been brought from Suweida City. Earlier reports of defections in the ranks of the army units already stationed in Deraa seem to have prompted this move, although the number of defectors seems to have been small, and many of them were shot by security forces loyal to Maher Al-Assad. We could be heading towards a major bloodbath anytime now. There is urgent need for an immediate international push to contain the situation before it escalates out of control. A strong message with warnings that violence would have major consequences needs to be sent to the Assads now, before it’s too late. Already the death toll is said to be around 100, with more than 500 wounded, many of whom in serious condition.

The decision by the Assads to escalate their recourse to violence seems to have been premised on failure of talks that took place yesterday between Deraa’s new security chief and local protests leaders. Protesters expressed clearly that their demand is regime change, and women threw old shoes on the security chief as he left the gathering with his escort.

Feeling that the tide is turning against them in other Syrian cities as well, with chants of “The People Want to Topple the Regime” being reiterated by protesters everywhere, and noticing that their many in the Alawite community are turning against them, as the recent inter-Alawite clashes in the town of Qneiseen demonstrate, the Assads might have felt that they need to set an example and remind all people that Hama Rules are still at play. The problem with this thinking is that the country is not as isolated as it was in 1982 and people today are not sorely relying on oral reports and rumors for information, there are videos and accurate timely reports pouring in from Deraa and all places where large protests are taking place, which combined with the peaceful character of the protests are serving to enrage people, rat her than intimidate, setting the grounds for expansion of the protest movement. Over 500,000 people were out in the streets of Syria today demanding freedom and chanting “The People Want to topple the Regime.”

The day in Homs has also been bloody, but the reports are sporadic and do not yet convey enough details as to what transpired. What we know for sure is there are more fatalities today than before, and that protests took place in several locations and suburbs at once.

Banyas and Lattakia also witnessed major protests: the entire population seems to have hit the streets. In Qamishly and Amoudeh, the Kurds were out in droves proving that they want like all other Syrians, and not simply an end to the plight of the denaturalized among them. Hama, Alboukamal, Dirbassieh, Salamiyyeh, Dariyyah, Deir Ezzor, etc. all witnessed major protests. This is the nature of the Syrian Revolution so far, communities are rebelling individually, and alternative leadership structures are emerging in the form of popular committees in different communities.  This is both the strength of this revolution, but also is Achilles Heel. With the bat of an eyelid, a number of massacres could take place simultaneously, and the death toll could be enormous. We could easily wake up one day to find out that hundreds if not thousands of unarmed civilians have been killed overnight. That day could be tomorrow. Urgent Action is needed now.

A larger report on today’s events will follow.