Monday, April 18, 2011

Independence Day!

Assad marked Independence Day with renewed bloodshed as protesters demand his ouster.

Note to pundit: Please stop wondering who Assad is. The truth is plain for all to see. Assad is what Assad does, not what Assad says or how he carries himself in public. What Assad has been doing since Year One in office, long before 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the Freedom Agenda, the assassination of Hariri, and the pullout from Lebanon with the international pressures and UN Resolutions that followed, is to crackdown and stand by the most corrupt members of his family and entourage. The fact that he is doing all this while being personable and goofy, and while sporting a trophy wife, whose own family is equally immersed in corruption at this stage, should not blind us to these other equally visible facts. I wish that western analysts and policymakers bear this in mind when they consider the Syrian situation. Bad Guys in the Middle East don’t all look like Saddam or speak like Gaddafi: they just behave like them. So watch what really counts here: behavior on the ground.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Assad security forces behave like invaders from outer space, the brainwashing that they have been subjected to over the years is enormous, and, as we have seen in the case of Gaddafi, regimes are always willing to provide lucrative incentives as reward for loyalty in times of crisis.

Be that as it may, today marks a true turning point in Syria’s revolution: it’s now an open showdown between people that want to be free and will no longer compromise on freedom, seeing that previous experiences taught them that such compromises, no matter how reasonable they might appear at the time, always lead back to slavery and serfdom, and a gang of thugs willing and desperate to hold on to power at any cost. The so-called silent majority as well as the international community will have to choose their side soon.

Meanwhile the not-so-silent majority in many cities and towns across the country celebrated Syria’s Day of Independence by protesting and calling for toppling the regime.

Homs. There were demonstrations in different parts of the city as well as in surrounding towns, including Rastan and Talbiseh. Earlier reports of bombardment using tanks and artillery could not be confirmed, but tanks and artillery were indeed used to lay siege to both towns. Still, gunfire left dozens of casualties, and 4 were confirmed dead so far, although the final too is expected to rise once dust settles down, especially considering that hospitals are often prevented from providing adequate treatment to the wounded and that security officers have been seen brutalizing the wounded even as they lay in hospital beds. Three fatalities were also reported in Bab Al-Sibaa, especially near the local hospital where protesters tried to prevent security forces from entering and arresting the wounded and from snatching the bodies of the dead, as became customary for them to do since the beginning of the Revolution in an attempt to minimize number of funerals. Meanwhile, eyewitness

Lattakia: security crackdowns were reported in both the Sleibeh and Tabiat neighborhoods. No exact words yet on fatalities and casualties, but early reports from a number of eyewitnesses in the city mention that dozens have fallen. It’s very difficult to get confirmation at this stage. If these figures and those reported from Homs and Mouaddamiyyah below are confirmed, this could be the bloodiest day of the revolution.  

Mouaddammiyyah: major protests demanding regime fall were also met with heavy security crackdown, including tear gas and life ammunition. At one point, reports claimed that women threw boiling water and gas tanks at the security officers s they stormed the narrow streets of the neighborhood. Five fatalities are reported.

Suweida: a small protest of 300 participants was brutally dispersed by local authorities, and though no major casualties were reported, the incident generated much anger among Syria’s Druze community whose capital is Suweida. Hani Al-Atrash, the grandson of Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash, the Grandfather of the Syrian Revolution that paved the way to independence was among the brutalized. As such, what started as small protests could quickly snowball into a major development that could  engulf the entire governorate following the example of neighboring Deraa.

A poll on Al-Jazeerah Arabic website on whether the “reforms” introduced by Bashar Al-Assad are sufficient showed that 64% of voters believe this not to be the case. Over 12,500 took part in the vote so far.

Videos

Homs / Talbiseh: gunfire used against protesters, fatalities and casualties confirmed. Tanks and heavy artilleries were used to besiege town, but not to shoot at protesters as earlier reported.
Homs: protesters show bullets used against them as they chant “the people want to topple the regime,” “the people want to topple Bashar” and “He who kills his own people is a traitor”
Homs: army troops seen at the entrance of Bab Al-Sibaa
Homs / Bab Al-Sibaa: gunfire heard
Homs:  people take to the streets to show solidarity with their neighbors in Bab Al-Sibaa. Chants: “Down with Baath Party” “We’re coming to your aid Bab Al-Sibaa” “The People want to topple the regime”
Homs / Talbiseh: the injured
Homs / Bab Al-Sbaa: ambulances parked and not in use despite heavy casualties among protesters
Homs / Bab Al-Sbaa: the beginning of the protests. Chants mock Assad’s recent speech: “the people want a deciphering of the speech”
Homs / Bab Al-Sibaa: “the one who kills his own people is a traitor”
Homs / Bab Al-Sbaa: “the people want to topple the regime”
Homs / Mreijeh Mosque: protesters show empty shells and blood pools on the ground and say this is how their cries for freedom were met.
Homs / Bayadeh: people rush to the aid of neighbors in Bab Al-Sibaa, chanting “the people want to topple the regime”
Damascus / Mouaddamiyyah: Banner says “Abu Ghreib was moved to Syria” protesters chant: “you filthy ones, lift the siege of Banyas”
Damascus / Mouaddamiyyah: protesters bear chest in defiance as they chant anti-Assad slogans. “Bashar you Sharon (former Israelis PM), Banyas is not Iskandarone (reference to Hatay Province quietly ceded by Assad to Turkey to resolve long simmering border dispute, without making any public acknowledgement of the matter)” “We came to the square to set fire to the Ass of Qardaha (in reference to Assad and the birthplace of his family in the mountains North of Lattakia.”
Damascus / Mouaddamiyyah: “the people want to topple the regime” One protester says waving an empty tear gas canister: Assad said we can hold peaceful demonstrations, but look what they sued against us. Protesters believe the canisters were made in Iran, and say this kind of gas is internationally forbidden.
Damascus / Dmeir: Banners assert national unity, reject sectarianism and insist on peaceful nature of the revolution.
Damascus / Douma: protesters chant “Another Toz (Fart)” in reference to the new cabinet
Damascus / Douma: protesters tear down another Assad poster chanting “the people want to topple the regime”
Damasucs / Kisweh: “we want national unity… we don’t have sectarianism…”
Banyas: “the people want to topple the regime”
Banyas: some of the young men who lay on the highway to stop the tanks address the crowd
Banyas: Syrian TV took this testimony by a Banyas resident who said that when mistakes happen if the President is accountable, but the testimony was never broadcasted.
Banyas: another leaked video from Bayda shows celebrations by Shabbiha and security officers that followed arrests of male inhabitants. Bear in mind, Syria army regulations prohibit beards. Chants: “Bashar don’t worry you have men who drink blood”
Banyas: protesters clean up the streets after their demonstration was over
Lattakia: “We’re going to heaven as martyrs in the millions”
Lattakia: “the people want a deciphering of the speech”
Lattakia: “Neither Iran, nor Hezbollah, we want a government that fears God” “Where is freedom? Where are our detainees?” “One who kills his own people is a traitor”
Lattakia: the injured and the dead left by security crackdown. In the third video, a protester can be heard advising against taking the wounded to public hospitals saying that they are being killed there.
Lattakia: snipers on rootop
Lattakia: security officers firing
Jableh protests
Deraa: protests in support of Banyas and Douma
Deraa: “Syria is free, Bashar get out” “The people want to topple the regime”
Deraa: children and teen join protests and chant “the people want to topple the regime”
Deraa / Ankhel and Sanamein
Deraa / Sanamein: the shroud protests “Deat is preferable to humiliation”
Deraa: a relative of the late trooper Muhammad Radwan Quman says on camera that Muhammad was killed because he refused to open fire on unarmed protesters in Banyas. The second video shows the body of Muhammad, which doctors claim shows signs of torture.
Deraa: destroying a statue of Bassel Al-Assad
Suweida: this small 300-strong demonstration in Suweida commemorating Independence Day was subject to major abuse by authorities. Hopefully, this means more people will take to the street in this majority-Druze community. The protesters carried pictures of Alawite, Druze and Damascene figures to denote national unity.
Deir Ezzor / Qouriyyeh: protests in response to Bashar speech
Idlib / Kafar Nibel
Aleppo protests