Thursday, April 7, 2011

Syria: Rise of the Obscurantists!

Encouraged by regional support, overt and tacit, and international confusion, Assad reaches out to Islamists!   

A relatively quiet day that started with protests in the diverse (Druzes, Christians, Sunnis, Iraqi refugees) Damascene suburb of Jeramana, that was quickly dispelled by security forces who went to organize a pro-Assad rally, and ended with clashes between Kurdish protesters and security officers in Wadee Al-Masharee Suburb that reportedly left 7 protesters dead, although no further details are available about the incident.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses from Kafar Batna, the Damascene suburbs that witnessed major protests yesterday leading to a number of fatalities, which, we were told at the time, included a number of security officers, denied the validity of these claims and asserted that no security officer was killed by inhabitants of Kafar Batna and that all fatalities were from the ranks of the local population.

For their part, protest leaders in Deraa City refused to meet their newly appointed Governor, and continued their sit-in in Alomari Mosque, as inhabitants of nearby Jassem demonstrated against offers of reconciliation sent by state through intermediaries.  

Before Bashar Al-Assad speech last week, a member of parliament, Youssef Abou Roumiyeh, addressed his colleagues, accused security officers of being responsible for the massacres in Deraa and called on Bashar to apologize to the people of Deraa, open an inquiry in the matter, and listen to their legitimate demand. A video of his speech has making the rounds pn the internet over the last few days, now Syrian authorities are said to be questioning Abou Roumiyeh to ascertain how the video, taking from the closed circuit TV in the parliament, has made its way to the Internet.

The Turkish FM support of Assad’s shadow reforms, which he expressed during his visit to Damascus earlier today, have generated much dismay among protest leaders who were hoping for more a sympathetic Turkish role. This latest development is adding much to the frustration of protest leaders who view regional and international responses as being below their expectations so far, especially considering the number of casualties involved, with more than 150 confirmed fatalities. Syria’s protest leader are hoping for an emergency session of UNHRC to discuss the current situation in Syria, which can be leveraged by the international community to send a clear message to the Assads on the use of violence against unarmed protesters, especially at a time when the Assads have the audacity to lobby for Libya’s position on the Council.

Lastly, Bashar’s decision to reverse his regime’s decision on Niqab ban, to reinstate Niqab-wearing teachers to their former possession, and to endear himself to loyal Islamists by giving them more access to the state media (in fact, Sheikh Ramdan Al-Bouti asserted in his sermon last Tuesday, which aired on Syrian TV, that Assad promised him to launch a religious channel as well as an institute for training future Imams “who won’t deviate right or left”), should serve to underscore the kind of reforms the Assads have in mind. By encouraging the most obscurantist elements to plan a more visible role in society, they hope to bolster their claim that their presence is needed to keep society in check. Problem with this policy is that protesters hate these elements as equally as they do the Assads.


Mouaddamiyyah Funeral
Speech by Imam Mouadh Khateeb in Douma April 5
“It does not matter if a man is Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Druze or Ismailite, an Arab or a Kurd, the value of the human being in the eyes of God lies in his piety. We are all one body. I say to you, the Alawites are much closer to me than many people. I know their villages, their impoverished villages where they live under oppression and toil hard. We speak for the freedom of every human being in this country, for every Sunni, every Alawite, every Ismailite, every Christian, every Arab and every member of the great Kurdish nation who bore Islam in her heart since ever… We suffer for every fallen brother who was just practicing his God-given right… Freedom is born with every one of us and not a gift bestowed on us by anybody. Freedom is a blessing from God, not something possessed by a ruler, a government or state… the hearts of the Syrian people cry blood for every mother, for every martyr’s wound… for this great people who went out to practice their right to demonstrate, not carrying any weapons, while shouting Peacefully, Peacefully… I am really sorry that the media is falling woefully behind. What can they come and see what people’s conditions are like, what their demand are… I was at the Rifgai Mosque and I saw how the electric batons were used against the youth just because they were asking for freedom. We want these people to be held accountable. This country is going through great turmoil, and we call on the state, where we hope some wise people can prevail; and put an end to this and open the gate to freedom gradually and according to a sound program… all that we demand now is opening an investigation, holding every wrongdoer accountable, announcing timetable for reforms for which we eagerly await.. God bless you all.”
Deraa Al-Omari Mosque: Sit-In continues
Deraa – Jassem: people demonstrating to express rejection of state offers
Bashar Supporters: A cult of personality gone haywire, or a show of sycophancy? You decide!