Saturday, May 21, 2011

Back to the Beginning!

As Assad forces continue to seek salvation through bloodletting, protesters rely on sheer defiance and continued commitment to nonviolence, managing to reenergize their 9-weeks long movement.

Friday 20, 2011

44 dead and dozens wounded in the largest day of protest yet, with death toll expected to rise as more communities send their reports.

Damascus & Suburbs, Hama & Suburbs, Homs & Suburbs, Idlib & Suburbs, Deraa & Suburbs, Alboukamal, Deir Ezzor, Raqqah, Qamishly, Amudeh, Kobani Banyas and Jableh among others, all took part in the protests.

The lack of any obvious opposition alternative to Assad limits what Western governments, including the U.S, can do, says Ammar Abdulhamid, a prominent U.S-based Syrian dissident. "We do want [Obama] to call on Assad to step down at one point soon, but that's not going to happen until Syrian opposition and activists get together and formulate a viable alternative to manage the transitional period. Only then can we expect world leaders to be more forthcoming in their calls on Assad to step down."
A day after President Obama pressed Syria to end brutal attacks on pro-democracy demonstrators, Bashar Assad's forces continue their violent crackdown. Activists work to broaden the movement by bringing in Kurds.
The resilience of the protests seemed to surprise even the activists themselves. The message delivered at many of the demonstrations, from Damascus, the capital, to the distant east, to towns that had been the target of ferocious repression, was that the killing of hundreds and detention of thousands would not stifle opposition to four decades of authoritarian rule.

 With so many dead today despite all international pressures and sanctions, it’s clear that the Assads won’t go gently into that good night, but since the protesters are foolhardy enough to keep taking to the streets to die for the  cause, the choice facing world leaders is how much bloodshed will be enough before they act. 

We might call it the Obama Effect: those who felt the American President’s speech as being too light on Assad felt angered and expressed their frustration by taking to the streets, and those who felt it was just right for now, having raised the possibility of Assad’s departure, have also taken to the streets feeling that the momentum is back on their side.


This is at least one explanation for the mass turnout today. But even if true, the Obama Effect is just one factor here, a marginal one even. The reality is: the protesters were reacting to repeated assertions by Syrian officials over the last two weeks that their movement has lost steam and that the authorities have regained the upper-hand. They were also reacting to the statements by Bashar Al-Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf that struck a raw nerve with Syrians by stressing the family-based nature of the regime and the willingness of the Assads to do whatever it takes to hang on to power.


Now it’s all about the Assads. The masks are off.  Rami’s statements about Israeli security rendered all talk about resistance ideology rather meaningless. Even security officers are now order to chant for “Abu Hafiz” during their clashes with protesters. Abu Hafiz is Bashar’s traditional nickname and refers to the name of both his late father and his eldest son. The point is to say that Bashar will rule until his death and will be followed by son. A pro-regime graffiti left on the walls of a Homs community by security officers even state “Bashar is our King.”


Forget about reforms then: the choice this is about Assad forever or Assad never. Whatever “reforms” Assad will be willing to entertain can never challenge his or his family’s hold on power, which is a complete anathema to the protesters. The resulting stalemate means more violence will continue to take place on a daily basis throughout the country, for the foreseeable future and until such time that army leadership begins cracking under pressure, with some changing their loyalties to the side of the protesters. Naturally, sectarian faultiness will figure highly in this. The ability of Syrian opposition forces to project an alternative that can be embraced by grassroots protest leaders and the international community will facilitate the adoption of a more proactive response by the international community, pushing leaders like President Obama into making clear-cut calls on Assad to leave or face certain dire consequences.  



Damascus Videos


Bab Sreejeh (Old Damascus): “the people want to topple the regime”

Saqba: the whole town was out chanting “We are going to Paradise as millions of martyrs” “the people want to topple the regime” “Bye, bye, Bashar, sweet dreams”

Saqba: army troops pour into the streets

Saqba: security officers chant “Abu Hafiz” “We sacrifice our blood and soul for you Bashar”

Harasta: security checkpoints all over town prior to Friday prayers

Darayyah: “Raise your voice, it’s a revolution until death”

Darayyah: protesters come under fire as they chant “the people want to topple the regime”

Darayyah: security forces take the streets and begin arresting protesters

Darayyah: Back and forth between Darayyah protesters (armed with rocks) and security officers (armed with guns)

Darayyah: protesters return to the streets in the evening, chanting: “We’re going to Paradise, as millions of martyrs”

Darayyah: nightly protest. Protesters chant “our revolution is quite fine”

Darayyah: nighttime funeral. Chant: “the people want to topple the regime”

Qaboun: “leave, leave” “the people want to topple the regime”

Qaboun: “security forces pour into the streets chanting Abou Hafiz (Bashar’s nickname) and “Where are the traitors”

Qaboun: army troops arresting and beating protesters

Qaboun: security troops pouring into the streets

Qaboun: despite the daytime crackdown, people pour into the streets at night chanting “we will write on our flag that Bashar has betrayed the homeland”

Jdeidat Artouz: “Leave us and take your party with you”

Qatana: “O informant leave Syria, leave Qatana”

Qatana: “Freedom is at the Gate” “We’re now focused on you Bashar” “the people want to topple the regime”

Qatana: “the people want a new president” “Bashar you coward, send your dogs to the Golan”

Abou Ayyoub Al-Ansari Mosque: “Freedom, Freedom” “the Syrian people ware one”

Al-Dhaibeh Mosque (Old Damascus): despite the small size of the demonstration, protesters still chant: “the people want to topple the regime,” after all, “God is greater than the oppressor.”

Barzeh Al-Balad: army troops pour into the streets

Kisweh: “Leave us and take your party with you” “the people want to topple the regime”

Zabadani:a nightly demonstration:  “the people want to topple the regime”

Ruknaddine: protesters chant “Azadi, Azadi”


Idlib Videos


Idlib City


Bench: “the people want to topple the regime”

Bench: a martyr

Kafar Nabol: Protesters carry signs in Arabic and English, and chant “Syria, Syria”

Kafar Nabol: “the people want to topple the regime”

Jisr Ashoughour: “We will support you until death, o Deraa (Talbisseh, etc.)”

Jisr Ashoughour: members of the Baath resign publicly

Mouarrat Al-Nouman: protesters hold funerals for two of their colleagues, and chant “the people want to topple the regime”

Mouarrat Al-Nouman: Security forces in action

Mouarrat Al-Nouman: Security forces fire on the protesters, wounding many.


Qamishly & Kurdish Areas Videos


Qamishly: Security forces raid the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, a local Christian organization that has been part of the Syrian opposition movement for over a decade and who took part in organizing the protests in Qamishly, confiscating all files and electronic equipment

Qamishly: “the people want to topple the regime”  “the Syrian people are one”

Amudeh: Kurdish protesters chant Azadi while carrying signs saying “No Dialog with Tanks”

Kobani / Ain Al-Arab: “One Hand” “God, Syria, Freedom”


Homs Videos


Bab Al-Sibaa & Karam Al-Shami: protesters from two neighborhoods converge, and immediately begin chanting: “the people want to topple the regime” “Long live Syria, Down with Bashar Al-Assad”

Bab Al-Sibaa: protesters come under fire but they keep chanting “the people want to topple the regime”

Madrasat Khadijah: “No rule lasts forever, O Bashar Al-Assad” “the people want to topple the regime”

Protesters carry banner declaring the “demise” of the Arab League

Suq Al-Hasheesh: “the people want to topple the regime” “Leave, leave”

Bab Amr: “He who kills his own people is a traitor” “We will be victorious”

Bab Amr: protesters come under fire as they chant “the people want to topple the regime,” one of them gets wounded and is rushed to the hospital.

Homs / Bayadah Neighborhood

Homs: the aftermath of a security “intervention” – destroyed cars and pro-Assad graffiti: “this your last Friday, you traitors” “The leader of Syria forever: Bashar Al-Assad” “Assad our King and our President.” There were also slogan calling for the execution of Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, Saad Al-Hariri of Lebanon and former VP, Abdulhaleem Khaddam, the alleged sponsors of the revolution, according to official propaganda. “The soldiers of Bashar will pursue all the dogs, the dogs of Banda, Khaddam and Hariri” “Al-Assad Or La Ahad (no one)”

Inshaat: “the people want to topple the regime”

Al-Qarabees: “the people want to topple the regime”

Al-Wa’er: protesters call on bystanders to join them chanting: “Why are you afraid, God is with us”

Hola: a protesters carries a note in Russian saying: “Mr. Medvedev, I beg your pardon, but the Syrian people want freedom”

Hola: “God Almighty smite Bashar and Maher” “We don’t want dialog, we want you to leave, o Bashar”

Al-Qseir: “Long live Syria, down with Bashar Al-Assad” “God is Greater than the oppressor” “the people want to topple the regime”

Al-Qseir: the protest carried into the night, as men and women chant “Murderer son of a murderer”


Rastan: protests carries into the night

Talbisseh: tens of thousands of protesters in the streets chanting “the people want to topple the regime”

Talbisseh: protesters burn sim cards of the Mobile company, Syriatel, owned by Rami Makhlouf, Bashar’s cousin.


Hama Videos


Security reinforcements arrive into the city and begin firing at protesters

Security loot and destroy shops and stands, fire tear gas at tock-wielding protesters

Security forces fire live rounds straight into the crowd. The sudden stop at the end of the video is due to an attempt at arresting the cameraman. Eyewitnesses say he managed to escape.

Protesters taunt security officers challenging them to shoot, as they throw rocks at them.

Before the crackdown

Protesters burning the flags of China, Russia and Iran

“The people want to topple the regime”

A martyr

Protesters wrote on the wall: “we demand the dissolution of the traitorous army and the establishment of a patriotic one”

Al-Hadir: protesters come under tear gas attack

Qalaat Al-Madeeq: “the people want to topple the regime”

Sauran: “the people want to topple the regime”


Deraa Videos


Abtaa: “O God Almighty save us from Bashar” “Maher you coward, send your troops to the Golan [if you can]” “the people want to topple the regime”

Nahteh: Banner: “no backing down or surrender until the regime is toppled”

Nahteh: protests carry into the night with people chanting: “the people want to topple the regime” “We take death but never humiliation” “Bashar listen, the people of Deraa will not bow down” “he who kills his own people is a traitor, so Bashar you are a traitor”



Miscellaneous Videos


Alboukamal: security forces fire straight into rock throwing crowd of protesters

Lattakia: despite heavy security presence, protesters take to the streets chanting “we will be victorious”

Lattakia / Tabiyyat: small crowds gather chant in support of Deraa despite heavy security presence

Lattakia / Ramel: “the people want to topple the regime.” Banner says: “If you want to stay in power, you have to kill 20 million Syrians”

Lattakia: protesters carry a dead colleague who’s just been shot

Aleppo / Seif Al-Dawlah Neighborhood: “The Syrian people are one”