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