Monday, May 9, 2011

Deraa, Banyas, Homs: For the Assads tanks are the solution, not reforms!

As the Assads deploy their favorite weapons to quell protesters: tanks and sectarianism, protesters deploy their own favorite weapons in their fight against the Assads: defiance and perseverance.  

As you read this, army tanks are invading the Damascene suburb of Mouaddamiyyah: it seems that hoisting Syria’s Independence Flag on Friday was a bit too much for the Assads.

Sunday 8, 2011
Over 250 residents of Banyas have been arrested, including 10 women a 10-yar old boy, the local Imam Anas Ayrout and many medical professionals who were taken straight from the hospitals.  The city remains under siege and basic services, including water, electricity and communications lines are down. Snipers and tanks are reported all over the Sunni areas in this mixed city of over 50,000. The Assads’ policy remains hinged at driving a wedge between the Sunni, Alawite and Christian communities, as protests in the city witnessed large participation by Alawite and Christian residents.

Army units, reportedly “invaded” the neighborhoods of Bab Al-Sibaa and Bab Amr in the centrally located city of Homs. Clashes with unarmed protesters left a 12-year old boy dead. Hundreds were reportedly detained in house-to-house searches. To date, the neighborhoods remain surrounded by tanks, and basic services are down.

Units of the Syrian army also entered the city of Tafas near Deraa. Gunfire was heard but not casualties were reported.

10 civilians were killed as their bus came under attack on its way from Lebanon to Homs. Authorities blame attack on the usual “armed gangs” that only they can see. Local eyewitnesses blame the Shabbiha.

There growing rumors that Asma Al-Assad has fled with her three boys to London, but this cannot be confirmed.

An Assadism:
Syrian newspaper Al-Watan reports that during a meeting between Bashar Al-Assad and a youth delegation the issue of violence perpetrated by security officers was raised. This is what Bashar had to say: “What happened at times represents individual behavior; the guidance within the government is for containing the crisis and shunning violence.” So, the 1,000 murdered protester, the 10,000 detainees, all cases of torture, the interrupted basic services, and dwindling food supplies in a number of besieged towns and neighborhoods, they all represent “individual behavior!” I wonder what collective punishment is like!


For people who keep asserting that the Assads remain in control, let’s be clear on that: every major city, town, suburb and neighborhood where there is no mass army or security presence has joined the protest movement and fielded major demonstrations on Fridays, and more recently throughout the week. Only brute force is keeping the Assads in power now, there is no more political legitimacy involved. While a regime may go one for a long time in the absence of political legitimacy, it’s pretty hard to accomplish that in the face of an active and resilient protest movement.

Hama / May 7: Banner near the Governor’s Office “the people want to topple the regime”
Anti-regime graffiti scribbled on walls of Governor’s office
Hama / May 8: “Zenga Zenga, Dar Dar, we will chase you out Bashar”
Homs: busses operated by security officers heading towards Bab Al-Sibaa to transport detainees.
Deraa / April 20: this video shows security officers standing on top of the Governor’s Palace, and protesters on the grounds telling that they can get down and leave, there are no guns to be seen anywhere. Eventually, protesters left to allow the security officers to get down. Is this the behavior of armed Salafist gangs?
Homs: plumes of smoke rise over city in the morning following artillery bombardment of the city.
Deraa / Namar: as the local Imam delivers his sermon, the video shows signs saying: “No to mayhem, no to corruption, no to sectarianism, no to arms, no to trial, no to violence,” “Yes to freedom, yes to peace, yes to national unity, yes to reform, yes to change, yes to cooperation.”
Deraa / Jassem: Banner “No terrorism, no salafism, we reject intervention by security forces” “Da’el burning” “Tafas bleeding.” Chants: “lift the siege.”
“the people want to topple the regime”
Deraa / Al-Hara: night vigil. Speaker: martyrs fell only when there were security forces around… we want the international community to intervene to stop the bloodshed.” Chants: “the people want to topple the regime”
Damascus / Mouaddamiyyah: a morning protest
Damascus / Barzeh: “God, Syria, Freedom” This demonstration has become a daily affair for the last 10 days.
Damascus / Al-Qadam: protests in Al-Qadam have become a daily affair, so is the chant of “the people want to topple the regime”
Mouarrat Al-Nouman: funeral for a martyr
Hamam / Apamea: “we take dead over humiliation”
Deir Ezzor / Quriyyeh: protests have become a daily affair here as well
Homs: kids play a little game involving names of Assad’s family members and shoes. In a place where the cult of personality was key to keeping the regime in check, challenging the legitimacy of the regime takes strange guises.