Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Antalya & Aftermath!

As Syrian opposition groups got their act together in Antalya, Assad Death Squads take their violent crackdown to unprecedented levels, while the international community dithers.

As you read this a massacre is taking place in Jisr Ashoughour perpetrated by Assad’s Death Squads

Tuesday June 7, 2011

Week 11 of the Syrian Revolution witnessed the death of over 500 protesters compared to 1,100 in the previous 10 weeks!

Currently, massacres are taking place in Rastan, Talbisseh, Hama, Deir Ezzor, Alboukamal, and Jisr Ashoughour.

Major defections by low ranking army officers, especially in Rastan and Jisr Ashoughour are taking place at a more regular pace now leading to more violent confrontations with Assad Death Squads, especially in the town of Jisr Ashoughour.

Syrian TV declared that reinforcements have indeed been sent to Jisr Ashoughour, where eyewitnesses report major defections by army officers and increasing clashes with Assad Death Squads. 

Week 11 coincided with the meeting of the Antalya Conference for Change in Syria, organized by Syrian opposition groups, and which concluded its works on June 3 by calling on Bashar Al-Assad to step down immediately.

The Antalya Conference was attended by 350 participants, 50 of whom came from Syria itself, including young protest leaders.

The Antalya Conference was attended by dozens of reporters representing all major global news outlets, including BBC, CNN, France 24, Al-Jazeerah, Al-Arabiya, Al-Hurrah, the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and a dozen Turkish and European outlets, among many others. Members of the press were granted unfettered access to most conference sessions, and were allowed to talk to all conferees.

Young activists from inside and outside the country formed a number of committees to coordinate their future activities and discuss more effective ways for supporting the revolution and getting the message out to the international community.

The escalation of violent crackdown on part of the Assads during the Antalya Conference is not surprising and serves to highlight their growing despair and their fear that an alternative to their rule is beginning to take shape.

The Assad Gambit is to fuel communal strife and heat up the long-dormant Golan Front. This has always been their go-to plan when times get tough. The question confronting the international community is whether to allow them to continue to get away with it, or accept the need for change in the country. Lacking serious leadership on part of the United States, the international community will continue to dither in their stand on the current developments in Syria, massacres will continue and a descent into a bloody quagmire will be ensured.

Palestinians in the Yarmouk Camp in Damascus burnt the recruitments offices that played key role in getting people to take part in the recent incursions across the Golan, shouting slogans aimed against Ahmed Jibreel, leader of a pro-Assad Palestinian group.

With the formation of a Consultative Council at the conclusion of the Antalya Conference,

Still, Syrian democracy activists, many of whom gathered in Turkey this week, voiced concern that Washington continues to cling to a hope that the Syrian leader could be rehabilitated. "The problem here is that this policy of the U.S. still legitimates the position of Bashar al-Assad, and isn't commensurate with the position of the people demonstrating in the streets," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based activist.
Three months into the uprising in Syria, there is little sign of either side backing down. The authoritarian President Bashar al-Assad continues to violently suppress demonstrations by his own people (despite condemnation from the international community) while the opposition – now more coherent than ever – has made it clear that the people will accept nothing less than his removal from power.
Syria: ‘Gay Girl in Damascus' Seized (your typical gay Salafist infiltrator)

We are now dealing with a situation where dozens are getting killed by Assad Death Squads every day in cities and communities across Syria. Is there any justification for continued dithering on part of the international community? Does the situation still seem manageable to world leaders? Do heavy casualties among unarmed civilians seem somehow acceptable or justifiable? Are world leaders buying into Assad lies of armed gangs at a time when mass murders are being perpetrated by Assad Death Squads? The Syrian opposition has made a tremendous leap forward by forming a united platform in Antalya, now the world has to make a move to support the Syrian people, stop the bloodshed in Syria and bring the Assad to account for their crimes.

Notes on Antalya

I took part in the Antalya Conference that took place on May 31-June 2 and I stand firmly behind it. This was remarkable event, unprecedented in its ability to get Syrian activists, professionals and opposition figures, from all different national, religious and ideological backgrounds and from countries around the world, most notably from Syria herself.

The election of a 31-member Consultative Committee at the end of the Conference meant to act as a support group for the revolution was an important development and offers a glimpse at an alternative to the Assad regime would look like. Still, it is important to note that the Council is not meant to act as governing body, as Syrian revolutionaries has long agreed that a truly legitimate transitional government can only be formed on Syrian soil so that protest leaders can be truly represented.

Membership of the Consultative Council includes representatives of tribal leaders, representatives of the Kurdish parties, representatives of the young protest leaders, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and various independent activists and professionals, including, I am proud to say, my wife Khawla Yusuf.

The Consultative Council will convene soon to elect a 9-member executive body to act as the liaison with the international community.

Personal Note: I have kept this report short as I am still recovering from a minor health setback following a prolonged period in action. I will be back to full operational mode soon though, with apologies to all journalists who have been trying to reach me in the last few days.

Homs Protesters Salute the Antalya Conference: “long live the conferees”
Iranian Snipers?
This video was made by Hama protesters and purports to show snipers of Iranian descent. Indeed, the accent of the “snipers” is rather heavy, and Syria is known to host over 5,000 Iranian troops at any given moment as part of mutual training and exchange of expertise agreements. Still, if true, this would be the first demonstrable case of involvement by Iranians in actual field activities against protesters.
Al-Hraak Massacre: playing the Alawite Card 
This is another video showing off the bodies of the 4 Palestinians who were killed in Al-Hraak as they tried to smuggle food to the besieged inhabitants of Deraa City. This new video, however, shows the faces of the officers involved as they speak to each other in the coastal accent of the Alawite community. The release of the video seems to come as part of the Assads strategy to play the communal card and incite Sunni anger against the Alawite. In doing this, that is, in playing Sunnis against Alawites, the Assads seem to be hoping to consolidate their support base not only among the Alawites community but also among other religious minorities, not to mention the secular Sunni elite. The second video, however, showing members of the Assad Death Squads soldiers planting weapons on the 4 dead Palestinians seems to backfire as it exposes official lies about armed gangs.
Al-Hraak: planting weapons
The hanging of a security officer in Hama on June 5
While the authenticity of this video has not yet been confirmed, seeing that it did not come from our usual sources, still, and assuming that its claim of showing protesters lynching a security officer are indeed true, the act needs to be taking within the larger context of the massacre of more than 100 protesters in Hama in cold blood on the hands of Assad Death Squads over the previous week, as the second video shows.
Hama Massacre June 3

Smiling in death’s face: protesters in Homs risk their lives to mock the idea of being armed gangs, as they insist on having fun in the face of certain death.

Ruknalddine Demo on June 3
A message from Deir Ezzor protesters to Hassan Nasrallah (June 4)
New Song For the Revolution (English)