As Assad and his officials try to pull a new non-existent rabbit out of a bottomless hat, the White House and some foreign officials seem willing to play along, which is how Assad-style magic works. Still, the protesters reserve the right to respond on Friday. It’s their show, after all.
The opposition conference that took place in Damascus in the Semiramis Hotel (instead of the Sheraton) on Monday, June 27, came out with a statement that must have disappointed the Assads in its substance, but then the Assads don’t care much about substance, and focus more on their ability to manipulate popular impressions and perceptions through their control over state-media and influence over many regional media outlets, as well as the willing blindness and ideological predilections of many international observers. This has always been the essence of their “magic.” And it is for this reason that I, among most dissidents I know, opposed the conference. We had no doubt about the good intentions and patriotism of the participants, but we understood all too well that their intentions and patriotic sentiments are simply irrelevant. At end of the day, the Assads had their magic show, and their act seems to have generated the desired effect in exactly the right quarters: the White House.
In a related development, and as part of the Assad PR current PR campaign, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and British MP Brooks Newmark paid a visit to Syria over the weekend and met with Bashar Al-Assad in a step that ended up receiving the usual Assad Baathist treatment, transforming it into an endorsement of Assad-planned reforms and of Assad as a person, the original intentions and ideas of Kucinich and Newmark notwithstanding, albeit Kucinich is on record as having Kerry-like positive impressions of Assad. Will Kucinich end up having an awakening a la Senator Kerry? I certainly hope so.
Dictators in our region have always managed to cultivate friends in strange places. But today’s miracles are being produced by the Syrian people, not the ruling thugs. Hama Rules no longer apply today: it is the people who make the rules, and we will not be conned again. Assads have the power, we have the willpower.
Dr. Ammar Qurabi, President of the national Organization for Human Rights in Syria and member of the Executive Committee of the Change in Syria Conference (i.e. the Antalya Conference) lists over 200 communities all over Syrian that witnessed sizeable protests on and every day and night since Friday 24. He also lists the names of hundreds of residents who had been detained since, even as Bashar met with Congressman Kucinich and MP Newmark, and some opposition figure were allowed to hold an open meeting in Damascus. Since the measure of anyone’s credibility is his actions and not his words, Assad has no more credibility. The sooner international officials realize that, the better for all.
Meanwhile, protest communities are now organizing two protests per day, at the very least: one in the morning, one in the afternoon that often spills into the night. But many communities never sleep, and their protests are ongoing. Add to that the general strike now observed in many of these communities, and now you have an idea of what the situation is like across Syria today outside certain neighborhoods in Damascus, Aleppo and Suweida, and, of course, outside the towns and villages emptied due to ongoing military operations. As such, those who still speak of the revolution as a localized movement are deluding themselves. Estimates from last Friday put the total number of protesters who took to the streets at three million.
JUNE 28 VIDEO SAMPLER
JUNE 27 VIDEO SAMPLER