Saturday, June 25, 2011

We The Germs!

Protesters mock Bashar Al-Assad and defy his armies in the Friday dedicated to the deligitimization of his regime.

Friday June 24, 2011

20 protesters reported dead after another spectacular Friday of mass protests …  Eyewitnesses from Kisweh suburb in Damascus report clashes between members of the 1st Division and security forces after snipers killed 7 protesters including a child … Eyewitnesses report that a security vehicle intentionally ran over and killed a protester … security forces in Aleppo arrest dozens of merchants who heeded the call for strike … Syria closes its borders to Turkish commercial traffic … Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey climbs to 12,000 …

Links
Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- Fighting across several Syrian cities Friday left a total of 20 anti-government protesters dead, a Syrian activist group said Saturday.
(Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets on Friday to protest against President Bashar al-Assad's rule in defiance of a military crackdown, witnesses and activists said. They said at least 15 protesters were shot dead by security forces on what activists named "the Friday of the illegitimacy of the regime," after Assad promised vague reforms this week.
In strongest condemnation yet, leaders call regime's violence “unacceptable and shocking”, promise action at the UN.
“…to listen to Assad’s latest “speech” – a charm bracelet of non sequiturs threaded on insanity – is [to] hear a man who knows he’s operating on limited time and that he’s no longer in control of his own dictatorship.”
“If I lose my job, I’ll go to the mosque, pray and, failing that, join the protests,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the government to make jobs for all its citizens.”
It is difficult to see how the Mr. Al Assad and his acolytes will be able to put Syria's genie back into the bottle. They know that time is of the essence, that popular resistance must be overcome swiftly in order to avert a meltdown. But they are working at cross-purposes. Syria's economic health requires social health and confidence. Massacring one's own population is not ideal for securing that outcome.
The US has expressed concern over reports that Syria is moving troops near the border with Turkey, and warned of a possible escalation of conflict.
“Sure, some of the people who go love the president and some are paid to go, but a lot of people don’t care about politics. They just need a release from all this stress,” explained a 28-year-old doctor, Burhan, from the Damascus suburb of Jaramaneh.
Turkey has expressed great concern over Syria’s deployment of troops and tanks near the border and says it is closely monitoring the operations.
While no one knows exactly how many people were killed in Hama two decades ago, 10,000 is considered a conservative estimate. On Friday, Syrian activists claimed that tens of thousands of protesters packed the center of the city, even as residents told my colleague Anthony Shadid that military forces remained on the outskirts of Hama.
A giant tent city was springing up on Turkey's frontier with Syria as concerns mounted Friday over a massive influx of refugees after Syrian tanks rolled into the border zone.

Experts keep waiting for a Tahrir-like moment to take place in Syria, but many such moments have already taken place throughout the country. In various communities in Deraa, Banyas, Homs, Idlib, Damascus and now Hama and Deir Ezzor and Alboukamal, etc., protesters gathered in the main squares in the tens and hundreds of thousands, depending on the size of the particular community, and expressed their opposition to the ruling regime. Observers failed to characterize these events as Tahrir-like in nature, because their frame of reference is skewed. They keep using Egypt as their reference, despite the radically different circumstances prevailing in both countries. In Egypt, high-rankling military leaders sides with the protesters early on. In Syria, and due to the sectarian background of most top military generals, their allegiance to the Assads remains strong and they feel equally threatened by the protest movement.

Since the early days of the revolution, military units established security checkpoints and barricades all over the country, separating and isolating main provinces, main communities within each province and, in case of some mixed cities, such as Lattakia, main neighborhoods within the city. With these blockades in place, and in cooperation with security forces, popular militias and gangs (the Shabbiha or the Assad death squads) as well as the many army units willing to follow orders of shoot on sight, even if the protesters are unarmed, the possibility of organizing million strong sit-ins a la Tahrir is minimal. Still, and in the face of all odds, protesters have managed to field numerous demonstrations and sit-ins of up to 150,000 in some instances, as was the case in Hama City earlier today: Friday, June 24.

Bearing in mind as well that Syria’s population is estimated at 23 million while Egypt’s exceeds 80 million, the assertion by some observers and experts that a million-strong march or sit-in has to take place before the revolution is considered truly popular and capable of threatening the regime’s grip on power, is not simply unrealistic, it fails to understand the import of what is actually taking place in Syria, namely that the regime’ grip on power is indeed slipping.

Assad’s control rests solely on military strength and the willingness of its supporters to resort to violence under protection by military and security forces. The fact that pro-Assad rallies, their size notwithstanding, only take place when they are directly organized by the state while protests happen on a daily basis, around the clock and throughout the country comes as an additional evidence of the Assads’ limited base of support and loyalty.  

The Assads’ control does not extend far beyond their guns and their tanks. Everything else is now a mirage.

Congress on Syria

Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Congressman Howard Berman | Ranking Member | Committee on Foreign Affairs | Ranking Member Howard L. Berman’s Opening Statement at Hearing, “Iran and Syria: Next Steps”

“It is clear that the Asad regime – through its murderous crackdown on unarmed civilians – has relinquished most or all of whatever legitimacy it may once have enjoyed among the Syrian people. Its demise would likely lead to the achievement of one of our most cherished strategic goals: breaking the bond between Damascus, on the one hand, and Tehran and Hezbollah, on the other.” – "For years now, many strategists in this country have encouraged Syrian-Israeli peace-making for the primary purpose of breaking the Syrian-Iranian tie and beginning the process of pushing Iran out of the Arab Middle East. We now have a historic opportunity to accomplish those goals even before the peace-making begins. This is an opportunity we should not pass up."

The Honorable Steve Chabot, Chairman, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, Remarks at "Iran and Syria: Next Steps" House Committee on Foreign Affairs, June 23, 2011

Thank you, Madame Chairman, for calling this timely and important hearing. I continue to be extremely frustrated with the Administration's Syria policy. President Obama's recent suggestion that Bashar al-Assad could remain in power if he makes the appropriate reforms is disappointing. By ruthlessly cracking down and indiscriminately killing peaceful protesters, Assad has betrayed his people and has lost all legitimacy. No piecemeal reforms can wash away the blood on his hands. And yet, the Administration still refuses to say aloud what the entire world sees so clearly: Assad is not a legitimate leader. I have to confess that I find this baffling. For years Bashar al-Assad has allowed Syria to function as a freeway for terrorists. Countless jihadis travelling to kill American soldiers in Iraq entered that country via Syria. Similarly, Iranian weapons have flowed freely across Syria's borders and into the hands of Hezbollah. It is horrifying to stop and consider how much blood--American, Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese, and Israeli--the Assad regime has on its hands. And yet we continue to confer legitimacy. Engagement has failed and leading from behind is not leading at all. It is high-time for the Administration to stand up and say what we all know to be true: Bashar must go.

Videos from Friday of Deligitimization

Following are some highlights from Reuters, with my own video links and commentary:

CENTRAL SYRIA

HAMA -- Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the main Orontes Square, where YouTube footage showed banners that read: "Long live Syria and down with Bashar" and "Rami Makhlouf and the 40 thieves," referring to Assad's hated tycoon cousin.

Hama / Hama City / June 24: 150,000 protesters demonstrate shouting “the people want to topple the regime… the people want to drop its legitimacy.”
Protesters chant their favorite Song “Syria wants freedom”
And the protest slowly turns into a vigil.
“We are revolutionaries and we want freedom, o our precious homeland”
Al-Salamiyyeh
Karnaz: “The people want Freedom

HOMS -- Protests erupted in the Bab Sbaa, Bab Amr, and Jub Jandali and Ghuta districts. Security forces used live fire, killing at least three protesters, residents and activists said.

Oh Young people of Damascus, in Homs, the regime has fallen”
The “Germ” Song: mocking Al-Assad’s reference to the protesters as germs, these protesters come up with their own song celebrating the Germ. Unfortunately, the exact words are hard to make out, but the collective cry of “Jarthoumeh [Germ]” is not.
Security forces collect the empty shells left behind by army troops firing on protesters.
Homs / Jobar
Homs / Al-Waer
Protesters mock the chant of Assad loyalists “Abou Hafiz [Bashar]”: “Damn your soul, Abou Hafiz”
Deir Baalbah: local residents reiterate the above chant as well, as they wave the Independence flag.
Homs / Talbisseh: continuous crackdown did not dampen the revolutionary spirit of this protest town “Freedom, we want freedom” “the people want to topple the regime” “where are you sniper?” “Don’t worry mother, your son is going to heaven”
Homs / Omar Mosque: security forces open tear gas and fire on unarmed protesters
Homs / Bab Al-Sibaa: thousands or protesters carrying banners rejecting the dishonest call for dialogue launched by Al-Assad.
Homs / Souq Al-Hasheesh
Homs / Safir Hotel: “the people want to topple the regime” “Damn your soul Hafiz”
Security forces use tear gas to disperse the protests
Homs / Ghouta: the chants of “we sacrifice our blood and soul for you Bashar” echoes by Assad security forces get drowned by cries of women shouting from their balconies saying “the people want to topple the regime”

QUSAIR -- Security forces shot dead one protester after a crowd of up to 6,000 gathered in the second week of protests in the small town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Protesters come under fire. Fatalities reported
The Martyr

HOULA -- Up to 20,000 protesters carried an effigy of Assad on a rope with a placard saying: "Executed for crimes against humanity," two residents said.

Homs / Al-Houla: “the people want to topple the regime”

RASTAN -- A local activist group said residents demonstrated despite a troop presence on the outskirts of the town.

NORTH SYRIA

ALEPPO -- Hundreds of protesters marched from mosques in the Seif al-Dawlah, Marjah and Halak districts. Dozens were arrested, residents said.

Small demonstration in Seif Al-Dawleh Neighborhood
Small demonstration in Marjeh Neighborhood

Demonstrations erupted also in the countryside just north of Aleppo, mainly in the Kurdish region of Ifrin bordering Turkey.

In the impoverished Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, on the Turkish border, hundreds chanted "one hand against the regime."



Kobani

IDLIB

Big demonstrations took place in a region where anti-Assad protests provoked a military assault. YouTube footage showed thousands chanting for change and waving placards reading "Leave, you are not my president" in the provincial capital.

Mouarrat Al-Nouman: It seems military incursions did not dampen the spirit of this protest hotbed. The local residents still “want to topple the regime”
Idlib City: tear gas used to disperse a demonstration
Banash: “Syria wants freedom.” Writing on the flag: “the people want to topple the regime”

DAMASCUS

Snipers shot dead five protesters in the capital's Barzeh district, a witness said. Secret police deployed at the Hassan mosque in Maydan, stopping 2,000 worshippers from demonstrating. Tear gas dispersed protesters at three nearby mosques.

YouTube footage showed protests in Kfar Souseh and Qaboun.

Witnesses said protests had also occurred in towns around Damascus such as Qatana, Irbin, Saqba and Hajar al-Aswad.

Protesters burned Iranian and Hezbollah flags in Saqba, activists said. In Dariya suburb, thousands marched in the main street chanting "Bashar "Go away with your party." In Kiswa, south of Damascus, Syrian forces shot dead five protesters.

Al-Tall: protesters come under fire from security forces, but they keep shouting “Freedom”
Al-Qadam: people salute the residents of other protests communities
Kisweh: a funeral of the martyr Ahmad Al-Hariri that produces several others, thanks to snipers.’ Protesters chant: “damn your soul Hafiz [Al-Assad]”
Mother of the Martyr
Snipers open fire on protesters
Tear gas and bullets
One of the martyrs felled by snipers’ bullets
Douma: heavy security presence prevents demonstrations, but the general strike continues to be observed.
But the residents come out at night
Artouz: “why are you afraid? God is with us”
As the cries of Abu Hafiz (Bashar) are herd in the background, security forces and Assad thugs go on rampage destroying cars and windows.
Saqba
Hammouriyyeh: songs and dance mark the occasion. “No More Fear” says the banner.
Barzeh: Banners “the germs want to topple the regime” “You address the germs not the people”
Barzeh wounded after security opened fire
Al-Hajar Al-Aswad: “we don’t love you, leave us and take your party with you”
Midan: removing a poster of Bashar from the neighborhood
Midan / Hassan Mosque: protesters chant “O people of Damascus, the regime has fallen in Midan”
Mouaddamiyyah
Zabadani: thousands chant “the people want to topple the regime”
Mocking Al-Assad’s speech, protesters carry a banner saying: “O Germs and Rats of the World, Unite!”, while chanting: “Syria wants freedom”
Zamalka: “leave, leave”
Arbeen: “Down with Bashar”
Harasta: “the people want to topple the regime”

COASTAL REGIONS

LATAKIA -- Several thousand people demonstrated, shouting "no dialogue with murderers," a resident said.

And that’s the video to prove it

JABLA -- At least 10 people were arrested after a protest in the town center, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Tear gas used to disperse protesters
Heavy security forces and shabbiha presence after their crackdown on Friday’s demonstration 

BANIAS -- Heavy security foiled attempts to rally from mosques, said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory, adding that security men and pro-Assad militia outnumbered protesters.

Banias: Assad security everywhere preventing protests from taking place

SOUTHERN SYRIA

DERAA -- Over 2,000 people protested around the Omari mosque in the old quarter, with placards reading "No dialogue with the criminal regime." Several people were wounded when security forces fired on hundreds of demonstrators who reached the Yadouba junction on their way to Deraa, witnesses said.

In the nearby Hauran Plain, thousands protested in Nawa, Dael, Sheikh Miskeen, Kherbat Ghazal and Musaifara and Busra towns and villages, rights campaigners in the region said.

Deraa / Deraa City: the cradle of the revolution is still capable of fielding protests despite the continuing crackdown and heavy security presence.
Deraa / Basr Al-Harir: “we want send a message to the [Baath] regional command saying: leave Bashar” Banner says: “leave you child killer”
Deraa / Nawa: army troops open fire at a small protest
Deraa / Al-Hraak: Shabbiha are bussed into this protest city, and they begin celebrating as soon as they get out of their busses shouting “Allah, Syria, Bashar,” and brandishing their weapons. The video was produced by army troops already stationed in the city as we can see at the end of the video.
Deraa / Al-Harrah: “We don’t want Bashar”
Deraa / Bosra
Deraa / Al-Mseifrah: thousands shout “the people want to topple the regime”
Deraa / Dael: snipers on the rooftops
Deraa / Khirbet Ghazali
Deraa / Abtaa: “Leave, leave”
Deraa / Sanamein: “We don’t Bashar”
Deraa / Sheikh Miskeen: “You don’t deserve to lead, not even a clinic (Bashar)”

EASTERN PROVINCES

Thousands of protesters in the mainly Kurdish city of Qamishli demanded the fall of the regime, Kurdish sources said.

Qamishly: “the Syrian people are One”

Hundreds marched in nearby Amouda, with placards reading "Bashar is not my president, the government does not represent me," and "Freedom."

Hassakeh / Amoudeh: “the people want to topple the regime” “Syria is free, Bashar get out”
Hassakeh / Ras Al-Ein
At least 60,000 people marched the city of Deir al-Zor near the Iraqi border, chanting "the people want the downfall of regime," two residents said.

Deir Ezzor City: “Syria is free, Bashar get out”
“The people want to topple the regime”
And the demonstration turns into a vigil
Deir Ezzor / Alboukamal
Deir Ezzor / Al-Qouriyyeh: “Freedom, Freedom”
Deir Ezzor / Al-Mayadeen: “We don’t love you, leave us and take your party with you”
Raqqah: “the people want to topple the regime”