Monday, July 4, 2011

The Dialog Begins!

Tanks, killings, detentions and lies continue to be the main ingredients of Assad’s reforms.

At this moment: Hama City is under siege by over 300 tanks and thousands of troops, meanwhile thousands of army units are conducting sweep operations in Kafroumah and Kafar Nabbol and other communities in the Idlib Province.

Sunday July 3, 2011

Mass arrest campaign takes in Hama City after army troops laid siege to it and its governor, rumored to have defied orders to treat protesters harshly, was recalled to Damascus … The Swiss government freezes 32 million USD worth of assets belonging to Syria in compliance with recent EU sanctions without noting the exact proprietor …

Cairo/Damascus - The Syrian government on Sunday deployed troops and armoured vehicles in the central city of Hama, an opposition group said, and there were fresh arrests near the capital Damascus.
Activists on Sunday reported tanks and armored carriers passing through Hama, a largely-Sunni city of about 800,000 with a bloody history of dissent against the government, as well as gunfire and dozens of arrests on the city's outskirts. The centrally located city has been free of military and security oversight for almost a month.
“a Turkish buffer zone inside Syria might well be Turkey’s best option to avoid a direct military intervention for humanitarian reasons, but only so long as Assad does not turn genocidal on his own people.”
Youtube video follows footage of 'activist and blogger' Diyya al-Najjar being shot in the head by security forces in Homs.
“grassroots opposition leaders told Sky News today they had a political vision and were working with other groups on finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis. But they emphasised that their vision for the future of Syria did not include Bashar al Assad as president.”
After a man approached us filming in a suburb of Damascus to accuse the regime of putting on a "play" for our cameras, he was arrested. It's understandable that people are wary.

“Nothing is ever settled until it is settled right” – Rudyard Kipling

Dialog Assad-Style

Rather than speaking of the inherent contradiction in calling for dialogs and holding conferences dedicated to it and the continuing military crackdown against unarmed protesters, let’s just take a sneak peek inside one such conference held to discuss the National Initiative proposed by Syrian intellectual Bourhane Ghalyoun.

The following clip of the conference that took place today, again the in Semiramis Hotel, under the auspices of parliament member and long-time Assad confident, Muhammad Habash, begins with a regime-loyalist in the guise of an opposition figure, one of those middle-road figures if you will, a respectable-looking elder gentleman by the name of Zuhair Al-Ghaloum, celebrating his own patriotism and tooting his own horn, then, at the other corner, a real protester, one Majid Radwan Salha, Imam of the Adra Prison, is addressing members of the press saying: This conference was made possible by the blood of the martyrs, if the participants want to remain true to the Street, they should adopt its demands, most of all, the demand for toppling the regime. At this stage, people begin shouting “Allah, Syria, Bashar” and they begin shoving the man out, led by none other than the regime-loyalist, the respectable elderly gentleman, Mr. Al-Ghalloum himself, who actually manages to land the first blow. What an honor! Happy Dialog to all and to the Protesters a Goodnight.

More on the conference here:

Meanwhile, there was chaos at a “national initiative” conference held in Damascus earlier in the day that was organised by a group of “independent intellectuals”, according to the meeting's coordinator Mohammed Habash, a moderate Islamist and Member of Parliament.

Last month, al-Assad said a national dialogue would start soon to review new legislation including laws on parliamentary elections, draft a new media law, allow the creation of political parties other than the ruling Baath Party, and consider changes to the constitution.

Although the conference was approved by the vice-president's office, the management of the hotel where Sunday's conference was held initially refused to let participants in, prompting several to withdraw in protest. More than 200 people were invited to the meeting, but only about 40 attended.

“I am leaving because what is happening here does not serve Syria,” Hussein al-Ammash, former chief of the government's Commission for Fighting Unemployment, told the German Press Agency dpa.

“It seems some sides do not want Syrians to talk. They prevent us from holding the meeting after their promises for an alleged national dialogue,” al-Ammash said.

Later Sheikh Salha himself made a video in which he explained what happened. It turned out he only addressed the members of the press to protest the dismissal of his colleague, Hussein Al-Ammash. In the video, Sheikh Salha says that he was witness to the mass demonstrations in the Damascene suburbs of Harasta and Douma and to the regime bloody crackdown there, and says that if anything happens to him or any member of his family, he fully blames the regime and its security apparatuses for that. He concluded by stating that the regime is incapable of dialog and announced his resignation from his post as pastor to the Adra prison.

A Propos: it should be noted that the Semiramis Hotel where the two “opposition” conferences have taken place is owned by Muhammad Deeb Daaboul and his son Salim Daaboul. The father was the late Hafiz Al-Assad’s chief of staff. The Hotel is also known as being the unofficial headquarters of the Iranian intelligent services in Syria. It’s staffed mostly by Syrian security officers and members of their families.

Demonstrations are taking place all over Syria and around the clock these days, it is simply impossible to keep track of all of them. These are selected videos to give an idea of what’s happening.

Homs City / July 1: A teenage boy stands up to Assad security officers
Homs City / July 1: A teenager, Diaa Al-Najjar, gets shot by security officers for throwing stones to delay their advance and allow for his wounded colleague to be carried to safety.
Homs City / July 1: tank fires at protesters
Homs City / Khaldiyyeh / July 3: protesters return to the streets despite the violent crackdowns of the last few days, to chant “The people want to topple the regime”
And the demonstration into a vigil, and protesters still chant “the people want to topple the regime”
Homs / Bab Al-Sibaa / July 3: neighborhood comes under gunfire during the night. In the morning, the activist shows the tank that was responsible for the shelling.
Homs / Rastan / July 3: a vigil. “Syria is free, Bashar should get out”
Idlib / Binnish / July 3: a vigil. “Long live Syria, Down with Bashar Al-Assad”
Idlib / Taftanaz / July 3: a vigil. “The people want to topple the regime”
Lattakia / Sleibeh Neighborhood / July 3: protesters hold a vigil carrying a banner that says “Leave” in their local dialects
Lattakia / Al-Ramel Neighborhood / July 3: an anti-Assad vigil.
July / 2: “Hey Yallah, we only kneel before Allah”
Deir Ezzor City / July 3: an all-women and young girls demonstration demanding the departure of Bashar Al-Assad.
Deir Ezzor / Alboukamal / July 3: thousands chant “no rule lasts forever”
Deraa City / July 3: a Hezbollah flag seen flying over a building under the control of Assad security.
Deraa City / July 3: snipers still hover over strategically located rooftops. It’s the only way Assad’s control can be maintained in protest communities.
Deraa / Ankhel / July 3: activists who obtained this video on the black market, claim that it shows Hezbollah fighters operating alongside Assad loyalists. Alleged Hezbollah fighters are bearded and have yellow bands tied to their left arms.
(Yes, there is now a black market where Assad troops and thugs sell their own videos to compensate for their meager salaries. This is how all such videos clearly shot by the troops themselves are obtained)
Deraa / Al-Mseifrah / July 3: a vigil
Damascus / Kisweh / July 3: protesters hold a torch vigil and pray for salvation from thugs and Assad.
Damascus / Douma / July 3: security officers in civvies step out of a truck and arrest 2 local protesters.
Damascus / Qaboun / July 3: 2000 protesters hold a vigil, and sing “Syria wants freedom”
Hama City / July 3: protesters hold a night vigil to pray against the tyrants, and defy the impending attack on their city by Assad army troops.
Hama City / July 1: another take of the major protest carried out on the Friday of Departure. All these are in danger now, as more than 300 tanks and thousands troops lay siege to the city.