Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eid, Death & Ambivalence!

Everybody is fighting for something in Syria: the regime for survival, the protesters for freedom, and the opposition for a purpose. But the opposition is the only side doing a lousy job of it.

Monday August 29, 2011

12 people were killed by Assad security forces on Monday: 5 including a child in the town of Sarmeen and 1 in Kafar Nabbel in the Idlib Province, 3 in Nawa in Deraa/Hauran Province including a woman, and 2 in Heet in Homs Province, and 1 in the town of Qarrah in Damascus. Also, dozens were wounded, some seriously, and dozens more were put under arrest, including 7 children ages 6-9 taken from the village of Namar in Deraa/Hauran Province.

Also on Monday, authorities gave back the bodies of 5 protesters to their families in Al-Houleh Region in Homs Province after holding them for over a month.

On Tuesday, the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, both the protests and the crackdown continued, and security officers killed 2 protesters in Harrah in Deraa/Hauran Province.

A young man involved in the opposition movement discusses the mood in Damascus, his torture, and what activists want from the outside world
Syria's neighboring allies are still suggesting reform rather than adopting the Western view that Asad must go. Tehran would like a top-down process that preserves both Asad's grip on power and the "resistance axis." For its part, Ankara has thus far bet on both sides, urging Asad to reform while helping the Syrian opposition organize in Turkey. Yet with President Abdullah Gul stating yesterday that Ankara had lost its confidence in the regime, Turkey now seems to be hedging its bets on Asad.
Still, Assad's ability to outlast calls for his ouster by his many foes is one thing; antagonizing his friends is another. Assad, it seems, has forgotten the age-old Arabic saying: "If your sweetheart is made of honey, don't lick it all away."
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in an interview over the weekend, described the government gestures in Syria as too little, too late as the Syrian crackdown against opposition continues. That message was followed up by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a TV address to the nation Sunday in which he strongly attacked Damascus.
The brutal crackdown of the past five months cannot be excused by Syria's resistance credentials.
With the continued willingness and ability of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to brutally crush his country's opposition, the question about what options we might have to stop the slaughter grows increasingly haunting. I am not currently advocating military intervention, but it is worth surveying the tools at our disposal to contemplate what might come next - if not immediately, then perhaps down the road.

Background to yesterday’s announcement of a National Transitional Council:  

Having concluded that the opposition was hopelessly divided and fractious and, therefore, unable to form the much needed body that can represents the revolution on the international scene, not to mention take over the responsibility of managing the affairs of the country during the transitional period to democracy, protest leaders inside the country were indeed holding discussions on the need take the initiative in this regard. Three scenarios were being considered.

The first, and least popular, called for allying with one of the already established groups: Antalya Group, Brussels Council, Salvation Council, or the Istanbul National Council. The proponents of this proposal, however, ended up trying to merge the different groups by working out a formula based on percentages and political, national and religious affiliations that seemed to go nowhere.

The second, which was (and still is) closer to my heart, urged shunning the traditional opposition all together by forming a small working group outside the country and entrusting it with representing the revolution in an ambassadorial capacity, and with contacting international organizations with experience working on transitional issues to help put together a transitional plan for Syria. The Transitional Council itself, according to this proposal, could only be established on Syria soil by protest leaders after regime collapse. The Council would include protest leaders, some members of the traditional opposition and some members of the working group.

The third proposal, however, the one endorsed by the majority of opposition figures and protest leaders who heard about it, inside and outside the country, called straight out for the formation of a transitional council, without necessarily using that term and without need for holding conferences. The idea was just to put a list that protest leaders inside Syria and some of the key names on the list can agree on than announce it to the world and let the nominees decide what they want to do. The council will then by endorsed by protesters during their demonstrations, thus giving it the necessary legitimacy, both internally and internationally.

So, when the announcement was made on Al-Jazeerah yesterday I thought, like many others privy to these goings-on, that the proponents of the third proposal had won the day, as expected, and that they were ready with their list. This might still be the case. But it now seems that the announcement was rushed. There were problems with some names on the list, but the more important issue, was that of time: key people, we are told, were not given enough time or notice to have their say. This led to some confusion, disgruntlements, accusations and denials. Still, with protests in several communities, including Baba Amr in Homs, the hometown of the declared leader of the Council, rushing to voice their support of the Council, people might need to revise their position. The protesters are desperate for progress on this matter, and they are tired, weary and angry. The inability of the opposition to unite on this matter might push the people towards violence, and things could easily get out of control.

We now an initiative that has the backing of key segments within the protest movement, the rush to announcement may not have been such a good idea, especially if done by way of ending a dispute, be that as it may, the sentiments on the streets being what they are, no one can afford to go back to the drawing board at this stage, we need to push forward. The way we got to where we are now may have been far from ideal, but what matters now is that we are here. The council has some pretty credible names, and we can all work with it.

And for those who asked: no, I was not selected as a member of the council, but, yes, my wife Khawla Yusuf, was. But none of us was actually involved in the actual talks regarding the third proposal, still, we both hope that people make up their minds as soon as possible, and hopefully end up endorsing this effort, because we are not sure, people will be able to trust the opposition any longer should this effort fail as well. This is the Eid, and people are still getting killed, including children.

I don’t like to resort to emotional blackmail, but seeing that most of the names are pretty well-known, (indeed most of the names have already been circulated before), and that it will be up to these people to adopt their plan of action, why should we not go with this?

In Lattakia City, an early morning protest meant to celebrate the Eid, people carry a banner supporting the Transitional Council http://youtu.be/V1P5qnUX0oY In the Homsi Neighborhood of Baba Amr, people carried an even larger banner, after all, Burhane Ghalyoun is from Homs:

 Sources within security apparatuses reveal that the Assads have not been able to pay their hired guns, who charge $40-100/day (depending on the region, 100 being the usual payday in Aleppo) on weekdays and between $150-200 on Fridays, for few weeks now. As a result many are threatening to quit.

August 30, After Eid Prayers

Damascus / Midan / Hassan Mosque http://youtu.be/yYifykaxKXI  Midan / Abdeen Mosque http://youtu.be/fDt7ax-t6go  Qarrah observes a strike in mourning over martyr that fell the previous evening http://youtu.be/vZ-Qn-Toggg Ruknaddine http://youtu.be/ugr1p4HrO0Y Saqba http://youtu.be/g0ERhjYVodA Qaboun: security forces fill the streets preventing festivities http://youtu.be/ApB_jK7bRQ4

Idlib City: protesters want to execute the president for the Eid http://youtu.be/grUDDxPMgYI Aleppo / Tal Rif’at http://youtu.be/epgpLp4ti0g Manag http://youtu.be/1YgAtmFfOzo Atareb http://youtu.be/sTN8se9bfsc Eizaz http://youtu.be/nzJeWgmS6oM

Homs City (Omar Bin Khattab Mosque) http://youtu.be/V9Pzbz2pO3c Qoussour http://youtu.be/F1Qbdmo5eQE

Hama City: a large protest takes place near the Stadium, the largest since the army invasion http://youtu.be/_gtgzdUZMDU Elsewhere in the city, a small protest http://youtu.be/74EMFgenTJQ , http://youtu.be/hqKV6dVKv9c end up in a staring match between protesters and security http://youtu.be/C-7fiAVY334 Elsewhere in the city http://youtu.be/e1Y38cCIhkw , http://youtu.be/Tr47oKefvxw In Hama Province: Hilfaya http://youtu.be/toamHtJAhcw , http://youtu.be/3jRXdQv-nSw , http://youtu.be/CaOmMpzYoTw

In Harrah, security officers opened fire on celebrants http://youtu.be/95UwhfFW57I killing 2 http://youtu.be/fYJQh5LkLqs , http://youtu.be/CJWOuaBeT-Y , http://youtu.be/J7DHadPoLsk On the previous night, protesters came under heavy gunfire as well http://youtu.be/bEWNZm9bC64

Army troops open fire on celebrants in Nawa as well http://youtu.be/3GPZfPNZh38


Dablan Street hosted a major all-woman demonstration http://youtu.be/dBvb1J1036Q , http://youtu.be/Zw8BvVf1Ekc Later thousands took to the streets l http://youtu.be/2ErAg0DV7UA and in Baba Amr http://youtu.be/xukMe2BKbRU Qoussour http://youtu.be/IWlxYAB8mrQ A tank strolls by with “We are Assad’s soldiers” written in yellow on its side http://youtu.be/WbdaK2h0nDk

In Homs Province, Houleh buries its dead http://youtu.be/nsz0VTeOt6U


In Hama City, the intimidation and arrest continue http://youtu.be/30eY0kHUP3U but Elsewhere in Hama Province: Taybat Al-Imam http://youtu.be/fYN18D4mMmQ Kafar Zita http://youtu.be/XEkf8w6BhzM , http://youtu.be/joWAKkTdD6o


2 soldiers defect in Ma’arrat Al-Nouman http://youtu.be/A6U0suHD4YA and 1, a air force intelligence officer, in Kafar Nabbel http://youtu.be/1tLh5xcFzYI



Busses carrying troops stroll down Thawrah Street http://youtu.be/MYan_XTOmOM Military trucks and barricades in Jobar http://youtu.be/i2MO-0JNczE

But in Assaly suburb, they were demanding “execution of the president” http://youtu.be/IV7rdYDdU8E and In Qarrah, inhabitants held a funeral http://youtu.be/F3-vy3r35Gs

In Douma, protesters come under fire http://youtu.be/kdKMKRSuw2s the scene earlier  http://youtu.be/GTMMiRWS9HU , http://youtu.be/4fr0g-gH3H4


A martyr from Nasseeb http://youtu.be/OdwTA-divpI Tseel observes a general strike http://youtu.be/bfx4cjV5TPs But at night, thousands take to the streets for pre-Eid prayers and preparations for Eid protests http://youtu.be/hjgd4GGWnDA

Deir Ezzor / Abou Kamal: the city receives the Eid by defying gunfire at night http://youtu.be/9tOU6vQq-Vo Meanwhile, the army is laying siege to Qouriyeh http://youtu.be/QDqSyKANXpI