Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Looking Forward!

Despite the protracted violence and all the frustration and pain involved, we need to begin thinking ahead to formulate a transitional plan and outreach strategies based on our practical observations and experiences over the last five months. The New Beginning is coming.

Monday August 9, 2011

34 people, including 8 children, were killed today in the ongoing crackdown in Deir Ezzor, Hama, Homs, Idlib, Lattakia and Damascus. 8 residents were killed in the town of Taybat Al-Imam in Hama Province by snipers, 5 of the dead are children, 3 belong to the same family. 2 more people were also killed in nearby Hilfaya, as Assad security forces expanded their crackdown in the province beyond Hama City.

Security forces also stormed the town of Binnish in the Idlib Province near the Turkish borders, killing 5 people including one child. Meanwhile, the shelling of Deir Ezzor City continued for the third straight day leaving 17 inhabitants dead.

Assad rebuffs Turkish pressures and insist on course of violence against protesters.

Links
The UN Security Council today will hear an update from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the violence in Syria, which keeps claiming lives a week after the council condemned Assad’s use of force against civilians in a statement that fell short of a formal resolution sought by Europe and the U.S.
A fact-finding mission funded by at least one Western government is said to be gathering evidence to be used to indict Bashar Assad over his brutal crackdown on Syria's democracy movement.
Besides confirming Amb. Ford, Congress can also impose sanctions on companies involved in the energy trade with Syria. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mark Kirk and I recently introduced legislation to do this. By quickly taking up and passing our bill, Congress can further pressure the Assad regime and also strengthen the administration's hand in convincing our international partners that it's time to stop business as usual with Syria.
Day after day, the number of people who have stopped believing the official statements is increasing: the Syrian regime threw its last card away with the military intervention in Hama, the city which has witnessed the largest demonstrations since the beginning of the Syrian popular movement on March 15.
Turkey's foreign minister met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Monday to express his concern about the Syrian offensive, but Assad defied outside appeals to stop the deadly crackdown. GlobalPost's Annasofie Flamand and Hugh Macleod discuss the unrest with three young Syrian activists in Turkey.
Below are two original Syrian state documents (both translated by Dr Ziadeh) demonstrating how the cohesion of the military relies heavily upon the singular figure of Maher al-Assad, Bashar’s sadistic brother. Although technically not the leader of the Fourth Division — the elite division that is staffed by senior Alawite commanders loyal to the Assads — Maher is the de facto leader.
The bloodshed of the past 10 days has drawn the ire of regional powers that had stayed silent throughout the nearly five-month-old uprising but were outraged by the killings of fellow Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. It has also prompted calls for a tougher stand in the West, particularly from Washington.
UPDATE (3:49 p.m.): This report says that Habib is alive. “Events took a bizarre turn Tuesday when General Ali Habib, Syria’s defense minister until his replacement Monday, went on state television to refute reports he had died. Habib blamed ‘foreign news organizations’ for spreading misinformation to defame Syria’s ‘courageous’ Defense Ministry. Syrian opposition websites reported Tuesday that Habib - whose departure Damascus attributed to ill health - had been found dead in his home.” We don’t, of course, know whether Habib made his statement under duress.

In bullet points

·         Those who kill while feeling that they are the victims are the worst of all.

·         Religiosity, extremism and prejudice are NOT an exclusively Sunni phenomenon.

·         The climate of sectarian mobilization fostered by the Assad regime through its propagandists using state-run media precludes any possibility of rational debate. This is a time for confrontation, one which the Assads and their partners and supporters are intent on making as violent as possible, while the protesters remain for the most part peaceful. 

·         There are fanatics on both sides, but the protesters have so far managed to keep the fanatics in their midst at bay: standing on the margins of things, looking on, unable to dictate the nature and pace of events and the choice of tactics. On the other side, however, the fanatics are running the show with the tacit approval of their wider support base.

·         There is a dimension of paranoia among Assad supporters that cannot be overcome with mere statements. Anti-Sunni prejudice, not only in the communal sense, but also, in the religious sense, is at work here. Albeit, some would like us to believe that religious extremism and sectarian prejudice are a somehow exclusively Sunni phenomenon.

·         We cannot stamp out prejudice as precondition to anything. This is not a reasonable request. Prejudice can only be overcome through engagement, and engagement can only take place when both sides are willing to open their eyes to reality, not blind themselves to it. So far, only the protesters seem willing to make the required effort for that.

·         We cannot abolish religious differences. On a religious level, none of the groups will ever accept the other. Sunnis will have to accept Alawites, and vice versa, but Sunni and Alawite doctrines don’t have to accommodate each other. On a religious level, each community has the right to denounce the beliefs of the others, but on the legal and constitutional level, they all have to accept each other’s basic rights. 

·         Sunnis cannot be expected to fight against prejudice in their own ranks under fire and while others refuse to acknowledge its existence, not to mention fight it, in theirs.

·         Often, it seems, what religious minorities really want is preferential treatment rather than equality before the law. Preferential treatment is not always out of the question, especially when suggested or sought on a temporary basis, but then, people seeking such treatment need to formulate their arguments in this regard clearly and defend them rationally, not try to impose their will on the rest through blunt force.

·         Protesters, especially Sunnis, are often asked to offer “guarantees” to the other side, but it might be more practical, by way of encouraging the other side to become part of the solution, to reverse the table, and ask members of the minority communities to tell us what specific guarantees they want to be given to ease their minds about the transition to a post-Assad future. Of course, adherence to the status quo, halting the revolution, or the wishful thought that Bashar should be allowed to lead the reform are not good starting point for any dialog. Asking us to respond to pure lies and fabrications is also not a good starting point. The international community has been monitoring developments on the ground since the beginning, and there are certain agreed facts that cannot be ignored, in order for talks to get anywhere real, we need to start somewhere real.

Deir Ezzor City: the tank attack continues with more shelling and more dead http://youtu.be/nNIhyIDz_Dc , http://youtu.be/AoC_qb7uoV0 , http://youtu.be/8-56YW-slN0 , http://youtu.be/wR9DGaY9op0 , http://youtu.be/2xT3sgg6NT4 , http://youtu.be/ErzPYdU-Z_U  Elsewhere in the city protesters still took to the streets http://youtu.be/ID9VaBzrMC8 , http://youtu.be/sWg0fkb1xug , http://youtu.be/d31rFd_XbcY and children were not intimidated by the sight of tanks http://youtu.be/e8cV7cxvvZI Elsewhere in the Province, protests continued: Al-Qouriyeh http://youtu.be/38QNN6eEKF4 Mayadin http://youtu.be/Pxscl_Vag7w

Hama City: the scene in Aassi Square http://youtu.be/aaBE0K_hbXg , http://youtu.be/6Q-AjDwQaCg

Tanks enter the city of Binnish in Idlib Province http://youtu.be/_TVHo5-cT70 Meanwhile, and in Ma’arrat Al-Nouman, and despite the military crackdown that took place over the last couple of days, people still took to the streets today http://youtu.be/ZPYSrEacDgM Elsewhere in Idlib province, a major vigil took place in Saraqib http://youtu.be/PGH5henBFB8 .

The battle for Aleppo continues with Turcoman protesters now trying to weigh in to shame their neighbors into joining the Revolution, by chanting “the Syrian people are dying but Aleppans stay home” http://youtu.be/AAADNs0RtII

These cars roaming the streets of Hauran’s Deraa City carry snooping and jamming equipment supplied by Iran, or so we are told http://youtu.be/zZtOj6z8N6Y But inhabitants are not intimidated http://youtu.be/JY-2fLiC-h4  and other communities in Hauran are rediscovering their revolutionary ways despite the heavy security presence in their midst: Tafas http://youtu.be/_cfyQSCHGFY Khirbet Ghazaleh http://youtu.be/7h8EBenpbHg Basr Al-Hareer http://youtu.be/bSvllYtJywM

Security forces today are always willing to open fire at protesters even if they were only a few dozens, as happened here in Damascus’ Zahira Neighborhood http://youtu.be/vklzv1Lel1E  Here is some pro-Assad militia action in Naher Eisheh http://youtu.be/SChS8E-ghec In Douma barricades and checkpoints are everywhere http://youtu.be/pOnPRCdLKMs still people take to the streets after the Night Prayers http://youtu.be/h7buD1W9KkQ , http://youtu.be/Z70xQ9R1gJQ Al-rifai Mosque was under siege today by pro-Assad militias and security officers http://youtu.be/vlClgcDbTKE  Elsewhere in Damascus, there were funerals in Arbeen http://youtu.be/7QakR6OTz-4 and in Zamalka http://youtu.be/g8FR90MjULs the funeral in Zamalka was for Rohi Fayiz Al-Naddaf, arrested two days ago and returned dead today http://youtu.be/lU7DuMJo77k There were major demonstrations as well in Harasta http://youtu.be/v6xseX7LChs Kisweh http://youtu.be/RwbtRZy9ZfI

Lattkia / Skantouri: protesters come under fire heard http://youtu.be/DLsLb-htdAY

Homs / Al-Houleh / Tildo: shelling of the local Mosque http://youtu.be/kBbO2kdJSDs But throughout the province and Homs City, people came out in droves to show support for all besieged communities, with demonstrations in Al-Qseir http://youtu.be/fX7GSpZ2CjI Al-Bayadah http://youtu.be/R20-wgvyPUA , http://youtu.be/FnGBhcYgQF8 Al-Khaldiyeh http://youtu.be/ON9OguBDaRQ , http://youtu.be/DoxI1PXbgQE Al-Qousour http://youtu.be/dg3aJp90qwA Bab Amr http://youtu.be/Rb-EJpVIXWE and Deir Baalba http://youtu.be/cKS3EEi7fKk .