Friday, September 9, 2011

Mass Murders & the Hunt for Defectors!

Assad loyalist army units and militias go on a country-wide hunt for defectors, perpetrating atrocities in every nuke and cranny, from removing the wounded from hospitals, to indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods, to mass execution of detainees.

Thursday September 8, 2011

While media sources still speak of 30-40 people killed in Homs City, credible eyewitness reports put the 2-day total at over 100 … Human Rights Watch says that Syrian security forces removed 18 wounded from Al-Birr Hospital in Homs City, including 5 who were on the operation table … Meanwhile, Assad issues new decree specifying the guidelines for general mobilization of the army, but stops short from ordering the mobilization, for now …

3 defectors were killed in the village of Ibleen in the Idlib Province and 2 were arrested as Assad security forces raided the home of Hussain Harmoush, the leader of the Free Officers Movement, now based in Turkey, although he hasn’t been seen since late August … Assad security forces went in search of defectors in Homs City, Talbisseh and Rastan towns in the Homs Province, as well as Deir Ezzor City leading to indiscriminate shelling of towns and clashes with defectors ...

While, the Iranian and Turkish leaders turn the heat on the Assad regime and as Russia prepares to receive a new delegation representing the Syrian opposition coalition known as the Antalya Group, a group of independent journalists working in Syria issues the Zero edition of Al-Badeel, a weekly underground magazine dedicated to covering the true news of the revolution inside the country …


I am often asked these days about my own position regarding increased activity by defectors and whether I support an armed insurrection against the Assad. Answer: I am first and foremost an advocate of nonviolence, but I am not blind to the facts on the ground, and am quite aware that my influence and that of my colleagues is quite limited. There are certain objective realities out there that have more influence on the course of events than our continuous urging and admonition, no matter how earnest and sincere they happen to be.

Speaking of defectors, I cannot honestly tell soldiers not to defect just as I cannot tell defectors to be nonviolent. Soldiers in the Syrian army today are given one of three options: obey orders and fire at unarmed protesters, refuse to obey orders and be killed by your loyalist comrades, or defect. Once you defect, you are presented with three new option: get out of the country if you can, go hide in the wilderness and hope you can survive undetected, or take shelter with a protest community whose inhabitants are willing to harbor you. Since the country’s borders have become extremely difficult to penetrate in the last few weeks, and since Syrian wilderness, mostly made up of desert, barren mountains and few forest with little to offer by way of nutrition, does not offer much of a shelter, the only practicable alternative most defectors have is to seek shelter in protest communities. Indeed, this was the option embraced by most. But this decision gave more impetus to pro-Assad militias and loyalist troops to attack protest communities hosting or suspected of hosting defectors using more deadly violence. This situation gives the defectors two choices: surrender and get killed, or fight back and protect yourselves and the people giving you shelter. Is it any surprise that most defectors choose the latter option? Is it any wonder that most people encourage defectors to choose that latter option?

So, I can advocate nonviolence to my heart’s content, but there are realities on the ground in Syria that are making violence inevitable. I cannot blame the defectors any more than the people who shelter them and beg them to defend their communities and their families. We all know where the blame lies for this situation. But that’s not the point. The point is how to curtail violence, at least on our side, after so many months of official crackdown, provocation and impunity, and seeing how much frustration there is now in our own quarters, and how disillusioned some are becoming with nonviolent tactics.

But if limiting violence is now our focus then the rise of the defector could be seen as a good and positive development. For this rise has actually undermined all talk of forming armed militias that has become rampant in protest communities, albeit it never seriously moved beyond the talking phase. Now those frustrated with nonviolence are saying “let’s at least help the defectors.” Since defectors are professionals who still exhibit a strong commitment to military values with their emphasis on the command structure and obeying orders (that is, when they don’t conflict with the dictates of one’s conscience), their involvement could help keep the levels of violence under control, much more so than the case will be when dealing with armed militias. Yes, Assad’s side has armed militias, but a civil war scenario requires two opposing militias. The true challenge is for our side not to go down that road.

Still, this analysis notwithstanding, let’s not forget that we are dealing with a nascent movement here, and that the preponderance of violence seen in Syria at this stage is perpetrated by pro-Assad militias and loyalist troops and security officers, claims to the contrary by state-run media notwithstanding. What we have unfolding in Syria today is still a mass murder perpetrated by the Assads, and not a civil strife. Even with defectors becoming more active, it seems their role at this stage will be strictly defensive, as they still lack the cohesiveness, the size and organizational capacity to go beyond that.

Six months into the fray, Syria’s revolution remains a mostly nonviolent affair pitting an army of Davids against hordes of Goliaths.


Daytime was a time for shelling and security raids

Tanks enter and shell Bab Dreib The shelling of Warsheh , Bab Al-Sibaa , Tanks in Baba Amr , armored vehicles and troops in Shammas Hamidiyeh Shelling in Wadi El-Sayah Heavy machinegun fire in Khaldiyeh Shelling in Khaldiyeh Targeting the historic Khalid Bin Al-Waleed Mosque Tank tracks

After the bombardment and the mass killing, people still take to the streets at night in Homs City in the same neighborhoods that were targeted

Qoussour Khaldiyeh where people sing “the hearts of army troops are  dead, so is their sense of honor” and people danced demanding international intervention , Baba Amr Wa’er Bab Houd , Insha’aat , Jouret El-Shayah

Elsewhere in the province
Example of the projectiles used in the shelling of Talbisseh and, more likely, elsewhere as well


Tanks still omnipresent in Nawa



Tank movements between Homs and Jabal Al-Zawiyeh where the village of Ibleen is located , Ibleen comes under shelling and gunfire Black smoke fills the air The remains of the brains of a defector killed in the village of Ibleen a wounded from today’s attacks on the village Effects of shelling on Ibleen ,

People in nearby communities and towns take to the streets in droves to show support to and solidarity with the inhabitants of Ibleen: Ghadfah Idlib City , Sarmeen a funeral for the activist Azzam M’arri whose father can be heard saying “this is a hero”


Assaly a funeral



Deir Ezzor (Qouriyeh) Deir Ezzor (Albou Kamal) Deir Ezzor City Khairallah D’aiji announces his resignation from the Baath controlled Lawyer’s Union in Deir Ezzor City

Hassakeh / Deireek Kurds protest and demand recognition of their existence in the new constitution