Sunday, November 6, 2011

Burning the American Flag & the Perils of Leading from Behind!

It remains an isolated incident, for now, but some Syrian protesters did burn the American Flag on Friday. Why?

Saturday November 5, 2011

On Friday, 25 people were killed in Homs, Hama, Damascus and Deraa. Eyewitnesses at a local hospital in Homs report that over 100 bodies with bullet wounds were brought to the premises in the last 24 hours. The shelling of Homs City continues. Sweep operations in the rural areas in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Deraa and Damascus continue. Assad demands that opposition groups surrender their weapons as part of a general amnesty, but State Department advised people against surrendering themselves out of fear for their safety, drawing accusation of “blatant interference in Syrian affairs” from the regime. 

On Saturday, continued pounding by pro-Assad militias left at least 30 people dead in Baba Amr Neighborhood in Homs City. On the same day, which marked the first day of Eid Al-Adha, the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, titular head of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, made his first direct address to the Syrian people and called on Syrian soldiers to refuse obeying orders to shoot at civilians. Meanwhile, in the town of Khan Shaikhoon in Idlib province, thousands of locals took part in a funeral of a security officer who was killed by colleagues for refusing to shoot at civilians.

For its part and by way of showing some compliance with the Arab League Initiative, Syrian authorities released 553 detainees “whose hands have not been tainted with blood,” as official media put it.

Arrests on Saturday included the filmmaker Nidal Hassan, the female lawyer, Asma Al-Sasah (28), and 4 young women who tried to defend a protester who was being brutalized by pro-Assad militias in Bab Sreejeh Neighborhood in Central Damascus.

For his part, Colonel Riyad Al-Ass’aad, head of the Free Syrian Army, reiterated his commitment to armed resistance, saying that the regime cannot be brought down without it, and announced plans for the establishment of a military council, seeing that the Syrian National Council continues to refuse to provide a political umbrella for the group. But the people love their FSA, in this clip, we see protesters from the town of Tadmor (Palmyra) in the Homs Province chanting “Free Army, we are your men”


Missing Another Opportunity, Are we?

The inhabitants of Kafar Nabbel town in Idlib Province are always direct in expressing their sentiments and pull no punches: “Damn the world presidents and NATO leaders” for their passivity Military intervention is what the protesters are demanding. In Bab Houd Neighborhood in Homs City, protesters were even more direct: they burnt the American Flag, yes, the American Flag But why?, one might ask. It seems that “the double standards” adopted by American officials regarding the situations in Syria and Libya have irked some protesters. After all, weeks ago, they had given the American Ambassador an olive branch, but the only thing they got in return was kind words and an now apology note telling them they’re on their own, even as residential neighborhoods being pounded to smithereens. Right actions can change these sentiments of course, but, for now, the golden opportunity with which Americans was presented, an opportunity to change the nature of political alliances in the region for decades to come, seems to be shutting down and fast. You can lead from behind – at times, this is both true and necessary. But leadership more often is about taking charge. You can forget that at your own peril, and ours, it seems.

The War in Homs City & the Sectarian Question

Let’s put all this talk about sectarian in the city of Homs in context, because frankly it is getting out of hand, and people, in usual emotional and parroting manner, are putting their fears and expectations ahead of facts.

These are the facts:

First of all, the main story continues to be one this: we have, on the hand, tanks pounding residential neighborhoods, and, on the other, we have sporadic attempts at self-preservation championed by defectors and local recruits trying to mount some resistance by carrying operations against pro-Assad militias besieging and pounding their communities.

Second, we have authorities playing an active role in evacuating Alawite and occasionally Christian residents of the communities under siege, and taking them to safety, while the rest are being left to face their miserable fate once the shelling resumes.

Third, we have more incidents of targeting Sunnis workers and locals by pro-Assad militias, incidents that were documents by YouTube videos as usual, and only one doubtful report of Alawite civilians being targeted by “terrorists” provide by the same official media that have spewed much more venomous lies in the last few weeks than Goebbels did in his entire career.

So, what we have here actually amounts to ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Assads and their militias. But despite this, and despite the reality of deep sectarian prejudice on all sides, we are not dealing yet with sectarian clashes. Protest leaders understand all too well what the Assad regime is trying to accomplish here, and despite their own prejudices, they are doing a superb job trying to rise above prejudice and keep their communities on message – the message of national unity.

In this clips from Bab Houd protesters carry a sign saying “the regime wants to stoke fires of sectarianism to claim that this is not a revolution but sectarian warfare” Another telling sign says: “the killer Bashar is being given one opportunity after another, but no one is giving us an opportunity to live in freedom.”

In this clip from Khaldiyeh Neighborhood, protesters sing the new song of the revolution “the Syrian Revolution is a revolution for dignity and freedom” This lyrics celebrate national unity despite the pounding and killing and the continuous attempts by the regime to play the sectarian card. Another telling banner is the open that poses the question of “where the clause demanding punishment for killers in the Arab League Initiative?”

Sectarian war remains a possibility for Syria but it is not a reality yet. A timely international intervention would ensure that it never becomes a reality.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in the city is a reality: food and water shortages, understaffed hospitals trying to treat hundreds of wounded arriving on a daily basis, shortages in medical supplies, power outages, house-to-house searches and seizures, arrests and intimidation at random checkpoints  throughout the city, and continuous pounding of neighborhoods these are the defining facts of daily life. These and the popular anti-Assad rallies being held daily and nightly during spates of ceasefire. 

A note about the National Coordination Committee

In many neighborhoods in Homs City, and many protest communities across Syria, protesters these days are carrying carry signs denouncing the National Coordination Committee and its leaders, sometimes by name (as is the case with Haitham Al-Manna and Michel Kilo). The NCC is a coalition of traditional opposition groups formed at the end of June; it calls for dialog with the regime over reforms and opposes international intervention.

Naturally, this message did not resonate well with the protesters, who don’t feel that they owe traditional opposition groups anything. Protesters might end up sharing the sympathies and adopting the ideologies of traditional opposition figures, but, unless these figures accept that their role is now a mere supporting one to the protesters, the latter will not hold them as their heroes and sources of inspiration. This is the evident case with the NCC - and quietly the SNC is now facing the same situation, the emotional speech of the Burhan Ghlioun earlier today notwithstanding.

People have been carrying signs rejecting the NCC and its leaders in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Damascus and Deraa for many weeks now. This clip comes from Bab Al-Sibaa Neighborhoods in Homs City .

In Houleh in Homs Province, protesters came out in thousands despite the siege of their community. The cameraman holds a note saying “to the SNC, either you operate work transparently or we will call for toppling you”

Leaders of the NCC include Hassan Abdelazim, Hussain Al-Awdat, Michel Kilo, Fayiz Sarah, Aref Dalilah, Hazem Al-Nahar and Haitham Al-Manna (the NCC representative in France). Burhan Ghalioun was one of the NCC founders before he had an epiphany and decided to join the SNC as its titular president.

The War in Homs City – Friday
The cold and the Rain did not stop the cycle of shelling and defiance

Downtown Homs – Tanks in the Rain

Baba Amr Martyrs Mother and son shot on leaving their apartment Deir Baalbah martyr Hasty funeral in Khaldiyeh Baba Amr comes under automatic gunfire at night

Daytime demonstrations of defiance, in many protesters carry signs and banners saluting the Free Syrian Army: Baba Amr Deir Baalbah , Jouret Al-Shayah Midan people carry banners saluting the Free Syrian Army Wa’er , Qoussour , Bayadah Karm Al-Zeitun Jib Al-Jandali Qarabees Bab Tadmor Hamrah Boustan Al-Diwan Ghoutah Bab Dreib Shammas Insha’aat

The War in Homs City – Saturday

Baba Amr: The pounding continues ,  Loyalists using RPGs and machineguns to target locals Wounded and the dead from today’s pounding , , Dozens of troops storm a local school

Eyewitness testimony from a resident in Baba Amr who managed to escape the neighborhood is surrounded from all directions, I saw more than 40 wounded, I saw people wounded and dead ion the streets, there are no communications, no bread, no food no water, it’s been 4 days under this condition, we beseech the international community, the human rights organization, the people in Baba Amr are being killed, I don’t even know where my family is, I don’t know where my father is, I lost touch with my brother. Help us. Some of the forces laying siege to the neighborhood

Qoussour gunfire at night in the distance

In Rastan in the larger Homs Province, choppers overfly the town on their way to Homs City In Tadmor, locals demonstrate in support of their beleaguered provincial capital

Elsewhere – Friday
In many demonstrations, protesters carry signs and banners saluting the Free Syrian Army

HOMS PROVINCE: Tadmor (Palmyra) one of the protesters carries a sign welcoming the formation of a certain Syrian Revolution Unified Leadership Council , Nighttime demon Wadi Arab Sukhnah Houleh Talbisseh Hassya Rastan Tal Kalakh

HAMA CITY Aleppo Road Near Aassy Square Hamidiyeh protesters come under fire They remain defiant

HASSAKEH: Qamishly , Amoudeh Ras Al-Ain Dirbassiyeh protesters carry a large banner saying “the Kurdish National Council represents me”

ALEPPO CITY Salaheddine Protesters are attacked after they get out of the local mosque ,


TARTOUS: Baniyas worshippers trapped in mosque to prevent them from protesting

Elsewhere – Saturday

DAMASCUS: Zabadani Midan Barzeh Hamouriyeh Hajar Al-Aswad Naher Eisheh Harasta Banner “we want to live in a civil state not under the rule of thugs” Kanaker a funeral Zamalka Fahameh

IDLIB: Sarmeen people waiting for bread, there is serious shortage in town Khan Shaikhoon funeral for 2 martyrs  M’arr Shoureen M’arat Al-Nouman a martyr Jabal Al-Zawiyeh Kafar Nabbel Idlib City

HAMA: Kafar Zita children stand in mourning for the martyrs on the frist day of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice Nighttime demo Hama City (Mrabit) Madeeq troops storm the town

ALEPPO: Dar Azzah