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