Demonstration in Damascus

From the Lede – New York Times Blog

According to the blog Syria News Wire, a demonstration in Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Thursday, caught on video posted on YouTube, was not part of a wave of antigovernment unrest sweeping the Arab world.

The blog, which is written from Damascus and London, explains the video this way:

An unprecedented scene in Syria this morning as an estimated 1500 people took to the streets in a spontaneous protest.

They were angry that the son of a shop owner had been allegedly beaten by a traffic police officer. So they went on to the streets at Hariqa, just south of Souq Al-Hamidiyah in Damascus. From the video, it seems as if the protest spread down to the western end of Medhat Pasha.

They chant “the Syrian people will not be humiliated”, interspersed with, “shame, shame” and “with our soul, with our blood, we sacrifice for you Bashar”. That’s a very Syrian way of saying they were furious at the police, not the president. Also, note there was no chanting of “the people want the fall of the regime” (the words used in Tunisia and Egypt, and now in Yemen and Bahrain).

At the start of the video, almost every person in is holding up a mobile phone. With mobile phone video cameras plus Twitter and blogs to distribute the footage, public servants face a degree of accountability that they have never faced before.

In a surreal moment, the Minister of the Interior arrives and asks the crowd why they are demonstrating. He has now promised an investigation.

Another Syrian blogger, a student in Aleppo who writes on Twitter as Seleucid, called the video of the protest “proof that the Syrians can do it as much as anybody, they just don’t want to.”

This video and commentary from the Syrian blogosphere comes just three days after a teenage blogger, brought into court chained and blindfolded, was sentenced to five years in jail by a court in Syria. As Reuters reported, the blogger, “Tal al-Molouhi, a high school student who has been under arrest since 2009 and is now 19, had written articles saying she yearned for a role in shaping the future of Syria and supporting the Palestinian cause. Lawyers said the judge gave no evidence or details as to why she had been charged.”

Letter From Herzliya, Neocon Woodstock
Matthew Duss
February 14, 2011

…As a result of the revolution in Egypt, a key theme that emerged at the conference was hostility to Arab democracy and the assumption that it would bring only chaos and danger for Israel—a mantra that also exposed a division between Israeli neoconservatives and some of their American comrades. “In the Arab world, there is no room for democracy,” Israeli Major General Amos Gilead told a nodding audience. “This is the truth. We prefer stability.” Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval scoffed that George W. Bush’s freedom agenda’s “principle accomplishment seems to be the victory of Hamas in Gaza.” Boaz Ganor, the executive director of the IDC’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, warned, “When these people [Arabs] vote, they are voting for what Coca-Cola calls the real thing and that is fundamentalism.” Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the IDC’s Institute of Policy and Strategy, declared that the US had “become an agent of revolutionary change in the Middle East, at the expense of stability.”

In opening remarks to a late-addition panel on “Stability vs. Democracy,” progressive analyst Brian Katulis—one of a handful of non-conservatives invited to participate in the conference—declared the panel’s title false choice. Calling America’s “continuing addiction to dictators” part of “a cold war hangover,” Katulis stressed the regional trends driving events in Egypt—massive unemployment, millions of disillusioned youth—and suggested that Israel and the United States would be wise to anticipate them. “There’s a delusion that we can prevent these trends,” said Katulis. “And we’ll probably hear some of these delusions on this panel.”

As if to immediately make Katulis’s point for him, Martin Kramer of Israel’s conservative Shalem Center began by mocking the Obama administration’s repeated assertions that the regional “status quo is unsustainable,” suggesting that it should be taken as the administration’s motto. “In Israel, we are for the status quo,” Kramer said. “Not only do we believe the status quo is sustainable, we think it’s the job of the US to sustain it.”

Responding to Kramer’s remark afterward, Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar said, “The first stage after a divorce or death is denial. This is followed by anger, then bargaining, depression and acceptance.” Kramer “is still in the denial stage. His statement shows that he still has not realized that the relationship with Egypt is over.”

But however much in denial, Kramer’s and Bar’s comments get at something real among conservative Israeli foreign policy elite: a sense that America, under both Bush and Obama, has failed to apply its power correctly in the region. This inability to achieve certain goals has consequently led to a perception of American decline (never mind that the refusal of allies like Netanyahu to honor American requests contributes to that perception). Many also voiced concerns that Obama’s treatment of Mubarak would cause other US client states to question America’s commitments.

“Obama is perceived, in a moment of truth, to have abandoned an ally,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, now a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. “It’s unfair, but that’s the perception.” Herzog also doesn’t characterize Israeli views on democracy as harshly as some others. “Many, if not most, Israelis would lean at this point towards stability” rather than democracy, Herzog said, “not because they don’t want to see democracy around them—they do—but because they are highly skeptical whether the upheaval in Egypt will lead to real democracy in the foreseeable future.” And many Israelis are deeply concerned over potential negative developments in the meantime….

Comments (59)

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51. AIG said:


10 years ago I would have clearly agreed with you, now I am not so sure. Will Iraq and Turkey keep their relations with Syria if Assad acts like Qadaffi? Can Syria really afford to be completely sanctioned by both the US and Europe? Can the Syrian elite survive if they cannot go to any country except Lebanon?
Yes, there will not be direct international pressure. But there will be plenty of indirect pressure originating from the Syrian need and search for economic growth.

I am sure sure Assad will think about what happens the day after he uses option C. Option A is not a real option, it is just a delay tactic and the amount of money available to the regime to “buy” the public is very constrained. Maybe, just maybe there is also option D, a credible plan for reform in which the regime relinquishes power in an orderly manner.

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February 22nd, 2011, 8:57 pm


52. trustquest said:

Syria is very tough case and it is the worst case. I stopped at a shop owned by a Yemeni person and to my surprise he told me how much heatedly he feels for Syrians and told me how much harm done to the population during the last 50 years. He expected Syria to be the last one on this domino. He mentioned the Hama massacre which we Syrians hardly to mention or try to remember, which is in a time like this after seeing Kaddafi massacre will surface for sure because it is harm never dealt with it and kept unresolved simmering under low fire. Although I think the new generation who will lead the revolution of change will not look back and will talk about the future, the future which current system has no solutions for it or fallen behind the curve of catching up to keep this generation with some hope.

The ugly new tycoons in Syria lead by the regime who missed up the scale of the economic system ( who hurt themselves by themselves) are trying to create the class by design which something never happened in the history of mankind. And the Syria State remained like a zombie living on its population.

You also said that the army is 100% behind him, I doubt that and I’m sure you mean the sections of the army under control and those big echelons close to him. But the masses in the army are under fed under paid under loyal to anything related to the regime, it is only the outer shape look good but the inside is rotten.

Anyway, many of your assumptions I look at it differently. I see completely different scenario, a brand new one suit the country, Syria is a different case.

What ever scenario you are thinking of if it does not include total haul of the current system it is like piling more pressure for the future. I understand that the regime is stuck in history and does not have any leverage for change; it is like a dinosaur, extinct.

On this forum, I argued long time ago that Bashar is neither a reformer nor a progressive person, he is just an eye specialist who did not finish his license. He is there just to protect the thieves to keep their monies, and this does not go with history well as we have seen recently especially in those poor countries who need each bit of the money to make future for their children.

These countries need real opening with real jobs to advance and to go into the new century, need new language to deal with this generation.
My fried, you are missing big time, time has changed and you and me need to catch up with the events..

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February 22nd, 2011, 10:10 pm


53. Nafdik said:

AIG, the idea of gradual reform is a fantasy. Do we have historical precedents of dictators who give up power in an orderly way?

In this case we are not talking about a handful of individuals but a full pyramid of profiteers.

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February 22nd, 2011, 10:54 pm


54. AIG said:


In Chile, Pinochet gave up power in an orderly way to a democracy.
It can be done. You would need to promise immunity to the people in the regime but that is a cheap price to pay for kicking them out.

I am not saying that this has a high probability of succeeding in Syria. I am just hoping that it might. It will save many lives.

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February 22nd, 2011, 11:50 pm


55. Shami said:

Trustquest and Nafdiq ,both of your views are valid but i’m more inclined to think that if a generalized and simultaneous uprising happens in the syrian cities asad will not dare to use brute force on a large scale ,it’s impossible for him to supress millions,inspite of his bad character ,he is surrounded.

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February 22nd, 2011, 11:59 pm


56. Off the Wall said:

Thanks for the links.

While the tone of your comments has changed significantly, there is still a hint of readiness to accept some pre-packaged bits of half truths. Both recent data and projections show that Muslims are like anyone else subject to reduction in fertility rates in manners that are much more correlated to factors other than religion Pew research center did an excellent study on fertility rates of Muslims throughout the world . Since I can not post figures, you may have to go over the study and look at the graphs.

In most muslim countries (with majority muslims) as well as in the rest of the world except for North America (temporarily), Muslim fertility rates are declining. And will reach reasonable rates by 2030 except for subsaharan Africa, where population explosion is very likely and would probably be in line for the next upheaval after the Arab World for reasons related to corruption and mismanagement more than to freedom.

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February 23rd, 2011, 2:50 am


57. Off the Wall said:

For direct access to graph

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February 23rd, 2011, 3:37 am


58. To już niemal pewne: w Syrii rozpoczęła się rewolucja said:

[…] protestu nic  nie zapowiadało, że tłum obróci się przeciw władzy. Ludzie w Damaszku wyszli na ulice po tym jak policjant pobił chłopaka (zauważcie jak często w różnych krajach magrebu właśnie […]

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March 20th, 2011, 11:22 am


59. Syrië: revolutionaire situatie in wording « Rooieravotr said:

[…] er wel dingetjes: een zoon van een winkelier in Damascus kreeg klappen van een politieagent, mensen begonnen te demonstreren, de groep groeide tot 1500 mensen. Er werd niet om de val van het bewind geroepen, de naam van de president werd zelfs geroepen […]

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April 23rd, 2011, 8:08 pm


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