Posted by Joshua on Friday, July 29th, 2011
The opposition has named this Friday: “Your Silence is Killing US” in reference to the silent majority in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo who have yet to join the demonstrations. The three sacred cows of the Syrian regime are the army, Damascus and Aleppo. So long as they remain united and on the side of the regime or silent, the revolution will have a very difficult time overturning the political order.
In talking to friends in Syria, I am told that the mukhabarat are playing an ever larger role in the suppression of the opposition, as military responses prove ineffective. Particularly in Damascus and Aleppo they are thick on the ground in an effort to keep Syria’s two principal cities from becoming battle grounds and going the way of Hama or Homs.
Correction: in my last post, I highlighted a video of Imam Buti being supposedly “expelled” from his mosque. This turned out to the a faked video. He was not expelled. Read the correction I place above the video.
This video is compelling and fascinating but fails to explain why so many Arab countries have supported authoritarian regimes for so long. The explanation given: “the narcissism of the leaders, evil of leaders, they are from military-authoritarian backgrounds, and the people are gullible and childish.” — may be apart of the story, but not the most important part. Patrick Seale comes the closest to raising the real causes of ongoing authoritarianism in the Middle East, but it is almost by mistake that al-Jazeera includes his analysis. The producers make no attempt to answer the hard and vital questions. Without dealing honestly with the failings of Middle Eastern nation states and societies, solutions to dictatorship will be elusive.
Syrian Protests During Ramadan May Turn Every Day Into Friday, bloomberg.com
By Massoud A. Derhally
Syrian mobilization against President Bashar al-Assad has followed a weekly cycle, with the biggest rallies taking place after Friday prayers. That may change during Ramadan, which starts next week.
Activists, analysts and Syrian refugees say the uprising is set to intensify during the Muslim holy month. Opposition groups plan to shift from weekly rallies to nightly ones, held after the tarawih, an additional nighttime prayer recited during Ramadan, said Bashar Afandi and Mohammed al-Klesse, who fled Assad’s crackdown on northern Syria and are staying in Turkish camps.
“The mosques will play a pivotal role and every night, when people gather to pray, will resemble what we have seen after every Friday prayers,” said Mahmoud Merhi, of the Arab Organization for Human Rights. A surge in arrests in the past two weeks is probably aimed at heading off the momentum that Ramadan may give to protesters, he said by phone from Damascus.
Syrian opposition ready to lead, 2011-07-29
Photo: Lee Smith. Najib Ghadbian, Associate Professor and author of The Second Assad Regime: Bashar of Lost Opportunities. Ahed Alhendi is a founding member of Syrian Youth for Justice. Radwan Ziadeh is the Founder and Director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. Abdul Razak Eid is co-founder of the Committees for Civil Societies in Syria.
DAMASCUS, Syria, July 29 (UPI) — The Syrian opposition has entered a new phase of organization with the goal of taking on a leadership position once the regime collapses, an activist said. High-ranking officials in the U.S. State Department told
lawmakers on Capitol Hill that despite the repressive tactics used by Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Syrian opposition is starting to articulate an agenda for Syria’s future. “President Assad can delay or obstruct it but he cannot, however, stop it,” they testified.
Najib Ghadbian, a member of the so-called Syrian Opposition Consultative Council, told London’s pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat the anti-regime movement was preparing to take over the country following the collapse of Assad’s regime….
“The opposition is seeking to show the world’s leaders that there is an alternative to the Assad regime that is capable of filling the vacuum in the forthcoming stage,” Ghadbian was quoted as saying.
Approximately 200 Syrian opposition activists met Wednesday in Istanbul for the first of four planned days of workshops intended to coordinate their efforts against the Syrian regime.
“This will be the seed for future civil society institutions and movements in Syria,” said Moaz Al-Sibaai, the meeting’s general coordinator. He said the goal is “to improve ways to deliver our message to the outside world, ways of documenting human rights violations in Syria and giving coherent political messages.”
The gathering, organized by Syrian Activists Network, is taking place in a hotel on the Asian side of the city.
….On Wednesday, the attendees consisted mostly of young adults, some of them from Syria. At the venue, their general mood was enthusiastic, with many expressing optimism they will achieve their goals.
One young female activist, who comes from a long line of Syrian dissidents, said she was thankful for the opportunities presented at the gathering. “I want to attend the media course, I might attend the charity one, but I would be more than happy to join any of them,” she said….
“It is not about toppling the regime, we are past that,” said Sima Abedraboh, an organizer and participant at Wednesday’s event. “We are building here, thinking about the future of Syria.”…
The U.S. State Department this week said al-Assad is the “cause” of the country’s “instability” and is not “the key to its stability.”
“Some guy in Damascus” writes in the comment section on Thursday.
Just passed by the muhkabarat head quarters in Kafer Suseh. I counted more than 30 buses…..looks like sh*t is going down tomorrow.
DAMASCUS, July 29 (Xinhua) — Thousands of anti-government protestors poured down the streets in some Syrian cities Friday for a new round of protests.
The state television said the protests erupted Friday in areas including the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama and some suburbs of the northern city of Idleb. The private Sham FM radio said thousands of people staged a protest in Hama’s main Assi square.
The state TV reporter in the southern city of Daraa, the epicenter of protests, disputed what al-Jazeera TV reported as large protests in the area and that Syrian security forces fired at demonstrators in the al-Sabeel neighborhood in Daraa. It showed live footage of the area which seems empty with no signs of protests.
The TV said armed men are firing bullets and hand-made sticks of dynamite at the law-enforcement members in the coastal city of Latakia, injuring one.
Meanwhile, al-Jazeera said a massive protest took place in the city’s main Assi square. Online footage showed a huge number of people gathered at the square, calling for the downfall of the leadership.
According to activists, many anti-government protesters recently chose to hold overnight protests in several cities, aiming for a time when the security presence thins out.
Abdul-Karim al-Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for Human Rights, told Xinhua earlier that security forces were conducting a “pre-emptive campaign” before the start of Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan, while some opposition parties said they would demonstrate daily during Ramadan to increase pressure on the government…..
Despite Its Turmoil, Syria Still Looks Like an Oasis to Iraqis
By TIM ARANGO, July 28, 2011
BAGHDAD — At a roadside station here, where buses bound for Syria leave dozens of times a week, the space between two troubled nations is measured by notions of prosperity and security.
“Here it is very hot and Ramadan is coming,” said Majid Shamis, a middle-aged Iraqi who was headed with his wife and two children, ages 4 and 5, for a two-month summer vacation in Syria. “Electricity is better there. Even the security situation is better.”
… In Iraq, Syria still represents something of an oasis. Iraqis began to flee there years ago to escape the American-led war and the sectarian bloodletting that followed. Now, even as Syria faces its own turmoil, few Iraqis are returning home. In fact, the number of Iraqis leaving for Syria is far greater than the number coming back, said Brian C. Vaughan, assistant representative at the United Nations office.
When balanced against Iraq’s continuing violence, its sporadic electricity that will only get less reliable as summer creeps on and an economy dominated by a corrupt public sector, Syria is seen as a better place to live.
“You can relax there,” said Ali Mohammed, a barber, who left the Iraqi city of Najaf for Syria in 2005 after he was threatened again and again for cutting hair in a style that offended the version of Islam adhered to by the Mahdi Army, the militia that answers to the militant cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
“You don’t need to worry about electricity, the heat” in Syria, Mr. Mohammed, wearing a skintight T-shirt and wraparound sunglasses, explained as he prepared to return to his adopted country after a visit with his family in Iraq.
His friend Yasir Rashid, 21, was going along for a vacation. “Life is beautiful there, women are beautiful there,” Mr. Rashid said. “That is the important thing. Freedom and security, everything.”
Four or five buses leave each day for Syria from this station. A ticket costs about $25, and business seems to be booming. “The number of people leaving Iraq for Syria has increased because of the summer holiday,” said a bus company manager, Abu Muhammad. “Families are going there to escape the summer heat, and for tourism.”
Bus drivers complain that the Syrian border guards often demand bribes, usually cash or gasoline, but they say that the political upheaval has not hampered business.
“It’s stable, very normal,” said Farras Ali, a driver who makes the trip to Syria three times a week. “The media is making it look larger than it is.”
Of course, many Iraqis traveling from Baghdad go straight to Damascus, the capital, not to regions north of Damascus that are the sites of many protests and the violent crackdown that has left nearly 1,500 people dead.
But if prosperity and quality of life are measured in relative terms, that could explain why migrant workers from Bangladesh handle the luggage at the bus station here — searching for bombs before loading the bags into cargo holds — and serve chai to visitors. They came to Iraq, of all places, to seek a better life. One of them, Mamun Kalegagus, 25, said he had been working at the station, and living at its rudimentary quarters for immigrant workers, for two years. He is paid $12 to $15 a day, more than the $100 a month he earned cooking Chinese food back home.
“It’s better here,” he said, but far from perfect. “In Bangladesh there is no boom,” he added, referring to the still-frequent explosions heard in many Baghdad neighborhoods….. For Iraqis, Syria’s attraction is a measure of the continuing fragility of their own country…
As Iraqis experience their own slow struggle for democracy and witness similar ones in Syria and other countries across the region, some have been inspired to nourish their own protest movement. Nearly every Friday, groups of demonstrators gather in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
Other Iraqis, though, especially those travelers here at the bus station, are fatigued from their country’s years of war and failed promises of democracy.
The Syrian People Will Determine the Fate of Syria: An Interview with Burhan Ghalyoun
Ibtisam Azem for Jadiliyya
In the following conversation with Ibtisam Azem, a prominent Syrian opposition figure and Professor of Political Sociology at the Sorbonne, Burhan Ghalyoun, argues that the Syrian revolution has broken the backbone of the ruling regime in Syria. Ghalyun emphasized that the Syrian opposition will not engage the regime in a dialogue that does not lead to a peaceful transition to real democracy. He also stressed that the opposition vehemently rejects military intervention or any use of force, sedition or sectarianism. Read more
Syria News: Mr. Bakhtian, one of the top Baath party leaders, says, “the Baath Party conference will be a pivotal moment in the future life of Syria”
وقال بخيتان, في لقاء حواري مع قيادات حزبية في فرع دمشق وقيادات فروع النقابات إن “مؤتمر الحزب سيكون تاريخياً في حياة الحزب كونه سيسبق الانتخابات التشريعية التي نرى أنها لحظة مفصلية قادمة في حياة سورية، وسيخوضها الحزب لتأكيد دوره النضالي ومتابعة عمله في تحقيق المزيد من الإنجازات والمكتسبات للشعب”، لافتاً إلى أن “العديد من الملفات التي سيناقشها المؤتمر أصبحت جاهزة”.
وتابع الأمين القطري المساعد أنه “من الجحود والنكران محاولة البعض تغييب الإنجازات الكبيرة التي حققها الحزب لجماهير العمال والفلاحين وباقي شرائح المجتمع خلال العقود الماضية، واقتصار حديثهم عن أخطاء ارتكبت هنا أو هناك من قيادات بعثية من دون الإشارة إلى الدور الكبير للحزب وتاريخه النضالي”.
IDLEB, (SANA) – Over 11000 citizens have now returned to their towns and villages in the city of Jisr al-Shughour from the Turkish camps, who were forced to flee their homes by the armed terrorist groups, including the 358 returnees who came back over Tuesday and Wednesday through al-Hassanieh border point.
“The truth was finally revealed to the city’s residents and it has now become hard to believe the lies about homes being destroyed and the absence of security which, we are sure now, are mere rumors and completely false and untrue,” said As’ad al-Bustani, one of the returnees, in a statement to SANA…. Dr. Subahi al-Hamdo, in charge of the popular committees coordinating the citizens’ return, said all the families who were in the Turkish Baqshin camp returned home, pointing out that the Turkish Red Crescent removed all the tents at the camp. He estimated the number of returnees till today at 11000 citizens.
From Derhally in Bloomberg on Syrian refugees in Turkey
Sarya Redwan Hmody, a 33-year-old lawyer, said he attempted to return to his home in Jisr al-Shughour, where he was shot in the leg during the Syrian army attack. When he got there, the village was largely deserted and his home occupied by an army general, Hmody said in an interview in a house in Antakya where he’s now staying. Spray-painted across his front gate was a warning: “We’ll bend to kiss the ground that Assad steps on, we’ll die for him and kill everyone in the opposition, young and old, men and women.”
Hmody said he hasn’t heard anything from 16 friends who went back to Syria after Assad declared an amnesty. Kubilay, a Turk who’s helping to shelter dozens of Syrian families in his village, and who declined to give his surname in order to protect them, said one refugee left his six children and wife in Turkey to check on his property a few kilometers across the border and never came back…
Bomb Blast Hits Oil Pipeline in Western Syria, BY: ZEINA KARAM | The Associated Press
A bomb blast struck a major oil pipeline in western Syria on Friday, causing oil to spill into a nearby lake. State television said the explosion was a “terrorist” attack by a group of “saboteurs.”
Saboteur Groups Target Oil Pipline in Tal Kalakh, Homs, Jul 29, 2011
HOMS, (SANA) – Saboteur groups targeted on Friday’s dawn an oil pipeline near Tal Hosh Dam in Tal Kalakh with an explosive bomb, leaving a hole of 15-meter in diameter and causing oil leak.
“At 04:00 am on Friday, some citizens heard an explosion near a pipeline for transporting crude oil to Banyias”, Governor of Homs, Ghassan Abdel al-Aal said in a statement to SANA Correspondent.
The Governor added that the terrorist and sabotage act targets two vital sectors at the same time as the saboteurs chose a point near Tal Hosh Dam which irrigates large areas of the agricultural lands.
The saboteurs committed their act with the intent to cause serious damages and losses through disrupting the irrigation operations and polluting the water of the dam and its channels, he said.
Administration gets fearful on Syria policy: LA Times
Senior State Department officials came under tough questioning by lawmakers Wednesday over the Obama administration’s reluctance to call for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s departure. Despite the Assad government’s bloody crackdown on demonstrators,…
Despite the Assad government’s bloody crackdown on demonstrators, U.S. officials have shied away from calling directly for his ouster. They worry that the United States would end up looking weak if Assad managed to hang on in the face of popular pressure. And with American leverage limited in Syria, they also have been reluctant to raise expectations about what the administration might be prepared to do to unseat the regime.
At Wednesday’s hearing, an unusual coalition of Republican and Democratic members of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee complained that the effort to calibrate a message had failed to make it clear that America stands with pro-reform protesters against an oppressive regime.
“How many must die before we have the courage to stand up and say that Assad is illegitimate and he must go?” asked Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the subcommittee’s chairman. He noted that the death toll in Syria over the last four months was more than 1,600.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (DN.Y.) accused the administration of holding off on its strongest language until it was clear that Assad would fall. “We’re hedging our bets here on the odd chance that he’s going to be able to hang on,” Ackerman said. Paul Richter reporting.
Zawahiri asserts common cause with Syrians
By Joby Warrick – Washington Post Blog
Al-Qaeda’s newly installed leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is claiming solidarity with Syria’s pro-democracy movement, telling protesters in a new video that they are part of a broader revolution to liberate Muslim lands.
Zawahiri, in a seven-minute monologue posted to Jihadist Web sites on Wednesday, accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being both a corrupt tyrant and “America’s partner in the war on Islam.”
“The time of humiliation is gone, the time of deceit is over, and the rule of the thieves is finished,” said the Egyptian-born terrorist. A translation of his comments was provided by SITE Intelligence Group.
Al-Qaeda has struggled to adapt to epic changes underway in the Middle East, as Arab populations have ignored the terrorist group’s recipe for violent jihad in favor of peaceful protests. In the weeks after the start of the Egyptian uprising, Zawahiri issued statements seeking to link the movement to al-Qaeda’s quest for a restored Islamic caliphate.
In the new video, Zawahiri contends that the Assad betrayed the Arabs with his “abandonment” of the Golan Heights—the highlands occupied by Israeli in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war—and says the Syrian leader has served since that time as a tool of the United States and as “Israel’s border guard.”
“Washington today seeks to replace Assad, who sincerely protected the borders of the Zionist entity, with another regime that squanders your revolution and jihad in a new regime that follows America, takes care of Israel’s interests and grants the [Muslims] some freedoms,” he said.
Zawahiri, wearing a white turban and his trademark spectacles, expressed regret that he couldn’t be with the Syrian protesters in person. “I would have been amongst you and with you,” he said, but “there are enough and more mujahideen and garrisoned ones.”
Rejecting Zawahiri: A statement by Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC), Damascus 28-July-2011
Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC) condemned the statement of the leader of Al-Qaeda Ayman Zawahiri and his interference in the Syrian revolution, while the Syrian regime is waging a fierce repression campaign targeting entire neighborhoods in Damascus and its suburbs and invading and besieging the revolutionist cities…..
Mohammad Al-Abdallah, the spokesman of Local Coordination Committees in Syria, said: “Zawahiri is trying to convince the world that he has supporters in Syria, which will provoke the international public opinion against us and give the regime the right to commit crimes against our people. We condemn such statements that are irrelevant to the revolution, Syrians chose the non-violent way for their revolution and they won’t change it, they refuse any practices or speeches containing sectarian or violent properties”.
Divided Syrian Kurds Ponder Unity Conference
More than four months after protests began in Syria, Kurdish parties still do not have a clear agenda if the Baath regime falls. Some Kurdish politicians maintain the problem could be solved through a conference to unite the Kurdish front.
Nuri Brimo, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria, said Syrian Kurdish groups are debating whether to hold a Kurdish unity conference. The groups are divided over who should represent them in opposition conferences and have no clear agenda to push at the gatherings, Syrian Kurdish leaders say.
Over the past few months the Syrian opposition has held several conferences in Turkey. The Kurds have always come out empty-handed, however. Most even withdrew from the most recent conference, held in Istanbul earlier this month, over concerns that their interests were not being represented.
Radhwan Badini, a Syrian Kurdish leader who has attended three opposition conferences in Turkey, criticized Arab opposition groups for not sticking to the opposition’s agenda.
“In most of the conference we agreed on one agenda with the Arab parties, but halfway through the conference they would switch their stance and stand against the Kurds,” Badini told Rudaw.
Syria’s Subversive Soap Operas
By Leah Caldwell in the Atlantic, Jul 29 2011, 7:00 AM ET
What effects might television dramas have on democratic revolution?…
DAMASCUS- In a statement published on Thursday, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) on Thursday condemned the killing, terrifying and sabotage acts committed by the terrorist groups in several Syrian cities, particularly the criminal acts against the army, police, law-enforcement, and security forces.
The statement stressed that the Syrian people’s will for reform, which is among the characteristics of modern democratic and civil country where the citizens participate in making political and economic decisions.
The NESSL called upon the Syrian people to be aware and united to prevent Syria’s enemies from taking this opportunity and achieve their ambitions.
The NESSL warned that the popular demand for reform has changed into armed operations of extremist terrorist nature with the aim of undermining Syria’s stability.
National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) expressed support to the reform program led by President Bashar al-Assad who seeks to build modern democratic Syria and preserve the national unity, denouncing all forms of foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs.
The statement called upon the churches worldwide to be objective in its view of what is happening in Syria, away from the biased media, and to request their leaders and politicians to support the Syrian people’s interest and not their owns.
Revlon writes about this National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon statement in the comment section:
The statement sets a serious / dangerous precedent in the long history of Muslem-Christian peaceful co-existance in Syria.
The Synod has moved from undeclared neutrality and support of peaceful change to unabashed support of the regime that was declared illegitimate by the demonstrators.
By naming the alleged ”terrorist groups” as the source of violence in this uprising and failing to acknowledge Jr’s responsibility for the thousands of abductions, torture, and killing of men, women and children, the Synod has proven themselves as either notoriously misinformed or plain complacent.
By supporting the aggressor in this crisis, the Synod will be viewed as a party to the ongoing aggression.
Brazil, India, S. Africa Planning Mission to Syria on Violence, By Bill Varner – Jul 28, 2011
Brazil, India and South Africa, which have blocked United Nations pressure on Syria’s government to end repression of protesters, will send envoys to Damascus to seek an end to the violence, according to South Africa’s ambassador to the UN.
The three emerging political and economic powers, which in 2003 formed the coalition known as IBSA, plan to send deputy foreign ministers on the mission, according to South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu.
“The goal is to engage Syria, understand where they are, and see if we can assist them to overcome the difficulties they have,” Sangqu said in an interview. The mission expects to be in Damascus soon, he said.
As elected members of the UN Security Council, Brazil, India and South Africa have combined to put off action on a U.S. and European draft resolution condemning the Assad regime’s attacks on anti-government protesters. Western diplomats say that support from the three might dissuade China and Russia from vetoing it…..
Brazil, India and South Africa are aspiring permanent members of the Security Council that have reshaped the political dynamic in the UN’s principal policy making panel.
“The dynamics of the Security Council are not what they used to be,” Portugal’s Ambassador Jose Moraes Cabral said. “There are new forces, different groupings and, of course, one must take account of them.”
The IBSA nations “reflect a view of the world that is different from the American and former colonialist European view, in that they are very prickly about developing-nation sovereignty,” Jeff Laurenti, UN analyst at the New York-based Century Foundation research group, said in an interview.
Israel to build a racial wall at Occupied Syrian Golan, (Dp-news – Sana)
Israeli occupation authorities prepare for building a cement wall in the occupied Syrian Golan to separate Majdal Shams town from the suburb of al-Oude and the liberated Ain al-Tinah site.
…the four suspects — identified as Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. The men range in age from 36 to 50.