Great Friday: Over 80 Killed

Maydan in 1840

Over 80 dead are reported in the government crackdown on Friday April 22. The government is struggling to contain the demonstrations. Some think that they would not grow indefinitely were the government to permit them to go ahead. Who knows? Clearly the government is not prepared to find out. Many Syrians fear chaos and are staying inside. It is hard to figure out how many are coming out to demonstrate; the numbers continue to grow. The Maydan district at the heart of traditional Damascus was the site of several killings. [Correction the day after – Reuters: “In Damascus, security forces fired teargas to disperse 2,000 protesters in the district of Maydan.” No deaths are reported today in the Maydan and only small numbers of demonstrators. This can be read as “good news”  for the regime because the demos were very small, or “bad news” because demos began in the heart of traditional Sunni Damascus.]

The Maydan has long been the center of revolutionary activity in Damascus. Salah Bitar, a founder of the Baath Party, was from the Maydan. It is the traditional home of the grain merchants who provisioned the city with crops from Deraa and the bread basket of Southeastern Syria. Attitudes of Sunni Damascus  could well be shaped by the way the Maydan responds. One readers sent this note:

My grandparents and their families were all Meedani. My grandmother used to tell me that I have the hands (peasant hands apparently) of the Meedan. Regardless – this is definitely the heart of Damascus… and does not bode well…. My two uncles are visiting here in Boston. They are both well off Sunni business people – one with large business interests in Damas (says everything is tanking right now – and nobody can pay him their debts) and both with property interests…. both are sitting here defending the status quo and repeating some of the gov’t line … can’t afford chaos and vulnerable country without its president.

While at the same time – their sons/nephews are busy posting revolutionary rhetoric on their internet pages… and cussing out the regime to each other (off line).

Syria’s streets seem to be filled with the endlessly numerous youth of the country, who are angry, underemployed and ready for change. As the death toll rises, the likelihood of either side backing down grows smaller and the likelihood of prolonged struggle grows larger.

Demonstrators in Banyas. Central Banner reads: "Where are you Aleppo?"

Demonstrators stormed the mayor’s office near Daraa in what could become a precedent for opposition action in the future. It is not clear what the opposition’s strategy is other than to continue increasing the number of demonstrators. So far, there has been no systematic resort to arms by the opposition in the face of the crackdown or effort to take over government buildings. In Banyas, there seemed to be armed elements that exploited the chaos brought on by demonstrations. But in most cities, this has not been the case. The opposition has been able to retain its discipline behind the call for peaceful protest.

Two Syrian MPs from the protest hub city of Daraa on Saturday told Al-Jazeera television they were quitting parliament in protest at the bloodshed in their country.

Ghassan Ben Jedou, a main TV personality at al-Jazeera has resigned, claiming that the station has become a center of incitement for the revolutions rather than a news agency. [Comment above by JL]

A Question from a reader:

As a foreigner in Syria, I am following the events “on the ground” with great concern. Speaking to members of the diplomatic circuit, it seems to be the perception that until the unrest reaches Aleppo and/or Damascus, the situation is “bearable”, from the embassies’ point of view. In light of that thinking, yesterday’s events, as I see it, were not decisive and we may have to wait yet again for Friday to come to see “what will happen next”. However, in all this there is one thing that puzzles me, which brings me to my question to you: Aleppo seems to be remarkable quiet in all this. There has been some activities on the university campus, but given that we’re talking about Syria’s largest city, it may be considered insignificant. In your opinion, what can be the possible explanation for this?

I am adding two comments by readers because they reflect two different interpretations of the “Great Friday” events:

Souri said:

I am now in Syria. What Joshua Landis writes in no way represents the truth. He has just decided to adopt the opposition’s version of the story for some reason. His last two posts were very skewed and do not reflect the reality on the ground in anyway.

Polarization here is very high. I used to argue that Aleppo and Damascus are mostly Islamist so they must join the uprising at one point, however, this is not the reality on the ground. Most people here are obviously pro-regime, and they are getting very hostile to the demonstrators. I am hearing a lot of people who say the government has been dealing so softly with them. Many people would like the government to act even more harshly against the demonstrators. There is little sympathy with the killed. People are very worried about their future living. It was surprising to me that the poorest people were the most hostile to the demonstrators. One taxi driver told me that he earns his living by day and if he stops working for one day, he will have nothing to feed his family on that day.

When few people tried to demonstrate in Bab al-Hadid in Aleppo on Thursday, they were surrounded by ordinary residents of the neighborhood and they were not allowed to move. The demonstration was so small (definitely less than a hundred). Yesterday, the ‘Great Friday’ demonstration was surrounded by a larger crowed of ordinary citizens who were chanting for Bashar. You could even hear it in the clip that appeared on Youtube.

The same happened in Damascus. The Maydan demo was small, and it lasted for minutes. There were no killings at all, this is just BS like the other BS Joshua Landis has been publishing lately (like for example his claim that the mufti has joined the revolution). Much of Joshua’s information is false, and maybe this is what is making his evaluations unrealistic. I don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose or if he has just screwed up in picking his sources. Be careful with picking your sources Mr. Landis. People like Ammar Abdulhamid are not good sources.

The regime decided yesterday to shoot at people because it knew people were ready to accept that. Actually, the majority of Syrians are expecting more use of force from the government and they don’t mind it. We may be heading to some major clash similar to that of the 1980’s, but the regime has most of the people on its side. The media weapon has not been very effective, and foreign intervention does not seem a realistic threat. I believe the regime is willing to take the challenge. Bashar Assad said that he does not fear anything as long as he has the people on his side. He indeed has a majority of the people on his side.

The Islamist insurgents have no chance of controlling a single village in Syria, not to say a city. In Libya, Qaddafi lost control over the eastern half of his country. In Egypt, Mubarak’s police stations were stormed by demonstrators and the demonstrations went unchecked. This cannot happen in Syria for many reasons, the most important reason being that the demonstrators do not have enough manpower to do it.

I don’t know why people were shot yesterday, but it sounds from what they said that they were trying to storm government and security buildings. They totally failed. The regime has huge militias composed of students, workers, and farmers in addition to the formidable security forces. These militias can easily defeat those Islamist protesters. The protesters cannot control a single village in Syria, they are too few and too weak. Like a caller said on Al-Jazeera yesterday, the demonstrators without the media are nothing.

The uprising in Syria is not meant to overthrow the regime because the people behind it know that it cannot. It is only meant to destabilize Syria and force political concessions on it. Just listen to the American statements.

Zenobia, who reacts to another comment:

Spare everyone who just watched those videos above your complete garbage!…

If African Americans had waited for the state or federal government to come to the rescue and win them their civil rights…. there would still be lynchings in Georgia today! They had to go out and risk their lives to seize their rights….so please don’t make ludicrous comparisons. If you think corruption in Norway or even in the United States is on par with Syria, you are in a complete fantasy. Probably most Syrians were willing to wait and be patient, but when the bullets start flying – there is no patience left – there is nothing to lose.

When you watch these videos and the many, many others….have you seen any of these people lying on the ground with a weapon next to them????? NO, none. Was that child with his head blown off….carrying a gun?? NO. he wasn’t. Where are these supposed terrorists? There are now – a zillion videos up on the internet… and nobody has been able to produce any ANYYYYY footage of these foreigner ‘insurgents’… the whole security services can’t name any one of the supposed persons who attacked them or supposedly attacked civilians? Where are they hiding at night! This is insane. These are Syrians laying on the ground…

This president may be opening his mouth and appearing to be “cooperating”…but there is a massive killing machine unleashed at the same time – that he must answer for. And there is not one excuse – any one can use to justify the bloodshed. No vandalism is an excuse, no made up story about people assaulting a church!… You must not have ever traveled to Switzerland…. because this is not what is going on there – politically and in terms of violence. It is not the slow pace of change that is going to bring this gov’t down, if it comes down. What will bring it down is this bloodshed. If you want to compare yourself to the Congo or Ivory Coast favorably, go ahead, but that is pretty pathetic.

Anthony Shadid in NYTimes

Organizers said the movement was still in its infancy, and the government, building on 40 years of institutional inertia, still commanded the loyalty of the military, economic elite and sizable minorities of Christian and heterodox Muslim sects who fear the state’s collapse.

Coming a day after Mr. Assad endorsed the lifting of draconian emergency rule, the killings represented another chapter in the government’s strategy of alternating promises of concessions with a grim crackdown that has left it staggering but still entrenched.

“There are indications the regime is scared, and this is adding to the momentum, but this is still the beginning,” said Wissam Tarif, the executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group. “Definitely, we haven’t seen the millions we saw in Egypt or Tunisia. The numbers are still humble, and it’s a reality we have to acknowledge.”

Syria unrest: ‘Bloodiest day’ as troops fire on rallies
22 April 2011, BBC

At least 72 protesters have been killed by security forces in Syria, rights groups say – the highest reported death toll in five weeks of unrest there. Demonstrators were shot, witnesses say, as thousands rallied across the country, a day after a decades-long state of emergency was lifted. Many deaths reportedly occurred in a village near Deraa in the south, and in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

The US White House urged the government to stop attacking demonstrators. Spokesman Jay Carney said it should “cease and desist in the use of violence against protesters” and follow through on promised reforms.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “extremely concerned” by reports of deaths and casualties across Syria and urged restraint on the country’s authorities. “Political reforms should be brought forward and implemented without delay,” he said. “The Emergency Law should be lifted in practice, not just in word.”..

April 22 (Bloomberg) — U.S. President Barack Obama condemned “the outrageous use of violence” in Syria against protesters today.

One reader writes: worst picture yet just showed up on I did not want to put it not to upset u guys.

Another reader writes: You have to watch Syrian tv. It’s been showing even more graphic images for the police and others killed by the demonstrators. It’s extremely graphic and unbelievable.

Another reader: the demonstrations have reached the centers of non-Sunni communities such as Suweidaa [Druze] and Salamiyeh [Ismaili].


From Suweida:

Dear Joshua, I hope you are doing well. I was reading you page this morning and saw that somebody posted two links pretending that they were from Sweida and Salamieh. I just want to clarify that no protests took place in Sweida yesterday. I am from Sweida and I was in contact with my family there all the day yesterday. Everything is calm there. For those who know Sweida they can discover from watching the videos thatneither the buildings nor the people’s clothing are traditional from Mouhafazat Al-Sweida. It seems that some people want to exaggerate the events, and provocate others. I hope you can add my remark to your page after the links.

Robert Kaplan has always been sensationalist when it comes to Syria’s propensity for dissolution. Syria has come a long way since WWI, but not far enough for what it is about to pass through. (JL)

Syriana: After Bashar al-Assad, the deluge.
BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN | APRIL 21, 2011, Foreign Policy

The late Princeton scholar Philip K. Hitti called Greater Syria — the historical antecedent of the modern republic — “the largest small country on the map, microscopic in size but cosmic in influence,” encompassing in its geography, at the confluence of Europe, Asia, and Africa, “the history of the civilized world in a miniature form.” This is not an exaggeration, and because it is not, the current unrest in Syria is far more important than unrest we have seen anywhere in the Middle East.

“Syria” was the 19th-century Ottoman-era term for a region that stretched from the Taurus Mountains of Turkey in the north to the Arabian Desert in the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to Mesopotamia in the east. Present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, western Iraq, and southern Turkey were all included in this vast area. In other words, the concept of “Syria” was not linked to any specific national sentiment. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I led to Greater Syria being carved into a half-dozen states. Although territory had been cut away on all sides, the rump French mandate of “Syria” that came into existence, nevertheless, contained not only every warring sect and regional and tribal interest, but also the spiritual headquarters in the capital Damascus of the pan-Arab movement, whose aim was to erase all the state borders that the Europeans had just created.

Pan-Arabism — of which the post-World War II independent state of Syria claimed to constitute the “throbbing-heart” — became a substitute for Syria’s very weak national identity. Indeed, Syria’s self-styled “steadfast” hatred of Israel was a way for Syrians to escape their own internal contradictions. Those contradictions were born of the parochial interests of regionally based ethnic and sectarian groups: Sunni Arabs in the Damascus-Homs-Hama central corridor; heretical, Shiite-trending Alawites in the mountains of the northwest; Druze in the south, with their close tribal links to Jordan; and Kurds, Christian Arabs, Armenians, and Circassians in Aleppo.

Between 1947 and 1954, Syria held three national elections that all broke down more or less according to these regional and sectarian lines. After 21 changes of government in 24 years and a failed attempt to unify with Egypt, the Alawite air force officer Hafez al-Assad took power in a 1970 coup. By ruling with utter ruthlessness, he kept the peace in Syria for three decades. To wit, when the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood rose up in Hama in 1982, he killed more than 20,000 Sunni Muslim civilians there in response, according to some estimates. Assad’s son, Bashar, who succeeded his father as Syria’s president a decade ago, has yet to make his bones in such a way. It is unclear whether the son is visionary enough to satisfy today’s protesters, or cruel enough like his father to stay in power. His regime’s survival may require stores of both attributes. A complicating factor is that to a much greater degree than his father, the son is trapped within a web of interest groups that include a corrupt business establishment and military and intelligence leaders averse to reform. So the political crisis in Syria will likely continue to build.

Syria at this moment in history constitutes a riddle. Is it, indeed, prone to civil conflict as the election results of the 1940s and 1950s indicate; or has the population quietly forged a national identity in the intervening decades, if only because of the common experience of living under an austere dictatorship? No Middle East expert can say for sure.

Were central authority in Syria to substantially weaken or even break down, the regional impact would be greater than in the case of Iraq. Iraq is bordered by the strong states of Turkey and Iran in the north and east, and is separated from Saudi Arabia in the south and Syria and Jordan to the west by immense tracts of desert. Yes, the Iraq war propelled millions of refugees to those two latter countries, but the impact of Syria becoming a Levantine Yugoslavia might be even greater. That is because of the proximity of Syria’s major population zones to Lebanon and Jordan, both of which are unstable already.

Remember that Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel are all geographically and historically part of Greater Syria, a reason that successive regimes in Damascus since 1946 never really accepted their legitimacy. The French drew Lebanon’s borders so as to bring a large population of mainly Sunni Muslims under the domination of Maronite Christians, who were allied with France, spoke French, and had a concordat with the Vatican. Were an Alawite regime in Damascus to crumble, the Syria-Lebanon border could be effectively erased as Sunnis from both sides of the border united and Lebanon’s Shiites and Syria’s Alawites formed pockets of resistance. The post-colonial era in the Middle East would truly be closed, and we would be back to the vague borders of the Ottoman Empire.

What seems fanciful today may seem inevitable in the months and years ahead. Rather than face a “steadfast” and rejectionist, albeit predictable, state as the focal point of Arab resistance, Israel would henceforth face a Sunni Arab statelet from Damascus to Hama — one likely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood — amid congeries of other fiefdoms. The unrest in Syria brings the Middle East perhaps to a precipice. Peaceful or not, the future of the region will be one of weakened central authority. Mesopotamia at least has a historic structure, with its three north-south oriented ethnic and sectarian entities. But Greater Syria is more of a hodgepodge.

For most of history, prior to the colonial era, Middle Eastern borders mattered far less than they do now, as cities like Aleppo in northern Syria and Mosul in northern Iraq had more contact with each other than with the respective capitals of Damascus and Baghdad. The ruins of Hatra, southwest of Mosul in Iraq, a Silk Road nexus of trade and ideas that reached its peak in the second and third centuries A.D., attest to a past and possible future of more decentralized states that could succeed the tyrannical perversions of the modern nation-state system. Hatra’s remains reflect the eclectic mix of Assyrian, Hellenistic, Parthian, and Roman styles that set the stage for early Islamic architecture. Then there are the ruins of Dura-Europos, a Parthian caravan center founded in 300 B.C., halfway between Syria and Mesopotamia and known as the “Pompeii of the East.” Frescoes from the synagogue at Dura-Europos grace the halls of the National Museum in Damascus. Both these sets of ruins have a vital political significance for the present, for they indicate a region without hardened borders that benefited from the free flow of trade and information.

But the transition away from absolutist rule in the Middle East to a world of commercially oriented, 21st-century caravan states will be longer, costlier, and messier than the post-1989 transitions in the Balkans — a more developed part of the Ottoman Empire than Greater Syria and Mesopotamia. The natural state of Mesopotamia was mirrored in the three Ottoman vilayets of Kurdish Mosul, Sunni Baghdad, and Shiite Basra. The natural state of Greater Syria beyond the constellation of city-states like Phoenicia, Aleppo, Damascus, and Jerusalem is more indistinct still.

European leaders in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were engrossed by the so-called Eastern Question: that is, the eruptions of instability and nationalist yearnings in the Balkans and the Middle East caused by the seemingly interminable, rotting-away death of the Ottoman Empire. The Eastern Question was eventually settled by the cataclysm of World War I, from which the modern Arab state system emerged. But a hundred years on, the durability of that post-Ottoman state system should not be taken for granted.

Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, correspondent for the Atlantic, and author of Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus.

Comments (258)

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251. ziadsoury said:


Most if not all of the demonstrations have been very positive. People want to change the system peacefully. The government is the only party that is using force and killing people. Please point me to slogans that are against any minority. Have you seen any sign carried by the people advocating any killing or persecution of any minority? I have not and believe me I am looking. It is the opposite. All I have seen so far are signs demanding national unity.

Now don’t ask for the leaders of this revolution to come through and declare what you want to hear. The leaders are the people on the street and they are trying to voice their opinions under heavy gun fire by the regime’s thugs.

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April 24th, 2011, 11:36 pm


252. NK said:

‘No humanity left’ in Syria
By Cal Perry on April 24th, 2011.

Every other journalist is trying to get into Syria, but on Saturday I was trying to get out. The government had made it perfectly clear: My visa was expiring and unless I left on April 23, I would “face the full force of the law”.

I had agreed the night before with my cameraman, Ben Mitchell, over a drink that neither of us wanted to discover what “full force of the law” meant. So the debate was really whether I should fly out from Damascus or drive to Amman, Jordan, and fly from there.

The decision was made that he would fly out from Damascus, the Syrian capital, with the gear and I would drive to Amman. I had left my second passport there with a friend. One for Arab countries and the other for Israel. Welcome to 21st century diplomatic relations.

I decided to wait until after noon prayers before setting out south to the border. If the roads were going to be blocked with various pieces of burning detritus, as they had the day before, I wanted to know first. It’s about 125km from Damascus to the Jordanian border – a drive that should only take an hour or so, especially with the way Syrian drivers tend to step on the gas.

I was in a really bad mood on this particular morning as I was by default being expelled from the country. I said very little to the driver as we set out, which is unusual for me. I’ve been grilled in the old school style of journalism: I can still hear the voice of one of my mentors saying “eyes and ears Mr Perry … eyes and ears”.

The only two questions I asked my driver as we left Damascus were his name, and where he was from. “Abdel … from Daraa,” he told me.

“Beautiful city,” I responded.

Truth was: I didn’t know if it was beautiful or not. It was less than four weeks ago when I tried to access the city (which lies right against the Jordanian border in the South) and was turned back by the army. It was my first week in Syria when we tried to cover the initial protests in Daraa. I remember coming across that army checkpoint and two machine-gun positions had been “pre-sighted”.

‘Kill zone’

An old military technique that I learned from the US Marine Corps about after years in Iraq: Soldiers will simply take two posts, put them at approximately “two o’clock and ten o’clock” as your eyes would scan the horizon: a certain distance out – fire off a few rounds until you hit the post. Then mark that spot on the machine guns sightings – and just like that … you’ve got yourself a “pre-sighted kill zone”.

A kill zone. The name says it all. US marines have a particular knack for naming things that describe exactly what they really are.

I knew that day, seeing those posts and that “kill zone” that the government was taking these small demonstrations (at the time) very seriously. Syria up until these past five weeks had been a quiet country, while the rest of the region seemed to continue to burn.

Of course it became clear the day before, on April the 22nd, that the government would no longer stand for the type of dissent that had spread: clear opposition to the regime. Over a hundred people were killed across the country on a bloody Friday, the bloodiest since the protests began.

I tried to get out of the hotel and around the country as best I could throughout my month there. But as I told a colleague: “I don’t blend in really well – and this government is rounding up journalists.”

It was really that, and a few bad incidents I had come across while trying to get out and about. Be it my camera being wrested away from me outside the main mosque in Damascus or my drive through the neighbourhood of Barza in Damascus the previous week.

Barzah: A bad neighbourhood to begin with … it had gone from bad to worse the Friday I decided to drive through and take a look. Men with metal pipes were in the middle of the street beating people.

At least a dozen walking wounded were headed away from the main mosque there, some bleeding from the head; others had their hands bandaged. Clearly there had been a hand-to-hand brutal battle. Ambulances raced away from the scene – and each time I would have the driver circle back they would wave the pipes as if to say: “We dare you to get out of that car.”

Gunfire raining into crowd

My grumpy attitude, Abdel [the driver] and I were approaching the city of Izraa when something immediately clearly horrible was unfolding down the road directly in front of us. People, mostly truck drivers, were standing on the highway … yelling at the cars approaching – telling them to pull over.

Screaming and waving widely. I saw one making signs with his hands. He was mimicking the motion of a machine gun firing. I got my bearings, noticing right away two road signs: one pointing to the right that read “Izraa: 1km” and the other pointing to the left that read “Daraa”.

It dawned on me at that moment that I had been here before. We were just outside the “kill zone” I had seen weeks earlier on the outskirts of Daraa.

About 50 metres from where we pulled over was an overpass that connected Daraa to Izraa. I could see clearly a crowd of people marching from my left to my right over the bridge.

Suddenly gunfire rained into the crowd. The truck drivers dove for cover. And, for what seemed like an eternity, I sat there in the car, stunned and frozen. People were falling on top of each other, being cut down like weeds in a field by what I think must have been a mix of both small arms fire and machine gun fire. I saw at least two children shot. They fell immediately. People were screaming. Gunfire rattled on.

Two cars tried to gun it under the overpass and continue down the highway, even with the gunfire continuing to cut people up. One of the cars got hit immediately before it passed under the bridge and ended up slamming into the embankment on the right side of the road. Someone fell out of the passenger side and scrambled under the bridge and crawled into a ball … just hoping for survival, I suppose.

I’ve been playing it through over and over again in my head for the past 16 hours and I still do not know where the gunfire was coming from. It seemed to be coming from a field that lay off to my right – on the Izraa side of the bridge. I could see some muzzle flashes, but I’ve never in my life seen people walking, and just shot at indiscriminately.

I could not take my eyes off what was quickly becoming carnage. One of the last things I remember seeing clearly were people lying flat on the road, taking cover behind those who had already been wounded or shot dead … lying in what must have been pools of blood to avoid a hail of flying hot hell.

Abdel’s brain finally switched back on and he flung the car into reverse and headed backwards down the highway, laying on his car horn the entire time, weaving backwards through the cars that were now slowly approaching the spot where truck drivers were taking cover in the ditch. I was gripping the handle of the door so hard, I noticed my knuckles had gone totally white.


Abdel spun the car around, drove over the median and started driving back to Damascus. There was really nothing to say at that point. But out of immediate instinct, I rang our news desk in Doha. I can’t remember what I said initially, but clearly it was enough for the editors to get an anchor up immediately to tape an interview over the phone, getting my fresh reaction to what I had seen.

I didn’t know what to say honestly except it was clear security forces [or Assad loyalists, who are now, based on behaviour, part of the security forces] had just carried out a mini-massacre. I’m sure I repeated myself too many times, something you try not to do … but this was unlike anything I had ever seen. After covering seven separate wars in as many years, I’ve never seen people march directly into a hail of gunfire.

As the interview was rapping up, we came across a heavy army checkpoint. We had driven through maybe a dozen on our way down, and the further we headed south, the more frequent they became. It was as if around 25km north of the Jordan border there was an invisible military zone that had been put up.

I didn’t notice the ones on the other side of the highway, but as soon as we started approaching one (now driving back north), Abdel and I looked at each other. Immediately I apologised to Tony Harris [our anchor] and shoved the phone into my pocket, bringing a quick end to the interview.

Being seen talking on the phone as a journalist, right after fleeing that scene, we would have ended up in detention, there is not a doubt in my mind.

As we passed through the army checkpoint, the soldiers were smoking and laughing; looking at each other; smiling, waving us through various barriers. I can only describe it like what it felt to me: an evil grimace of enjoyment was on their faces. We were maybe, at the most, 3km from where I had just seen people cut down, bullets tearing their bodies into pieces. It was disgusting.

I turned to look at Abdel, to begin asking him a series of questions about the best way to proceed from that point on – and I saw a man of maybe 40 years old with a single tear running down his cheek. “Are you ok, habbibi,” I asked like an idiot.

“Yes … yes – but shou (what) … shou,” he repeated … what do we have? There is no humanity here anymore.”

‘No humanity left’

After a few minutes of silence and many cigarettes passed back and forth we debated the best way for me to get out of the country. We debated it all the way back to Damascus.

In the end, Abdel and I agreed: make a run for the Lebanese border now, spending another night in Damascus; overstaying my visa to face the “full force of the law” after reporting what we had both just seen was not a smart idea.

So, off to the Lebanese capital Beirut we went.

Ironic that a place where I’ve seen a war and many clashes break out before was suddenly a seven-hour refugee for me as I waited for the first flight to any European city so I could then connect home to see my elderly and sick grandfather on Easter.

As I sit at this airport in Paris, writing this piece, watching people come and go, I am haunted by two thoughts: The first is a question I cannot answer. How can you shoot people like that? Just watch a crowd march towards you; sit in a firing position, wait … watch; then fire directly into a crowd of civilians.

I did not see a single shot fired from the crowd in the few minutes we sat there watching people flail without any place to hide – a gut wrenching pink mist spraying strait in the air.

It is that thought, and the words of a young man from the southern city of Daraa speaking about the country he once loved, a country that has forever changed asking me rhetorically: “What do we have? There is no humanity here anymore.”

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April 24th, 2011, 11:36 pm


253. Chris W said:

#252 was a highly emotive piece. Although it contained rather fewer facts than suppositions. An example of the “I, I, me, me” style of journalism.

Concerning enough, however.

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April 25th, 2011, 12:15 am


254. why-discuss said:

La crise syrienne place Obama en position délicate

… Les États-Unis estiment ensuite qu’ils ont peu de leviers sur un pays qui ne reçoit pas d’aide financière de leur part et est déjà soumis à un régime de sanctions économiques, difficile à durcir, selon eux. Enfin, vu de Washington, la Syrie n’est pas la Libye ni l’Égypte. La Maison-Blanche considère que Damas est l’une des clés du processus de paix israélo-palestinien et de la stabilité au Moyen-Orient. Elle pense aussi que la Syrie pourrait être plus dangereuse sans Bachar el-Assad qu’avec lui.

…. Elliot Abrams, du Council on Foreign Relations. Obama devrait, selon lui, rappeler l’ambassadeur américain à Damas et demander à l’ONU d’imposer des sanctions au régime syrien. L’ancien ambassadeur américain à l’Otan Nicholas Burns suggérait enfin dimanche sur CNN que c’est en affaiblissant la Syrie que les États-Unis réussiront à affaiblir l’Iran, le vrai problème dans la région…

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April 25th, 2011, 12:25 am


255. vlad-the-syrian said:

Syrian (false)

your reaction is not surprising

do you have any proof that security men were killed by other security forces ?

and maybe those poor farmers from Tartouss were also killed and mutilated by “other security men” ?

we know your modus operandi for slaughtering innocent people who do not share your satanic beliefs, its the same everywhere else (Iraq, Somalia, India, Pakistan, not to mention Israel etc…)

you have been doing your ugly sabotage in Syria for years now and now you feel its the end for your and your likes, the islamists bugs

when i say ZOMBIE you know very much what i mean

ZOMBIES inflamed by THE MB and wahhabi hatred, full off this so partcular thirst for blood , that is what who you are, you have no dignity nor pride nor any right except to disappear and burn in hell with your beloved Satan


what you deserve IS going to happen : we the syrian patriots will crush you like BUGS and this time its gonna be once for all


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April 25th, 2011, 11:20 am


256. vlad-the-syrian said:

this is scenario of the shooting of innocent

– Mahmoud from the crowd of peaceful protesters chanting peaceful slogans like ALLAH WA AKBAR using his satellite cell phone provided by us agents, calls a fellow posted atop of a building armed with a precision gun : hey Ahmad do you see me i’m wearing the red tee shirt at the corner of the street, do you see me ?

– yes i see you

– dont shoot at me you idiot

– laughgs ….

– mahmoud : do you see the child before me wearing a yellow jacket

– yes

– i’m going to tell him not to move so that it’s easier for you

– ok

– mahmoud : ya walad stay still so i can get you on my phone camera

– the boy : yes here i am

– mahmoud to ahmad : now shoot


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April 25th, 2011, 11:43 am


257. Syrian said:

vlad-the-syrian, you need your brain examined!! I am not going to waste my time with someone like you. Syria is not Assads and Assads will never be Syria. Hafez died, and Bashar will be punished then die and Syria will be alive!!! The Syrian heroes are cleaning the streets, buildings & squares and taking down the pictures and statues of your despicable gang`s leaders “Hafez and Bashar” HA I wonder who is the real bug!! Oh wait more thing, you should apply for the Syrian official TV because your imagination and story is nothing but a trash! similar to the prayer for rain, I bet they will hire you because they need more idiots! I will be sheering for you 😉

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April 25th, 2011, 10:53 pm


258. Can Assad Survive? « Washington Notes said:

[…] uber-informed Joshu Landis reports on current conditions in Syria. Here is a small clip but I highly recommend reading entire long […]

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April 27th, 2011, 12:30 pm


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