Posted by Joshua on Thursday, May 5th, 2011
A friend in Damascus writes:
A friend of mine living in Kafar Batna (near Saqba) just told me that his wife called him to say that she can hear a lot of shooting going out in the street. Last night hundreds of people were detained in Saqba.
Today an Alawi businessman with connection to the establishment told me that around 1 million of people (between army, Alawi armed militia, bath party armed militia, police, security services etc…) will be deployed tomorrow to put a stop to any kind of demonstration or uprising. The use of violence or live fire have been permitted to all these forces. Perhaps it is an exaggeration they want to spread to terrorize the people and keep them home? I do not know (in any case i will stay home like all the 4 past Fridays). Today is the martyrs day.
A Sunni friend with connections to the Sunni “respected” shaikhs of Damascus (i do not want to tell their names) told me that some of them already asked their followers to go in the street and protest. Others, like Bouti are still trying to mediate but the blood of many of them is boiling. I heard from this side many times the word “war” … i do not know what to expect from tomorrow: a big calm or a big blood bath…
Suria Allah Hamiha…
Kuwaitis and Emiratis to the Rescue?
This Arab News article copied below states that business men from Kuwait and the Emirates are pouring millions into the Syrian economy in an effort to protect it.
على رأسهم الاماراتيون و الكويتيون .. رجال أعمال عرب يضخون مئات الملايين لحماية الاقتصاد السوري
عرب نيوز : على رأسهم الاماراتيون و الكويتيون .. رجال أعمال عرب يضخون مئات الملايين لحماية الاقتصاد السوري
قالت مصادر مطلعة أن تكتلات لرجال أعمال سوريين، يشاركهم رجال أعمال عرب وخليجيون، يستعدون للإعلان عن استثمارات ضخمة في سوريا خلال الفترة القريبة المقبلة، بما يساعد في توفير المزيد من فرص العمل على أكبر مساحة جغرافية ممكنة وتعزيز مقومات الأمن الغذائي، إذا إن الكثير من المشاريع التي سيتم طرحها ستوجه نحو القطاع الزراعي والغذائي وقدر حجم الاستثمارات التي سيعلن عنها في هذا السياق بنحو 500 مليون دولار. وأكدت المصادر أنها جاهزة مباشرة للضخ عبر مشاريع يجري إعدادها حاليا وتطلق قريبا . وقالت الشرق الأوسط أن زيارة أمير الكويت إلى سوريا الأحد المقبل ستحمل في شق منها جانبا اقتصاديا..يجري من خلاله الإعلان عن استثمارات مشتركة وإطلاق مشاريع كان متفقا عليها في زيارة الأمير الأخيرة إلى سوريا قبل أشهر. مع الإشارة هنا إلى أن من بين تكتلات رجال الأعمال التي تستعد للإعلان عن مشاريع استثمارية مجموعة مهمة من المستثمرين الكويتيين، كما أن هناك رجال أعمال إماراتيين
‘Bashar or chaos’: Syrian regime’s new mantra
Thursday, 05 May 2011 16:47 Mohideen Miftha
DAMASCUS, May 5, 2011 (AFP) – Bashar al-Assad or chaos. This is the new media mantra unleashed by the Syrian authorities to discredit the protest movement against the embattled president’s autocratic rule.
“We Syria,” “The collaborators are seeking discord,” “Yes to stability rather than chaos,” and “Freedom is not sabotage,” are some of the string of slogans screaming out on street posters and television clips in Damascus.
“The message of our campaign is simple. The word freedom as defined by protesters is not true freedom,” says Shaza Ferzli, 33, who heads the regime’s media account at United Group, the largest advertising company in Syria.
Wherever one turns one’s head in Damascus there is a slogan.
There are signs calling for “national unity” and “co-existence between communities” on buildings, bus stops and public transport alongside giant posters of President Bashar al-Assad.
One poster with the slogan “No to Dissent” is put up next to a picture of a church and a mosque under the slogan “Yes to coexistence.”It is evident that in this multi-confessional country, the authorities want to put across the message that the anti-government protesters are extremists who want to break the prevailing harmony.
For Zulfiqar Mohammed of United Group, the campaigns launched so far aim to “revive the national fabric which is confronted with an alien phenomenon. It’s a foreign conspiracy,” he says referring to the unprecedented demonstrations against Assad’s 11-year rule which began seven weeks ago as a wave of revolt swept the Arab world. Syrian and international human rights groups say that more than 600 civilians have been killed so far.
To show that the country is in danger, state television regularly broadcasts commercials glorifying the nation using slogans such as “Darling Syria,” or “Syria’s head is high,” alongside images of major tourist attractions.
The authorities also use derogatory terms to refer to the protesters like “terrorists”, “mercenaries” or “plotters.”Assad’s supporters, like their opponents, are also making full use of new media, like social networking sites, to drive home their message.
Ammar Ismail Shaie wages a relentless war on Facebook and Twitter against the young protesters of the so-called “Syrian Revolution 2011” group. “I spend sleepless nights,” says Shaie, browsing the DNN (Damascus News Network), one of the 15 pro-Assad pages on Facebook.
The main objective is to discredit the protesters by pointing to their “lies” and denounce the coverage of television channels such as Qatar-based network Al-Jazeera, the bete noire of the Syrian authorities.
“They broadcast only the view of the opposition, not that of the loyalists. There is no voice for those who love the president,” says Ammar.
“Look at these mock funerals shown by the media,” he says, showing a video on Youtube depicting two dead men rising to join an angry mob. The protesters too broadcast daily dozens of videos accusing government loyalists of fabricating lies aimed at discrediting them. In a country which forbids foreign journalists from going out to report on the protests, it is a cyberwar on YouTube between pro- and anti-government forces.
Thu, May. 05 2011 03:10 AM EDT
Christians Under Attack From Anti-Government Protesters in Syria
By Alison Matheson|Christian Post Correspondent
Christian communities across Syria have been attacked by anti-government protesters in recent weeks.
International Christian Concern says that protesters are being led by hard-line Islamists and that Christians have come under pressure to either join in protests demanding the resignation of President Bashir Assad, or else leave the country.
Eye witnesses report seeing around 20 masked men on motorcycles open fire on a home in a Christian village outside Dara’a, in southern Syria.
Another source told ICC that churches had received threatening letters over Easter, telling them either to join the protests or leave.
In Karak, Muslim Salafists forced villagers to join the protests and remove pictures of the president from their home. One man who refused was reportedly found hanged on his front porch the next morning.
One Syrian Christian leader told ICC: “People want to go out and peacefully ask for certain changes, but Muslim Salafi groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda.
“We want to improve life and rights in Syria under this president, but we do not want terrorism. Christians will be the first to pay the price of terrorism.”
ICC fears that the intimidation tactics may drive Christians out of Syria in a similar way to the exodus of believers from other parts of the Middle East, most notably Iraq.
Syrian Christians fear that if the hardliners succeed in taking over the government, they will try to drive Christians out of the country.
One Syrian Christian leader told ICC: “If Muslim Salafis gain political influence, they will make sure that there will be no trace of Christianity in Syria.”
Another source told ICC that protesters in Duma, a suburb of Damascus, were last week heard shouting: “Alawites to the grave and Christians to Beirut!”
ICC’s regional manager for the Middle East, Aidan Clay, urged the U.S. administration to take a cautious approach in its diplomatic relations with Syria.
“Unlike in Egypt, where Christians predominantly supported the revolution that removed President Hosni Mubarak from power, Syrian Christians have not participated in protests, anticipating that chaos and bloodshed will follow if radical Islam takes hold of the country,” he said.
“Throughout the Middle East, Christians have been fleeing their homeland in unprecedented numbers. Now, in a country where Christians have historically taken refuge from nearby purges in places like Turkey a century ago and Iraq in recent years, Islamists are threatening their existence.
“We urge the U.S. Government to act wisely and carefully when developing policies that have deep political ramifications for Syria’s minorities by not indirectly supporting a foothold to be used by radical Islamists to carry out their anti-Christian agenda.”
The Syrian constitution provides for freedom of religion but the government imposes restrictions on this right. Sunnis constitute 74 percent of the population while various Christian groups constitute 10 percent, although there are estimates that the Christian population, mostly due to migration, may have dropped to 8 percent, according to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom report.
Suicide Car Bomber Kills 18 Iraqi Policemen, Associated Press
The bombing in Hillah is the second significant attack in Iraq since the death of Osama bin Laden.
St Andrews University clears itself over links to Syria: 05 May 2011
By FIONA MACLEOD – Scotsman
ONE of Scotland’s most prestigious universities has dismissed accusations of political influence over its research on Syria.
St Andrews University launched an investigation into its Centre for Syrian Studies (CSS) after it was criticised for taking £105,000 from a businessman with links to the Syrian government. The Middle East state’s regime has recently come under the spotlight for heavy-handed tactics against pro-democracy campaigners.
An internal review by the university concluded the research conducted by the centre maintained the highest levels of academic independence.
At the end of last month it was reported that funding for the centre from British- Syrian businessman Ayman Asfari had been “arranged” by the Syrian ambassador to the UK, Sami Kiyami, and that the university was too close to figures inside the controversial regime.
However, the deputy principal of St Andrews last night said his investigation had found “no evidence” of prejudice in the centre’s research or any inappropriate links with Syria.
Professor Chris Hawkesworth said: “We have found no evidence that the source of funding for the CSS prejudices the outcome of our research, and we robustly refute the allegation that we should be in any way embarrassed by the Asfari Foundation’s support of the Centre for Syrian Studies or the centre’s contacts.”……