Syria: the Dangerous Trap of Sectarianism,” by Nikolaos Van Dam, ambassador and author

Syria: the dangerous trap of sectarianism
By NIKOLAOS VAN DAM
For Syria Comment
April 14, 2011

* Nikolaos van Dam is former Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Indonesia and the author of The Struggle for Power in Syria, its 4th updated edition is to be published shortly.

The fact that the issue of sectarianism has, thus far, not figured prominently in discussions on recent violent developments in Syria does not mean that it is not an important undercurrent which could fundamentally undermine the possibility of achieving democracy as demanded by Syrian opposition groups. Syrians are very much aware of it but tend, generally, to avoid talking about sectarianism openly, because it can have such a destructive effect. The early 1980s are an example of this, when the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood provoked the minoritarian Alawi-dominated Ba’th regime into a bloody sectarian confrontation by assassinating various prominent, and less-prominent, Alawi people, not necessarily because they were Ba’thists but because they were Alawis. The climax came with the Muslim Brotherhood revolt in Hama in 1982 which was bloodily suppressed by predominantly Alawi troops, taking the lives of some 10-25.000 inhabitants of the mainly Sunni population there. Nobody would wish to see a repetition of such bloody events, which have left deep social scars. For almost 30 years since the ‘Hama slaughter’, the situation in Syria has been relatively quiet on the sectarian front. This does not mean, however, that the issue of sectarianism could not become acute again, particularly since the Ba’th regime is presently under threat, while its main power institutions, such as the army and security services, are still clearly dominated by a hard core of Alawis who continue to constitute the backbone of the regime.

Whereas the common sectarian, regional and tribal backgrounds of  the main Ba’thist rulers have been key to the durability and strength of the regime, their Alawi sectarian background is also inherently one of its main weaknesses. The ‘Alawi factor’ seems to be hindering a peaceful transformation from Syrian dictatorship towards a more widely representative regime. The present Syrian demonstators’ main demands are simply to get more political freedoms and to make an end to the corrupt one party dictatorial system. The sectarianism issue is generally avoided by them. After all, the last thing the opposition seems to want is another sectarian war or confrontation which would not only lead to more violence and suppression, but would also not result in meeting any of their demands. The opposition instead prefers to portray the Syrian people as one and the same, irrespective of them being Arab, Kurd, Sunni, Alawi, Christian, Druze, Isma’ili, or whatever. They want justice, dignity and freedom. Their demands have, thus far, generally been rather modest, democratically oriented and peaceful.

It is good to take into consideration that there is no clear sectarian dichotomy in Syrian society, dividing the country into Alawis and non-Alawis. Syria has never been ruled by ‘the Alawi community’ as such. It is only natural that there are also numerous Alawi opponents to the regime. Many Alawis have themselves been suffering from Alawi-dominated Ba‘thist dictatorship, often just as much as, or occasionally even more than, non-Alawis.  This dictatorship rules over all Syrian regions, sectors and population groups, including those with an Alawi majority. Many Alawis are just as eager for political change in Syria, as other Syrians.  Syrian youths from all social and ethnic segments are prepared to take great risks to help achieving it. They and others also, however, tend to be carried away by the so-called ‘successes’ of demonstrators elsewhere in the Arab world, particularly in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya. But when it comes to the dangerous issue of sectarianism, Syria is a special case.

It appears difficult to imagine a scenario in which the present narrowly based, totalitarian regime, dominated by members of the Alawi minority, who traditionally have been discriminated against by the Sunni majority, and who themselves have during the past decades severely repressed part of that same Sunni population, can now be peacefully transformed into a more widely based democracy, involving a greater part of the Sunni majority. A transformation from Alawi-dominated dictatorship to democracy in Syria should certainly not be taken for granted as a self-evident development, because it would imply that present repressive institutions should be dismantled, and that the regime would have to give up its privileged positions. As the traditional Sunni population in general has apparently not given up its prejudice and traditional negative attitude towards Alawi religion and Alawis in general – it might even be argued that Sunni grudges against Alawis have only increased as a result of Alawi-dominated dictatorship – it seems only logical to expect that the presently privileged Alawi rulers cannot count on much understanding from a more democratic (or less dictatorial, or perhaps even more repressive) regime which would for instance be dominated by members of the Sunni majority. A nascent democratic regime might in the end – due partly to lack of any long-term democratic tradition in Syria – turn into a Sunni dominated or other kind of dictatorship, members of which might wish to take revenge against their former Alawi rulers and oppressors. Many Alawis, including some of the regime’s initial opponents, might feel forced to cluster together for self-preservation if they would be given the impression, whether justified or not, of being threatened by a Sunni majority.

Perhaps there might be a way out through a kind of national dialogue with the aim of reconciliation. But such a reconciliation is only  possible if enough trust can be created among the various parties. Why would key figures in the Syrian regime voluntarily give up their positions if they can hardly expect anything other than being court-martialed and imprisoned afterwords?

A good beginning could be made by the Syrian regime through essential reform measures by way of an adequate response to the reasonable demands of the democratically and peacefully oriented opposition. Having a totalitarian regime, president Bashar al-Asad should at least be able to control all his security institutions, as well as armed irregular Alawi gangs like the Shabbihah, to guide Syria out of this crisis in a peaceful manner. Falling in the dangerous trap of sectarianism is in nobody’s interest, least of all of the Alawi community, which wishes a better future for Syria, like anyone else in the country.

—–
Nikolaos van Dam is former Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Indonesia and the author of The Struggle for Power in Syria (its 4th updated edition is to be published shortly).

Comments (138)


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101. why-discuss said:

The Salafis in Jordan: open confrontation. The heat is turning towards Jordan

Dozens Hurt As Dueling Protesters Clash In Jordan

A crowd of about 350 extremist Salafi Muslims faced off with a slightly smaller group of king loyalists in the town of Zarqa. Salafis beat the government supporters with clubs and fists, and the two sides hurled stones at each other, leaving people bloodied on the ground…..

“The Jordanian government has been chasing us everywhere for Americans’ sake. We’re not going anywhere. One day all the Arab world will be ours,” al-Tahawi said. “We will have Shariah law rule in Jordan. It’s only a matter of time, and all America and Israel’s efforts will go away.”

http://www.npr.org/2011/04/15/135444184/dozens-hurt-as-dueling-protesters-clash-in-jordan?ft=1&f=1001

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April 15th, 2011, 4:14 pm

 

102. why-discuss said:

AIG

“Israel did not allow the press into Gaza from Israel because it could not be responsible for their safety.”

Same applies to Syria’s demonstrations….where there were snipers and surely foreign press would have be targeted by the ones who want chaos and international condemnation.
So please….

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April 15th, 2011, 4:17 pm

 

103. AIG said:

Why-Discuss,

Of course, the Assad regime is justified in not allowing foreign reporters because the way Syrians* drive, they cannot be responsible for their safety 🙂

There is a difference between a war zone and a demonstration. Yes, both are risky, but to a much different extent.

* I am sure generally Syrians are great drivers, this is just a joke to illustrate a point.

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April 15th, 2011, 4:27 pm

 

104. jad said:

Amir, go party, after all this day didn’t end without loosing couple Syrians on both sides.

شبكة أخبار حمص H.N.N
قوى الأمن تزف الشهيد عصام حسن
“استشهد شاب من الأمن الجنائي على يد المتظاهرين في سوق الدجاج اليوم الساعة الثالثة بعد ان استفرد به المخربين وضربوه بالحجارة حتى الموت.
الشهيد من منطقة وادي الذهب
كلنا نخجل امام دموع أمك يا شهيدنا الغالي
36 minutes ago

The Syrian Revolution 2011 الثورة السورية ضد بشار الاسد
استشهاد احد رجال الثورة في اللاذقية … رحم الله جميع شهدائنا
about an hour ago

And some terrorist activity too on the highway near Homs:
شبكة أخبار حمص H.N.N
اليوم ً
عصابة مسلحة تعترض قبل مدينة حمص بولمان نقل ركاب كان متجهاً من دمشق إلى حلب بعد عصر يوم الجمعة وسماع إطلاق رصاص والسائق تمكن ببطولة من الفرار من العصابة”
بربكن هي حرية هاد تشليح وين صرنا عايشين
32 minutes ago

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April 15th, 2011, 4:53 pm

 
 

106. why-discuss said:

Is she reporting about another Syria on another planet or the activists have lost touch with the reality? Maybe we should send her a wakeup call on her email: bahrampourt@washpost.com

Syrian day of protest called largest yet
By Tara Bahrampour, Friday, April 15, 2:52 PM Washington Post

BEIRUT — Syrian riot police clashed with protesters in Damascus on Friday, firing tear gas and beating people with batons, while other demonstrations erupted across the country in a marked expansion of a month-long wave of unrest , witnesses said.

Shouting, “Freedom! Freedom!” and “National unity, Muslims and Christians,” a large crowd marched toward al-Abbasiyeen Square in northern Damascus, where police were blocking access late in the afternoon, witnesses said.

It was the largest day of demonstrations since the uprising here began in mid-March, according to Syrian activists reached via the Skype Internet service. Activists said up to 100,000 people joined the Damascus march, which began in Douma, outside the city, and picked up more participants as it passed through Harasta, Irbin, Zamalka and Jobar, en route to the capital.

It was impossible to independently confirm the number of protesters because foreign news media have been restricted from reporting in Syria.

“There was a lot of tear gas,” said a 35-year-old engineer who took part in the Damascus protest and said he was beaten on his legs with batons. “Many people were bleeding around the area, but many were insisting and trying to go to the square.”

By late afternoon, it was unclear whether protesters had been able to reach the square. But “just to arrive in that area was a huge achievement, because we reached Damascus,” the engineer said.

Protests also took place Friday in other cities across the country, including Homs, Latakia, Daraa, Baniyas, and Jassan, as well as in Syria’s Kurdish region, according to activists, who said government forces fired at protesters in Latakia, a city on the coast.

The movement in Syria has been marked by swelling protests and fierce crackdowns by state security forces, who have opened fire on crowds and arrested people en masse.

In recent days, in the most recent of a string of apparent attempts to placate protesters, the government released many of the detainees, and on Thursday it announced a new cabinet.

Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, had been widely anticipated as an indicator of whether the opposition movement would subside or continue to gain steam.

“Today is the biggest ever since it started,” said Razan Zaitouneh, a human rights activist and lawyer who was near the square during the protests. “It means that people didn’t respond to the violence of the authorities. The authorities were trying to make people scared, but people responded in the opposite way, by going out in larger numbers.”

However, it is unclear if those numbers are large enough to tip the balance in favor of protesters, said Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

“There’s a serious issue for the regime in terms of people demonstrating throughout the country, but who’s doing it and what’s the extent of it is very hard to know,” he said. But, he added, “The longer it goes, the more difficult it is for the regime to calm things down.”

Whereas earlier protests had called for greater freedoms and the lifting of a decades-long emergency law, more recent protests, including those in Damascus on Friday, have increasingly called for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, 45.

Assad’s government, considered one of the most repressive in the Middle East, has close ties with Iran, and on Thursday the Obama administration accused Iran of helping Syria attempt to stamp out the recent protests, a charge Syrian officials denied.

A Human Rights Watch report issued Friday said that Syrian security and intelligence services have arrested and tortured hundreds of protesters around the country since anti-government demonstrations began last month. According to rights groups, 200 people have died so far in the the protests.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported that one soldier was killed and another wounded Friday morning in the port city of Baniyas, the site of earlier demonstrations this week.

As the sun set, security forces were raiding houses around Damascus’s al-Abbasiyeen Square, Zaitouneh said.

bahrampourt@washpost.com

© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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April 15th, 2011, 5:17 pm

 

107. Dr. Fadi said:

There has been a lot going on in my country and I want to vent so I saw this respectful website and as someone who is interested in politics in general I decided to write here. I am yet getting familiar with this great website:

It is speculated now that some organizations, countries, and people are behind the unrest in Syria to mention few: Islamic Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia, Khadam, Hariri and his fellow Jamal Jarah. They are using the people and moving the street to achieve their agenda. Some people are even talking of western involvement in the uprise. Some believe that Syria is no different than Egypt, Libya, or Tunisia and what happened there could happen in Syria. What makes Syria different?

First lest us look at the Strong Axis: Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria.
Some believe that the west including Israel would love to give big blow to the growing Iranian influence in the region. The Iranian nuclear ambition and influence is not welcomed by the western power. By taking Syria off, they would isolate Iran, and later disarm Hezbollah perhaps through a United Nations coalition forces.

This is easy to say but perhaps remains a dream for several reasons:

1. The current relatively calm situation in Iraq would have never occurred without Syria and Iranian involvement. Although on the surface there is a lot of strong language against both regimes but my personal believe that Iran and Syria played a role in calming Iraq. We do not hear our troops being harmed now days as we used to hear in the recent past. Recently the Mehdi army declared that they want our troops out of Iraq and 2 million came out in the streets a week ago. Alsadar has not done anything for 2 years and now coming out with his army. Perhaps a message from the Iranian and Syrians that “We are here, we have influence in the country, and we could move the streets anytime”.

2. Syria is the most important alliance for Iran political influence and existence. Iranians are trying to avoid any political announcements because they believe in the Syrian ability to crack down the current demonstrations as the Iranians themselves did although I believe we should differentiate between the unrest that is taking place in Syria now and the Iranian unrest which is beyond the scope of my review. Iranian although silent, does not mean they don’t support their alliance Syria. It’s just they don’t want to give the current conflict a sectarian view. But if they feel that their arm will be cut then they will step up and play their cards in Afganestan, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, even the north of Saudi Arabia as some Shiite exists in these countries (many in Iraq) and they are loyal to Iran.Not to mention that the passage of Oil could be under Iranian attack in the Persian Gulf (Excuse me Arab but this is called by history the Persian gulf)

3. The Syrian army, intelligent agencies, and police have been practicing a high level of patience but last Friday declared that enough is enough. All these agencies are extremely loyal to President Assad. What happened in Egypt will never ever happen in Syria; here the army is with the president. Moreover, millions of Alawait people are willing to defend President Assad till death. Sectarian war would be the end result of any attempt to change the current government

4. Hezbollah and Israel conflict may come to frontline in case of western attacks on Syria.

5. All of us remember the Syrian-Turkish Crisis. Turkey deployed all its army on the southern border with Syria. Rumors spread in Syria that President Assad the father back then told Turkey that his war is not with them. If they will attack from north all Syria Missiles will target Tel Aviv. I recall that no single Syrian army was deployed to the borders with Turkey and Turkey did nothing.

6. Syria is important geopolitical player in this region if not the most important player. Instability of Syria will lead a total mess in the whole region from Afghanistan to Lebanon. For all the reasons mentions I really doubt that the west is naïve in reading the Syrian situation. I really doubt that such attack will happen and if it did then the costs will definitely be high

There are some voices from the Middle East including my family members who are saying to me: Why America is doing that? Why they want to bring Radicals to Syria? Is Obama aware of the grave situation if the radicals come? Don’t they get it that the current unrest is caused by some organizations who are using the people as a mean to reach their goal?
Well many questions and even angry ones that I find myself puzzled with. I really do not believe for a second that it is in the interest of America to bring the radical Brotherhood Islam to lead Syria. This organization is equal to AlQaeda. Do we need alQaeda anywhere in the world; the answer is NO.
Syrian government has been saying for a month now that outsiders are behind the unrest, unfortunately no one listened or even believed. They went condemning the government. People from both sides innocents and army men were killed; they say that the army is shooting others to give means for the government to be brutal. Well with the 10 people killed in Jordan by the Islamist radicals today I think people all over the world will look at the king of Jordan and will believe his story. Well the news is out

Islamists attack Jordan police with swords, daggers

Syria has been saying that police men were killed by outsiders. No one believed. Should we connect the dots now.

Fadi

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April 15th, 2011, 5:19 pm

 

108. jad said:

WD,
Almost everybody on SC can write the news for her in more professional way and with the correct information.
Those journalists need to do their homework instead of writing no-brain pieces.

شوكوماكو – خاص
عاد الهدوء التام إلى منطقة جوبر في دمشق وذلك بعد ان قام مجموعة من ***** يقدر عددهم بـ 450 شخصاً قدموا من مناطق دوما وعربين وحرستا بتخريب الممتلكات العامة والخاصة في جوبر.
وأفاد مراسل شوكوماكو أنه حدث تكسير لواجهات بعض المحال في شارع علوش- الشارع الرئيسي في جوبر- كما تم تكسير بعض الباصات وتدمير لمواقف السيارات ناشرين الذعر في نفوس الأهالي في تلك المنطقة.
واكد لنا مراسلنا أن قوات الأمن تصدت لل**** القادمين من ريف دمشق في ساحة البرلمان، مادفع ال**** إلى الفرار واللجوء للحارات الفرعية حيث واجهتهم اللجان الشعبية المتواجدة في المنطقة.
وفي اتصال هاتفي مع شوكوماكو أكد لنا أحد أفراد اللجان الشعبية في حي الخرار بجوبر أنهم تصدوا للهاربين من ال**** الذين حاولوا نشر الذعر والفوضى وأجبروهم على التراجع والعودة من حيث أتو.

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April 15th, 2011, 5:38 pm

 

109. NAJIB said:

The ‘Alawi factor’ seems to be hindering a peaceful transformation from Syrian dictatorship towards a more widely representative regime.

Alawis have been massacred and oppressed and treated as heretics for more than 400 hundreds years. obviousely they do not want to go through this again.

if you search Salafi sites and read through their literature on what they think Alawis are, you will quickly understand that those fears are still justified.

But the fears of a small minority cannot save a ‘System’ or a ‘Regime’ .

It is simply the collective intelligence of the Syrian people who could not be tricked into something they have no clue who is behind it and where exactly it is going to take them. what about the day after, people want to know.

in a true Revolution , being an ‘Alawi’, Kurd, Christian, Druze, Jewish, Hourani, Shami, Halabi or a plain vanilla or generic sunni becomes a non-issue. forgotten, irrelevant in politics.

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April 15th, 2011, 5:39 pm

 

110. syau said:

Dr. Fadi

You comments are the most level headed ones I’ve read. Unfortunately the hard core anti Bashar will not listen, they might think – interesting view, then continue on believing the rubbish comming out of BBC and Al Jazzera. They cannot open their minds to most of these videos being fake or that outside entities are the ones behind the unrest in Syria. That would be agreeing with the government. There was a change in ministry- a positive one I might add, but no one is interested in that or what that might bring, they prefer to continue on the sectarian war path and fall right into the hands of the negative outside influences and do not look back.

I’s saddening to see what is being broadcast – over and over again, the same video being replayed during an “interview” by Al Jazzera or BBC – with whom, those outright opposed to the Syrian government and it’s leader. There is no balanced view there, just biased ones and with the media power these news stations have, unfortunately thats what the greater public will be viewing.

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April 15th, 2011, 6:11 pm

 

111. N.Z. said:

Dr. Fadi,

Why were there no confrontations today in the streets of Damascus, keeping in mind that the crowds were larger and wider spread?

There was no blood spilled!
I beg an explanation Fadi.

Let us not forget the Egyptian scenario under Mubarak’s regime.

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April 15th, 2011, 6:36 pm

 

112. Fadi said:

Dear Syau,

It is clear dear that they are targeting Syria. It is interesting that the people of Syria is getting back to the Syrian Broadcasting agency that we hated for many years of being boring and not honest. I think the Syrian TV is the most reliable. Look; president Assad can crack down all this crap but this is not the way to do it. He is practicing a high level of patient and professionalism in dealing with this crisis. Unfortunately whatever he does or the government do will never be appreciated. Give him a chance, come to the table, talk. I have to say that the government should have looked to the surrounding unrest in other countries and learned from them. Unfortunately they did not and changes/improvements came a little late but that does not justify the chaos, the random killing by ??????ghosts, and the attack by organized groups namely Qaeda like Islam Brotherhoods>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Qaeda-like Islam brotherhoods. I hope our president here (Obama) gets this and I wish I can say it to him loud loud loud that we free Syrians do not want such a radical regimen. I really do not know what the west is thinking:

Do they want to change Syria Regimen: I very much doubt that they would do such a stupid costly mistake.

Or Do they want to get these radicals into trouble by getting them out of their holes into direct clash with Syrian regimen knowing that this regimen did not play with them back in 1982 rather they eradicated them and brought them to a 35 years of paralysis and now they are back to retaliate; they will not win as so far the west has been smooth in criticizing Syria. Will wait and see what the future brings. If this is the freedom the west wants then congrats as they will open their own grave.

Fadi

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April 15th, 2011, 6:37 pm

 

113. Fadi said:

Dear N.Z,

I really did not get the message you are trying to say.

I think it is great news that there are no confrontations today in the streets of Damascus.

I would not want a drop of blood to spill from anyone in the world. I am just trying to analyse the the situation on land from my point of view. You may disagree with me or agree and I would respect your point of views in either way.
I am very happy that there is no trouble in Damascus

Fadi

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April 15th, 2011, 6:41 pm

 

114. syau said:

N.Z

There were protests in the Damascus today, but largest to date, I dont think so, Please take a close look at the footage being shown by BBC, it is old footage, when this nonsense just began. The protesters are in small numbers as I have heard first hand.

No N.Z, there was no blood spilled. There were police officers walking with the protesters to keep the peace and ensure there was no violence amongst the protesters.

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April 15th, 2011, 6:42 pm

 

115. why-discuss said:

I regret that these revolution-happy TV channels don’t put dates on the clips they show. I think it is unprofessional and misleading.
Most serious TV channels show a sign ‘Archive’ when they are old clips.
I have stopped trusting al Jazeera and most News Channels because of that and also that horrible habit they have of splitting the screen during an interview to pass violent old Youtube clips on and on, it is sickening.

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April 15th, 2011, 7:38 pm

 

116. Syria Almighty said:

I have a question for all the stupid people who are pretending that this is not a sectarian conflict. Why do people keep sending me messages on Facebook and Youtube such as:

“Alawite Pig”

“So will die like a DOG!!! Everyone who support the Monster Assad, must get killed! Like you and your Family!!! So shut up and got fuck your mother you pice of shit! you no honor, no pride, nothing. so die and go to hell!!!!”

“Anik Umak ya Akhu Sharmuta!!!! I am Syrian and i will fuck your Familiy!

Just wait, if Assad get killed, than the Sunnis will kill all fucking Alawis! hahaha Biatch!

Go to HELL!!!”

“No matter you piece of shit! You will die and your fucking familiy! You dont have the right to live! How you can support a dictator and murder like bashar? you son of a bitch. go to hell with you christian family and burn in hell!!!”

Those are just a few comments I have received, EVERY TIME one of those destined-to-die revolution criminals contact me and other people. I never speak about religion, nor have I told these people what religion I am. They just assume that I am an Alawite. When I tell them that I am not, they assume that I am a Christian (I am), and still wish death upon me, my family, and all Christians.

Everyone in the revolution is garbage.

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April 15th, 2011, 8:27 pm

 

117. Australian -Syrian said:

Syria Almighty,
Dont give 2 shits about what people say. They are too pissed off and infuriated that they know, that Bashar al Assad is going to remain in power.

Those ass holes calling you an Alawite pig should just go to hell. And who the F”’k do they think they are insulting your religion? All that crap goes back to them and all those who support them.

Honestly, like i said earlier on, in my experience, the Christian people are better than almost all the Suni people. And by the comments you are getting, that justifies that.

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April 15th, 2011, 8:39 pm

 

118. N.Z. said:

Dear Syrian Doctors,

The medication you are subscribing is not effective.

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April 15th, 2011, 8:52 pm

 

119. why-discuss said:

Address by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(Strasbourg, 13 April 2011)

…..The emergence in Europe of racism, discrimination and intolerance is a cause of concern for all our societies. These trends have become an even greater cause of concern for the people living on our surrounding geographies.

I observe with regret that polarization is Europe is getting deeper.

We witness such phenomenon among mainstream political parties as they adopt populist stands to address general uncertainties and fears. I believe that it should be the primary responsibility of politicians to display leadership to reverse dangerous trends.

Let me remind you: Turkey is the only secular country with an overwhelmingly Muslim population in her region.

The principle of secularism which we adopted from the French model, has been controversial in Turkey over the years. For some, it has been perceived as an impediment against democratization and has been used to restrict freedoms.

Today, Turkey has left behind these controversies and proved to the whole world, that ISLAM-SECULARISM and DEMOCRACY can coexist.

It is an irony that at a time when Turkey becomes a model for her region, a new controversy on secularism begins in Europe which uses this principle for restricting freedoms.

Never in history or anywhere any positive results were achieved through coercion against beliefs, cultures and identities.

We have to replace religious intolerance with tolerance.

It is highly dangerous to exploit religious sensitivities, freedoms, points of divergence and prejudices for political purposes…..

….In the same vein, we follow closely the developments in Bahrain and continue to engage with all sides in the region so as to reduce tensions.

We also continue our efforts for ensuring that the popular movements in Syria, Yemen and Jordan result in democratic changes…..

http://www.coe.int/t/dc/files/pa_session/april_2011/20110413_disc_erdogan_en.asp

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April 15th, 2011, 8:54 pm

 

120. why-discuss said:

WikiLeaks: Hariri Urged Ending Assad Regime, Khaddam and Muslim Brotherhood to fill Void

Caretaker PM Saad Hariri believed that the Syrian and Iranian regimes are the obstacles behind the deteriorating peace process in the Middle East, revealed a WikiLeakes cable published in al-Akhbar newspaper on Friday.
Hariri stated that Israel is “protecting” the Syrian regime because it fears the unknown.

The leaked U.S. Embassy cable dated August 24, 2006, reported that he believed “weakening Syria will force Iran to work on its own.”

Hariri said during a meeting with a U.S. foreign ministry official and another diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, that isolating Syria and imposing a siege on it would cut Iran’s link to Lebanon and Palestine “where it is creating problems.”

He stressed: “Saudi Arabia and other Arabian countries have gotten fed up with Bashar… and are not interested in getting engaged in a dialogue with Damascus.”

“We need to put an end to the Syrian regime… All conflicts will end when this regime is abolished,” he continued.

When asked about who can fill the void if the regime falls, he stated that “collaboration between the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the officials that were part of the old regime, such as former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam and former Syrian Chief of Staff Hikmat al-Shihabi” could assume control in Syria.

Hariri stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria is similar to the moderate Islamists in Turkey, explaining: “They will allow a Christian or a woman to become president. They even support a peace agreement with Israel.”

He expressed fears over Iranian intervention in the region, saying: “Syria is only part of a bigger problem which is Iran, which supports Islamist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas.”

The Mustaqbal Movement leader said that Iran and Syria are smuggling arms to Hizbullah through land borders not by sea or air.

Hariri questioned the usefulness of providing the Lebanese army with weapons to serve as an obstacle to Hizbullah when “its ammunition won’t last more than four hours.”

He added that he will cut all ties with Hizbullah, saying: “We want it to change its behavior and hand over its weapons, or it will have a problem with me.”

In another leaked cable dated September 27, 2006, Hariri noted that Lebanon only requires “light weapons and some helicopters to impose its sovereignty over all its territory.”

He believed that the residents of the South will turn against Hizbullah once the Lebanese army is deployed in the area as they will realize that the Lebanese authorities can help resolve their problems, not Hizbullah, which is only “an Iranian infiltrator.”

http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/0/340F81EF3B51D6AAC22578730029E5F3?OpenDocument

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April 15th, 2011, 8:58 pm

 

121. Syria Almighty said:

WD, that article has been posted 3 times, twice by me. I don’t know why nobody cares about it.

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April 15th, 2011, 9:02 pm

 

122. syau said:

“They will allow a Christian or or woman to become president”

Who does this corrupt loser think he is. I saw this wikileaks document this morning and it just proves that these evil outside entities are trying to destablise Syria. This all started when they were trying to blame Syria for the Hariri Sr death. Maybe they should finally look to Hariri Jr. for the answer.

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April 15th, 2011, 9:14 pm

 

123. syau said:

Syria Almighty,

I’m sorry you have to put up with all those discusting insults. What comes around goes around, and they will at some point find themselves the centre of such comments, and, it would be because of karma. Hopefully only positive comments will come your way in future.

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April 15th, 2011, 9:18 pm

 

124. Syria Almighty said:

To the whores of the Syrian Islamic Revolution:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1879362058235

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April 15th, 2011, 9:26 pm

 

125. Syria Almighty said:

Syau, Saad al-HarAIRi is an asshole. It would not surprise me in the least if he was complicit in his own father’s death. His own father was not even this radical. I hope his imminent death is televised. He is truly the most corrupt person in Lebanon.

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April 15th, 2011, 9:34 pm

 

126. Mouna said:

The Albaida video is authentic.
One of the guys being humiliated there is our poor maid’s eldest brother.
He lost a tooth while his head was banged against the ground.

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April 15th, 2011, 10:13 pm

 

127. syau said:

Fadi,

Finallly, a level headed thinker. I think you on ground point of view is what is needed here.

I would also like to point out that I am proudly not living in the US. I am living in a beautiful country that is keeping it’s nose out of Syria’s business.

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April 15th, 2011, 10:15 pm

 

128. Australian -Syrian said:

Saad al Hariri is a no good filthy pig. His dream is to see Syria a corrupt country. I love Lebanon, but i hate, yes i hate, the Hariri. The reason he blamed Syria for the death of his old man was because he was trying to cover up his own tracks. Well, i say, if any Syrian DID have something to do with SR’s murders, what an honour! Even though it’s all bull.

The reason why that S.O.B wants Syria to be led by the Brotherhood is because he will benefit highly. IF, the brotherhood lead Syria the Hariri nub will do what the Americans did. The US supported Sadam and Al Queda. When they gave them weapons, they used their ‘ terror’ as an excuse to invade Iraq, and so on. That’s what Hariri wants to do.

But sadly for that unsophisticated twit, that will never happen. Syria is strong, and Enshallah, it will remain strong.

And the reason why nobody cares about the article, is because they know that they have nothing to say to counter-act it. They are eating their words, because they know that what the Syrian Government, and people like us have been trying to get across, is true.

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April 15th, 2011, 10:30 pm

 

129. syau said:

Australian – Syrian,

LOL…. Dont hide you true feelings about that unsophisticated twit

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April 15th, 2011, 10:52 pm

 

130. Shami said:

Mina:Indeed when I saw the clip yesterday I heard that the guy speaks with an Iraqi accent and not with a Syrian accent.

are you sure that the accent is iraqi ?

those are obviously not peshmerga.(why are they obliged to speak arabic?)

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=217913334890754&id=210622575619830
http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=196478150387479&id=210622575619830

الفيديو الذي تبثه المحطات التلفزيونية على انه تعذيب الامن للمتظاهرين في عين البيضة اتضح من خلال مواطن عراقي اسمه الدكتور حسن الجبوري تفيد ان الفيديو مصور في بغداد في الشرطة الخامسة بالقرب من المزارع وتعرف على اشياء كثيرة في مقطع الفيديو
وتعهد ان يرسل تسجيل عن المنطقة قريبا

and the landscape,architecture,human kind, obviously not that of Baghdad.

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April 15th, 2011, 11:46 pm

 

131. Mina said:

Shami #129
Indeed sorry I saw the clip again today and they speak Syrian. How can the official media be stupid enough to expect people to believe they are peshmergas ?
There was another clip though which I can’t find and was circulating on Twitter some days ago where obviously it spoke Iraqi.

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April 16th, 2011, 3:51 am

 

132. syau said:

Shami,

Fake videos, fake blood, people arising from the dead, archived videos and so on. What makes you think they cant dubb voices on archived videos or anything else. What is stopping the Syrian Revolution and all the evil pscho’s behind it from adding their own voices to the video. I also think the pictures you posted previously of the dismembered statue of Hafez Al Assad which is on their site are discusting. They condone degrading and stepping on a statue of someone who passed on. What type of deamon they fit into I can only guess, but its the worst kind. Is that the type of people you want to govern Syria?

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April 16th, 2011, 4:20 am

 

133. Fadi said:

I agree with syau comments regarding the unjustified, and biased media attack on Syria. Syau wrote “I’s saddening to see what is being broadcast – over and over again, the same video being replayed during an “interview” by Al Jazzera or BBC – with whom, those outright opposed to the Syrian government and it’s leader” “I saw this wikileaks document this morning and it just proves that these evil outside entities are trying to destablise Syria”

It is really makes you feel sick to follow Aljazeera news. They repeat the same headlines, the same photos, the same clip every single day. They are trying their best to advance the agenda of their payers. They do not want their basket to be empty; they want to put any crap out to assure the stream of millions of dollars to their bank. For example the headlines today, which was the same for over a month now. When we call back home they tell us, this is all lie, listen to old syrian TV; this is the most reliable source now. Back to Aljazeer headline today:
مظاهرات بدمشق ومدن سورية أخرى
مظاهرات بسوريا تدعو لإسقاط النظام
Yesterday they did not even mention the attacks on the Jordanian police and it took them 24 hours to report that (Well perhaps they were waiting the okay from their payers):
اعتقالات بصفوف السلفيين بالأردن
Shame on you Qatar, Shame on you Amir Qatar to allow such an attack, shame on you for leading the attack on an Libya, shame on you for allowing Al Qardawi to send hatered messages from your land, you expect Syrian goverment to be drowining and you are waiting on the sideline perhaps to take a share from its body. Syria that openend the doors for you and welcomed you. Enough said

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April 16th, 2011, 12:30 pm

 

134. Vedat The Turk said:

@ Syria Almighty

You complain about getting insulted but it seems to me that you are the only one in this forum that uses profanity and throws insults. I for one did not believe any of your earlier accusations that you had received insulting emails about your religion. I think you made it all up.

Also saying that you wish to witness the violent death of Harriri makes you come across as angry / hostile. Seriously, other than a sociopath, who would want to witness the death of another human being? Maybe you should clean up your act rather than complain.

: )

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April 16th, 2011, 4:35 pm

 

135. mhd said:

aljazeera tv is so naive & has no more credibility to the true Syrian .it is achaneel of misleading & falsification
a channel of fabrication
a channel that attack others own life

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April 17th, 2011, 1:48 am

 

136. سارة علي said:

الله لايرحم مخرب …..اسا عم تقولو ثورة
لعن الله الثورة السورية التخريبية التي يتزعمها الاخوان المسلمين
الطلبانيون الجدد
القندهاريون الجدد
الوهابيون الجدد
الحقوقيون الجدد
شهود العيان الجدد
تبا لكم ولثورتكم بشار الاسد وفقط بشار الاسد لكم بالمرصاد
bashar alassad Ilove you

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June 18th, 2011, 4:12 pm

 

137. Syria Comment » Archives said:

[…] The Biography is updated and contains a special section on Works in Arabic on Hafiz al-Asad and family (pp 227-230). It also includes the article for Syria Comment of 14 April 2011: Syria: the dangerous trap of sectarianism. […]

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July 10th, 2011, 10:10 pm

 

138. Nokalaos van Dam, “The Struggle for Power in Syria.” said:

[…] The Biography is updated and contains a special section on Works in Arabic on Hafiz al-Asad and family (pp 227-230). It also includes the article for Syria Comment of 14 April 2011: Syria: the dangerous trap of sectarianism. […]

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July 12th, 2011, 2:02 pm

 

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