Syrians Scared and Angered by Sectarian Fighting. Little unity Among Opposition

Syrians everywhere are praying that their country is the regional exception and will not slide down the road to sectarian bloodletting as anger grows.  Homs, the meeting place of Syria’s religious communities, is the flash point.

The Istanbul Opposition Conference selected a leadership different from the Antalya conference six weeks earlier. Lack of unity among the opposition threatens to lead the uprising astray even as it accuses the government of following the Sampson option.

16 killed in Homs on Tuesday – the site of Syria’s first overtly sectarian clashes on Sunday. Tuesday’s dead included three mourners at a funeral for 10 people who were killed by security forces on Monday, according to the Guardian. “Rami Abdulrahman, director of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Homs had seen intense battles since security forces stepped up a crackdown on Monday. Fighting erupted after three regime supporters who were kidnapped last week were killed and their dismembered bodies returned to their relatives.”

NPR – Deb Amos

This ad offers some of the public responses to the initial “I am with Syria” campaign. At the top, the ad says, “The goal of the initiative is to raise awareness and to accept different opinions.” The campaign encouraged public interaction and criticism.

The red image illustrated with blood says in Arabic: “Arrests or bullets: I do not believe it.” Another, in blue, says: “I am with the law, but where is it?” The text illustrated with camouflage reads: “My way is your way, but there’s a tank in the way.” The orange image with a group of hands says: “I am those millions: thugs, thieves, lackeys — call me whatever you want.”

“We thank all the brave Syrians who broke the silence and expressed their views,” the ad reads at the bottom………………..

“Actually I have friends in the same family that are polarized now, brothers,” Alani says.

“This polarization is like, ‘Yes, we are going to crash, but it’s your fault,’ ” Omran adds. “That doesn’t matter if it’s your fault or my fault; we are crashing all together, so let’s stop the crash first.”

The crash, as they see it, can come from the economy, or the sectarian divide. That was dangerously displayed in a bloody weekend in the city of Homs. There, an Alawite minority, backed by security forces, clashed with the Sunni majority protesting on Friday.

The crash can come also from a government that plays up those sectarian fears and after years in power seems unwilling to tolerate dissent, says Alani.

“It’s not for the public, by the way — the public is getting this. We are having more [problems], actually, with the regime,” Alani says. “They are the ones that we are trying also to include in the campaign. [They], as well, have to adopt this philosophy.”….

Sectarian violence in Syria raises fears

BEIRUT — A spate of sinister killings in the central city of Homs is fueling fears that the popular uprising in Syria could descend into a version of the sectarian strife that has long destabilized neighboring Iraq and Lebanon.

The violence erupted over the weekend at a time when attention was focused on the huge and overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations staged in many other cities around the country, including the largest protests yet to take place in the capital, Damascus.

In Homs, the weekly protests also went ahead, but under a cloud of sectarian tensions between the majority Sunni residents of the town, who constitute the bulk of the protest movement in the majority Sunni country, and the minority Alawites, the Shiite sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and most members of his regime belong. Read full article (Liz Sly)

Medvedev: Syria must not go the same way as Libya – Associated Press

Homs return to calm Le Monde (in french)

Security forces intervene in Homs and have stopped the violence, declared The chief of the Syrian league for human rights, Abdel Karim Rihaoui. He estimated that the confrontations that has started Saturday between the inhabitants gave a “dangerous signal to the collapse” that threatens the Syrian society, is a solution is not found to the crisis ‘born from the protest movement that started four months ago.

Time – Rania Abouzeid, “As Assad Hangs Tough, Syria’s Opposition Seeks Unity — and a Viable Strategy”

The opposition — a disparate group of aging intellectuals, exiled Islamists and the youths driving the protests — is trying to create a united front to present a viable alternative to the Baathist regime; but its divisions are many and varied, not least of which is the split between longtime exiles and those now shedding their blood in Syria’s streets. Those differences were on display at a conference attended by some 350 Syrian dissidents last weekend in Istanbul.

The assembly had intended to elect 50 members from inside Syria and 25 exiles to serve on a National Salvation Council, but the Damascus gathering (which was to be held simultaneously) was called off after security forces targeted the venue ahead of the event. Instead, the Istanbul meeting elected the 25 exiles, but there was discord, according to Radwan Ziadeh, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, who attended the Istanbul gathering and declined appointment to a position on the board of exiles. A group of Kurdish delegates walked out, he said, angered by the use of the term Syrian Arab Republic, which they felt failed to acknowledge the country’s long-marginalized ethnic Kurdish population. Tribal representatives also left the meeting. (See how Syria’s government plans to conquer the opposition.)

Even if the opposition does get its act together, its plans to unseat the regime are unclear. Right now it appears to be relying on street protests and waiting for the sputtering economy to collapse, a danger of which even Assad has warned. “The opposition is counting on the economy causing elite members to defect and the country to fall out of government control progressively,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. “So long as the military and state elites stick together to fight the opposition, it will be very difficult to bring down the regime.”

Andrew Tabler at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says waiting for the economy to bring down Assad will be too slow to guarantee success. Instead, he advocates economic siege tactics by the U.S. and its allies, like targeting Syrian oil and natural-gas exports, which account for about a third of state revenue. Damascus needs the vital foreign-exchange earnings to help fund its security forces, “maintain market subsidies and deliver payoffs to patronage networks,” Tabler told a U.S. House of Representatives committee last week. Choking energy exports would also force the regime “to borrow more from the Damascene and Aleppine business elite that support it, which in turn could lead to elite defections as the cost and risk of doing business with the Assad regime dramatically increases,” he said. (Iran has reportedly offered Damascus $5.8 billion in aid to help bolster its economy, according to French reports last week.)

Excerpted from the Final Statement of the Consultative Conference on National Dialogue: (Thanks Will)

The Consultative Meeting paved the way for the convening of the National Dialogue Conference, stressing on keeping the contact with all parties, social figures, and political Syrian powers within and outside the country, to prepare jointly for the National Dialogue Conference, which will be held immediately after completing these contacts and with the utmost speed, emphasizing that this Consultative Meeting cannot replace the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference, and considering all what was presented or proposed orally or in writing, to be documents and general trends that will be presented to the National Dialogue Conference.</I>

The National Salvation Conference in Istanbul selected 25 people to serve as a National Salvation Council for the revolution. The names are as follows:

  1. نجیب الغضبان
  2. كرستینا ابراھام
  3. أدیب الشیشكلي
  4. إیاس المالح
  5. محمد سرمیني
  6. عید عباسي
  7. فاتح الراوي
  8. أحمد الجبوري
  9. حمدي عثمان
  10. فرھاد أحمد
  11. مرح البقاعي
  12. حسان ھاشمي
  13. خالد خوجھ
  14. مطیع البطین
  15. علي أوزتركمان
  16. فرج حمود الفرج
  17. محمود الفیصل
  18. عمر الشواف
  19. جمال الوادي
  20. أحمد الأسعد
  21. محمود الدغیم
  22. مروان دعاس
  23. مریم الجلبي
  24. . جمال الورد
  25. ابراھیم الحریري

Off the Wall writes of the Istanbul Conference:

It was clear to many that the external opposition attending especially the organized one is of the Islamist shade albeit not all MBs, but other smaller parties as well. I do not think that they will have as much weight within the internal opposition and the coordination committees who have kept their own distance from most conferences. The regime’s prevention of the meeting in Syria through the Qaboun Massacre, ended up helping the internal wing of the Salvation movement. By making the effect of what heppens in Istanbul sink for a while and allow the internal group to balance out the external after seeing it all. The conference exposed some of those meeting in Istanbul as power-hungry and unreliable and as authoritarian of their own right. I heard that after delivering his speech, Burhan Ghalyoun left to his room and never returned. Opposition activists, especially younger ones and the few females who attended were greatly disappointed, and are now asking the internal group !

not to rely much on this branch and also asking those who have contributed money to these conferences to stop doing that and to send the money to support those activists on the inside, especially the coordination committees and/or to support the young activists who had to flee the country because of the regime’s murderous campaign.

Here is a harsh critique of the Istanbul Conference by Iman Albaghdady (writer and poet, and opposition activist)

أسماء لامعة إعلامياً و معتمة إنسانياً وأخلاقياً

by Iman Al-Baghdady on Monday, July 18, 2011 at 5:10pm
أقولها بصراحة لشباب الداخل وشباب التنسيقيات هبّوا و شكلوا ممثلين عنكم و شكلوا حكومة الظل أو المجلس الانتقالي المؤقت أنتم و دعكم من هؤلاء الديكتاتورين القبيحين… أنتم يا شباب من صنعتم الثورة وأنتم من لديكم عقول وإمكانيات قادرة على الانتقال نحو المرحلة القادمة..دعكم من الشخصيات المعروفة “أو بالأحرى التي أصبحت معروفة بفضلكم فأنا شخصياً لم أكن أعرفهم قبل أن تشقوا وتمهدوا لنا طريق الحرية بشجاعتكم و بطولتكم” دعكم من هذه المومياءات العفنة دعكم من هذه المتحجرات التي فقدت أي شعور إنساني أو وطني..

غالبية هؤلاء يتاجرون بكم و بدمائكم ثم يظهرون أمام الفضائيات ليتحدثوا عن حزنهم لأجلكم و هذا كذب وأنا مسؤولة عن كلامي..لا تتشائموا من كلامي بل كونوا حذرين ..كما أنه رغم كل شيء فأؤكد لكم أنني التقيت بالكثير من الشباب والشابات الذين أتوا من كافة أنحاء العالم ولديهم كل الرغبة بأن يكونوا معكم في ساحات سوريا .أتوا فقط من أجلكم ومن أجل سوريا..أنتم و هؤلاء الشباب المفكرين الحقيقين ..وليسوا أولئك الذين جاؤوا إلى المؤتمر متأنقين و يوزّعون علينا بطاقات طُبع عليها المفكر فلان.. و البروفسور الدكتور علاّن.. و صاحب المؤسسة السياسية أو الإنسانية علاّك البان

Revlon Responds:

152. Dear OFF THE WALL, Thank you for the link. Ms. Iman Albaghdady showed highly needed courage in speaking up her mind on the latest Salvation meeting in Istanbul. Her attendance was successful if only for exposing its deficiencies. Having learnt from this experience, she is urged to take every opportunity to attend every such meeting. Her fresh and honest voice would be most needed to promote the example of freedom and power sharing that she is so passionate about.

The disappointing, negative image that she witnessed had to do with subjective and objective elements that can and should be addressed. Elder activists are good fathers and mothers, like yours. You may not agree with how they go around doing things but you always trust their good will. They need young ones like you with energy and spunk to stay the course, and the young need their guidance and experience. From historic perspective, holding the salvation meeting succeeded in widening the base of representation of the Syrian opposition in exile, to add to the earlier Antalia meeting.

Her recount of the proceedings have enlightened us about the presence of significant deficiencies in the planning and running of such meetings. I urge the youth organizing the facebook pages to recruit young volunteers with professional experience in planning running, and concluding meetings. This is a specialized field and should not be left to the veteran activists to handle by themselves. The elite huddled instead of queued for what eluded them for years, namely the right to participate and represent in the political life in Syria. Their behavior brought to me the all familiar images of crowding (instead of queuing) for bread, subsidies, and at all government offices for Mu3amalat, by ordinary citizens.

This behavior has become part of our subconscious mannerism. Apparently the center for manners in the brain is closely linked to language. For once we speak another language we tend to assume manners of its culture! Should these elite try to use English or German as the medium for communication? Just kidding!

Petroleum Ministry: Iranian Financial Support for Syria is Baseless
(Dp-news – Sana)

DAMASCUS- An official source at the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry on Monday said that media reports saying Iran is supporting Syria with money and oil are false and baseless.

Some media reported that Iran has approved a financial support estimated at USD 5.8 billion to boost Syria’s economy in addition to granting Damascus 290 thousand barrels of oil for free during the coming nine months.

Syria has begun letting a few Lebanese papers into the country: As-Safir and al-Akhbar, both papers that are usually friendly to Syria.

Amal Hananu, “To Die For.” Jadaliyya. This is her seventh story about Aleppo. Here is a bit

….The next night I met a small group of friends at a popular restaurant in the predominantly Christian, al-Aziziyyeh area in downtown Aleppo. They spoke candidly about the recent atrocities and the atrocity of silence that has infected our community. They were distressed about the absent namoos, conscience, of the Aleppian people we had grown up with. They wondered, how many people needed to die before the loyalists change their minds? They asked, what we were supposed to do with the blood on our hands? They knew the government was plotting the ultimate mu’amara against their own people. Finally, this was the conversation I had expected to have since I arrived. I asked them if they understood how important they were, as influential people from an affluent society, insiders untainted by the west. They looked at me blankly, doubt and skepticism clouding their blue eyes, as if they didn’t understand what I was asking of them, or maybe they didn’t want to.

Even these young, educated, wealthy, privileged Sunnis, were cursed with limited perspective; the graveyard had not spared them. In America, we live by “impossible is nothing,” in Syria, “everything is impossible” is the standard. The regime “cuts our wings” and dictates the limits of our dreams. By fear, oppression, ignorance, corruption, the “system” has become the only possibility, the only way to exist. Syria, the graveyard of ambition, of ideas, of innovation, of hope. Our country, a panopticon that infinitely watches, judges, punishes, and worst of all, limits. Suhair Atassi was right, inside was the same as outside, but only because we have become prisoners of our limited selves….

LIGHTS OUT, By Andrew J. Tabler,, July 19, 2011

Four months into Syria’s uprising, the violence wracking the country is bad and getting worse. The restive city of Homs witnessed sectarian clashes over the weekend that reportedly left dozens dead, while forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad converged on the eastern town of Abu Kamal. As the Assad regime’s iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach to the uprising continues to fail, all eyes are focused on the Aug. 1 start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the minority Alawite regime’s killing of predominately Sunni protesters could transform the uprising into a sectarian bloodbath.

This bloodshed, which is tragic in its own right, is also causing the sputtering Syrian economy to grind to a halt. Such a development would be particularly dangerous for Assad, as it could cause the business elite in the commercial hubs of Damascus and Aleppo to finally break ties with the regime and join ranks with the opposition. Iran, Assad’s staunch ally, is no doubt aware of the threat; Tehran is reportedly mulling a $5.8 billion aid package to Syria, as well as providing a daily supply of 290,000 barrels of oil for the next month. Fortunately, cash-strapped Iran does not have the resources to indefinitely bail out Assad if the United States organizes a Western effort to hit Syria in its Achilles’ heel — namely, its energy revenues.

Comments (54)

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51. Aboud said:

@49 MNA “Do you guys, your friends and families want to die for it, or are you asking other people to do it? ”

Obviously you are new here. I’m in Homs right now. Myself, my family and my friends are risking all every single day. So pardon me if I consider myself to have more credibility in my left pinky than all the foreign-living menhebaks on this website.

Allah, Souria, houria wa bas!

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July 21st, 2011, 4:44 am


52. MNA said:

Aboud @ 50

If your are really in Homs, then things are not as bad as it sounds on the news. It seems that you have very good access to the internet and are always here and answering every poster right away. I m in Damascus where, unlike Homs, things are very quite, but still very often have difficulties accessing the internet.
But really, Aboud, I don’t think that you can speak for the Homsis, not alone, Syrian people.

And you really should distance your self from a bahvior that you guys accused the regime of for the longest time. Labeling everyone that challanges you as a regime supporter is just not a good practice.

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July 21st, 2011, 6:55 pm


53. True said:

Arabs always tend to outsource their problems and blame Israel with or without an evidence. The problem lies in their uncontrolled emotional reactions, this mere downfall is the main reason for them to be controlled and deceived by other nations actually even by their own leaders. All Arabs have been put on drugs since 1948, they have buying, happily, lots of crap and ineffectual slogans while their economical and social conditions were deteriorating day after day till they hit the bottom, no actually they have managed to dig in further!!! The question is do you really believe Arab people enjoy very low IQ so they could not figure out what’s actually happening? Or they were fully aware and it’s simply the Arab nature of enjoying being submissive and controlled by a bunch of tyrants and their masters? Or it’s the sad fact of just being useless pawns in a bigger scale of an international chess game?

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July 21st, 2011, 6:58 pm


54. Darryl said:

52. TRUE said:

The Arab mind has been colonized a long time ago. The Arab leaders and clergy just keep on reinforcing that so the other nations can easily substitute a different code in the mind and the myths continue ….

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July 21st, 2011, 7:16 pm


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