Demonstrations in Damascus Challenge Regime

Tayyib Tazini, my professor at the University of Damascus when I was a Fulbrighter in the early 1980s and one of the leading intellectuals in the Arab World, was arrested for demonstrating for prisoner rights and released on Wednesday with 4 others. 25 or so remain behind bars. There have been three days of small demonstrations, challenging the regime and forcing it to hurt the people and crack down. Popular anger will grow.

Stateless Kurds in the Northeast were ordered by the government to be treated as Syrians by government employees, which means they can hold legal jobs, go to high school and university, and ride on public buses and sleep in hotels. These are things that need a Syrian identity card, which over 200,000 Kurds born in Syria do not possess.

Continuing small demonstrations in Damascus have the opposition promising that momentum is on their side. The Syrian government is trying to get ahead of the demonstrators, but is increasingly caught flat footed. Instead, the government is cracking down more harshly, feeding the outrage of the Twitterati and hardening the determination of the opposition. Dignity, human rights, and jobs are simple concepts that speak to the youth of Syria. Complex ideologies like Marxism, Socialism, and Islamism are out. Dignity and rights are in. They are mobilizing a generation that has been difficult to get interested in politics for the hardened opposition of Syria, much of which live in exile.

Barack Obama’s cautious role in the Middle East and willingness to reduce US interference in the region is allowing the Arab people to come to the fore. This dignity movement would not have emerged under President Bush. He made it too easy for local governments to argue “treason” and foreign intervention. Arab governments were often right in making this argument.

On economic news, one friend writes:

Yesterday, the government-owned textile company announced big losses due to over producing products that no one wanted to buy. Here is another government-owned meat packing company. The rumours are that the company has been cheating consumers with the quality of the meat and that the “ameen” has been stealing from it. 40 years of losses, stealing, mismanagement and waste. I cannot believe that this nonsense continues. No national outcry. No national plan to rectify this sad state of affairs. This is just two of them. There are 240 other similar stories under the umbrella of the public sector. To keep 2 million people working the other 21 million and the national treasury end up footing the bill.

The Syrian Government Promises to Subsidize New Hires in Private Sector to Create Jobs

If a private sector company hires an employee for 5 years, the Syrian government is promising to pay the employee’s salary for the first year. [Many critics claim this may turn out to be a nightmare policy, which will only add a new layer of corruption and tempt Syrians to sign fake contracts with employers. The real problem, they insist, is to create a business environment that makes starting a business and investing more secure and profitable.  Others argue that such job creation incentives are common in the West and should be applauded. They government is stimulating the private sector, helping to train young job seekers, and providing new opportunities.]

في إطار برامج الحكومة لتوفير فرص عمل جديدة للمواطنين وافق مجلس الوزراء على قرار يقضي بتولي الهيئة العامة للتشغيل وتنمية المشروعات، إضافة إلى خطتها في إطار برنامج التدريب من أجل التشغيل المضمون تنفيذ برنامج لتشغيل الباحثين عن عمل لدى مؤسسات وشركات القطاع الخاص تساهم الحكومة بتمويل أجورهم في السنة الأولى مقابل إبرام عقد مع المشتغلين لمدة خمس سنوات.وفي ذات السياق بحث مجلس الوزراء الإطار القانوني لبرنامج تشغيل الخريجين الشباب لدى الجهات العامة والذي يهدف إلى توفير قرابة 50 ألف فرصة عمل خلال الخطة الخمسية الحادية عشرة لحملة الاجازة الجامعية وخريجي المعاهد بعد الثانوية من خارج الملاكات العددية للجهات العامة. ولأهمية إغناء هذا البرنامج من جوانبه المختلفة قرر المجلس استكمال مناقشته وإعادة صياغته في ضوء الأفكار والمقترحات المبداة عليه وعرضه على المجلس تمهيدا لإقراره في جلسة قادمة.

Israel Navy Seizes Iranian Arms Shipment, Honest reporting, 2011-03-15

Israel Navy Seizes Iranian Arms Shipment March 15, 2011 14:08 by Pesach Benson Israeli naval commandos intercepted a boat carrying Iranian weapons bound for Gaza. According to the IDF Spokesperson blog, the “Victoria” left the Syrian port of … Netanyahu Says Weapons Found on Captured Ship Came From Iran…..

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that weapons found on a ship that the navy stopped 200 miles from Israel’s coast came from Iran, which he said was trying to arm the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said that the ship was stopped according to international law. The prime minister’s statement was sent to journalists by text message.

Netanyahu said he was not surprised that Saudi Arabia had dispatched forces to Bahrain …”I think they are concerned with a possible Iranian takeover of Bahrain, “Saudi Arabia is working to protect its own interests. But there is a very large global interest in making sure the world’s oil wells, that the largest reserves of the world’s oil supply do not fall into Iranian or pro-Iranian hands,” he said.

32 protesters held for hurting Syria’s ‘image’: NGO
(AFP) – 18 hours ago

DAMASCUS — Syria on Thursday charged 32 demonstrators with attacking the reputation of the state a day after they joined a rally calling for the release of political prisoners, a rights group said.

The 32 protesters, including rights activist Suhair Atassi, were detained on Wednesday at a Damascus rally organised by the relatives of political prisoners to petition for their release.

“The Syrian authorities on Thursday charged 32 activists who took part in protest outside the interior ministry with attacking the reputation of the state, provoking racism and sectarianism and damaging relations between Syrians,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The rights group listed the names of 25 detained demonstrators, including Atassi and four relatives of opposition figure Kamal Labwani, who is serving a 12-year jail sentence.

It said security services broke up the sit-in “by force.”

Syrian rights groups have repeatedly urged the authorities to free prisoners of conscience and to stop arbitrary detention of political opponents and civil society activists.

They have also called for a law on political parties “to enable citizens to exercise their right to participate in managing the affairs of the country.”

On Thursday five protesters detained at Wednesday’s rally were freed, a rights group said amid international calls for more to be released…..

HRW quoted one released activist as saying security services had asked those arrested for their Facebook passwords.


Today, the White House confirmed, see here, that it was “aware, obviously, of the invitation” extended to Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain.  But U.S. government officials continue to decline to say what Secretary of Defense Gates said or did not say to his Bahraini interlocutors 36 hours before Saudi Arabia’s military offensive.  And, U.S. government officials have refused to call for the removal of foreign troops from Bahrain.

For many in Iran, and indeed for Shia throughout the Persian Gulf, this is painfully reminiscent of American silence when Iraq invaded the Islamic Republic in 1980.  And, as it became clear that the United States was supporting Saddam Hussein in his war of aggression against Iran, it seems increasingly likely that the Obama Administration will be seen as supporting the use of armed force against a Shia majority population in Bahrain.

In this regard, it is telling that the Obama Administration refuses to call for democracy in Bahrain.  According to the White House spokesman, President Obama, in phone conversations with Saudi King Abdullah and Bahraini King Hamad, “stressed the importance of a political process as the only way to peacefully address the legitimate grievances of Bahrainis and to lead to a Bahrain that is stable, just, more unified and responsive to its people.”…

Wikileak: “Israel is not inflicting enough damages on Hezbollah .. Israel needs to occupy South Lebanon!”
Document Beirut 2403: Excerpts by Friday Lunch Club.

July 16, 2006/ ambassador Jeffrey Feltman in a late night meeting with Terje Roed Larsen & Geir Pederson, in Larsen’s suite at the Phoenicia Hotel. Pederson later left the meeting to join other members of the UN delegation in Beirut and to prevent the interpretation that the US & UN were in cahoots….

Larsen said that he had an excellent meeting with Siniora and Berri who was overwhelmed by a inert desire to ‘seize the opportunity’ but was held back by the popular mood… Larsen was adamant to restrict his ‘initiative’ to Berri & Siniora, and did not wish the incorporation of the ‘naive ones like Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri.’

Walid Jumblatt & Marwan Hamadeh were clearly concerned with Israel’s MO of ‘surgical bombardment’, and hoped that it continues with it war until they inflict quasi destruction of Hezbollah’s infrastructure, even if this entailed the occupation of south Lebanon. Jumblatt stressed that publicly he was going to call for a cease fire but that he sees in the continuation of hostilities an opportunity to destro Hezbollah.

In that meeting, over a bottle of wine, 3 bottles of Corona & Vodka (the origin of which led to a long argument between Jumblatt and an overwhelmed room service waiter), the Druze leader went through an encapsulation of March14′ thinking.

Jumblatt was not happy to see that Israel has not destroyed enough of Hezbollah’s infrastructure and capabilities… and complsined that a cease fire would give Hezbollah a victory. He frankly conveyed that he prefers the continuation of the hostilities..

Ambassador Feltman asked Jumblatt what does Israel needs to do to inflict maximum damage on Hezbollah: jumblatt replied that Israel is fighting a conventional war … What is needed is an invasion of south Lebabon, cleaning the area to allow the redeployment of the LAF … .Jumblatt concluded that there are only two possible outcomes: total victory or total defeat of Hezbollah, no gray zones!

Reinoud Leenders, “Regional Contagion in the Middle East: For ‘good’ or ‘Worse’? – March 2011

Although predicted by few, the current upheavals in several Arab countries reinvigorate commonplace perceptions of the countries and peoples in the Arab world and the Middle East at large as constituting a densely intertwined, interconnected and bounded region. Yet it is much less clear under what conditions the region’s “sound chamber” resonates loud calls for democratic change, as is the case today, or, in contrast, when it plays the tunes of authoritarianism. Syria may provide some important clues.
read further at:

Excerpts: Full document will be available soon on wikileaks’ & Al Akhbar’s sites simultaneously.
Document number 2504 – thanks to Friday Lunch Club

July 31, 2006/ meeting between Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman & Fuad Siniora Siniora says that he ‘understands’ Israel’s conditions that it cannot accept a cease fire until the deployment of verifiable and credible forces in South Lebanon… Siniora added that the implementation of his ‘seven points’ plan & the deployment of a multinational peace force capable of ‘enforcing it’, … will afford Israel with what it ‘always longed for’ & was not capable of achieving: A peacful northern border…

Siniora said that the Lebanese & Israeli governments are getting overly wrapped up in details and are losing sight of their common goals: 1) Peace & Security for Israel, 2)disarming Hezbollah… Siniora believes that Iran & Syria are the only beneficiaries of prolonged negotiations When asked by Feltman about his assurance that Hezbollah will either surrender its weapons to the LAF or redeploy north of the Litani river, Siniora said that he is not ‘100% sure’, but that through his negotiations with Hezbollah via Shia’ emissaries or via Nabih Berri, he leans towards believing that Hezbollah will do just that [Siniora & his adviser Muhamad Shattah were in high spirits after meeting French official Douste Blazy, certain that France accepted to lead a multinational force in South Lebanon ] As he has done before, Siniora stressed to Feltman the importance of ‘breaking Hezbollah’s monopoly on Shebaa Farms’ and that time has come to replace the US with Iran in the ‘guilty box’ facing Arab and Lebanese public opinions. This can be achieved through placing the Farms under temporary UNIFIL custody…”

U.S. Lawmaker Rejects Aiding Lebanese Army if Hizbullah is ‘Calling the Shots’

A high-ranking Republican legislator has said that the U.S. Congress should cut off funding for the Lebanese army if Hizbullah plays “even a minor role” in Premier-designate Najib Miqati’s government. Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, told The Daily Star in an interview published Friday that Congress should not donate U.S. taxpayer money to Lebanon if the assistance winds up under Hizbullah’s control

Comments (9)

FHMETKom said:

it’s not only in Damascus
it’s all around syria

March 18th, 2011, 10:18 am


FHMETKom said:

you are a Fulbrighter? i applied for it two years ago and i was treated like shit in the embassy .

March 18th, 2011, 10:29 am


majedkhaldoon said:

There was large demonstration in Homs,and another one in Daraa,and in Damascus the security forces arrested young people demonstrating in Omaya Mosque.
every indication that Syrians are joining there brothers in Egypt,Tunis and Libya,It is important that the regime,who wants to save itself, important that all prisoners of conscience be released,and stop jailing new people,otherwise the demonstrations will continue and get larger,arrogance will not help.

Turkish PM,Erdogan supported the security council decision.

Norman : You are the only one supporting Gaddafi. is it because you really like him,knowing that he is dictator,or is it because you are afraid the revolution may spread to Syria?

March 18th, 2011, 10:57 am


Malik Al-Abdeh said:

They said it will never happen. But it did:

I am very proud that Barada TV has called for and supported the revolution now underway. It is the truest expression of the people’s will.
Today the first confirmed martyr of the revolution is Akram Quteish Al-Jawabrah from Dar’a. RIP Akram, we will never forget you.
I really hope that all Syrians and all those who love Syria will put aside their differences and support the peaceful revolution.

March 18th, 2011, 11:26 am


norman said:

Whenever the West claim to side by the Arab people , i look for a motive and what i see i saw before in 2003 when the US used the Shalabies of Iraq as an excuse with others to attack and invade Iraq and be responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Is Iraq better off today than then, i doubt it ,
let us go back to Libya , the opposition in Libya are the Shalabies of Libya, they are just an excuse to invade another Arab country and destroy it so it can use the oil revenue to buy more products for the West, that is if they do not invade and control under the excuse of AL Qaeda, They did not interfere in Yemen, Bahrain, Palestine , Lebanon 2006, Gaza 2008 , they are selective for the states that have oil , we used the very well known Arab emotions to have an excuse , yet to destroy another Arab country,

YOU and others will see.

March 18th, 2011, 11:41 am


Syrian Nationalist Party said:

“……..Tayyib Tazini, my professor at the University of Damascus when I was a Fulbrighter in the early 1980s and one of the leading (BAATHIST) intellectuals……”

SNP added the deliberately omitted (WORD). All the sudden he finds it FOURSA INTIHAZIYE to demonstrate for Prisoner Rights, Huuh, After 50 years of preaching Baathism, a one party rule system backed by Mukhabrat.

Assad needs to get rid of the Baath Arab Socialist Party and replace it with Syrian Nationalist Parties; he keeps on patching up old, corrupt and broken system. At one point, sooner than anticipated, there is no possible way to patch it. Bashar in particular and the Alwaites in general are getting unfair share of blame for this Bath Party misdeed. Arabs are bankrupt, Socialism is for lazy, corrupt society, and Islam works against Syrian interests, even partners with Syria’s enemies (don’t confuse Shia improved Islam with the main Islam). Syrian Nationalism is the only unifier of Syria weak and fractured society. Tazini’s will jump ship on the first opportunity comes, just like Communists in Russia and elsewhere did.

March 18th, 2011, 12:01 pm


Leo said:


The opposition in Libya are the majority of the population. It’s a shame that you are standing with one of the world’s worst psychotic dictators who is willing butcher his people without any regard for their life, using fighter planes in the process. You are worried that the Libyans will be free and suspect that they will hand the oil to the West, yet you neglect to mention that in the past few years Gaddafi had Western oil companies come to Libya to extract oil, and with the Libyan share to go to his own family’s pockets. Libya is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of resources and their population does not exceed 7 million, yet the population is one of the poorest in the world. Norman, can’t you see that your ideological stance is one that is anti-democratic, anti-freedom, and morally bankrupt?

March 19th, 2011, 2:38 am


Sarah Familia said:

Thank you for this aggregation. I spent a semester in Damascus studying Arabic in 2001. I’m now based in Tunisia, but since the Arab revolutions began, I’ve been waiting eagerly to see what will happen in Syria. It looks like things are finally picking up there!

March 19th, 2011, 4:56 am


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