Now Syria?

Syriacomment‘s Joshua Landis on dramatic events in Syria:

Momentum is building for the opposition. The demonstrations are getting bigger with each day. They started out gathering between 100 to 300. Today’s demonstration was well over 1,000 in Deraa. The New York Times is reporting that 20,000 joined the funeral march in Deraa. The killing of four in Deraa is new. Many Syrians claim that this is the first time President Assad has drawn blood with the shooting of demonstrators. The Kurdish intifada of 2004 in the Jazeera ended with the death of many but that occurred following the successful constitutional referendum in Iraq and was blamed on external factors. To many Syrians, this time seems different.

It is unclear where this can lead as the opposition has no leadership and Syria has no organized parties. All the same, we are in a new era. If demonstrations grow to the point that security forces are overwhelmed, the situation could change rapidly. Not all regions or cities of Syria would behave the same. The top brass of the armed forces are unlikely to abandon the leadership as they did in Tunisia or Egypt; all the same, loyalties would be divided for many. The next few days will be telling. The Deraa demonstrations were sparked by the arrest of 15 children for scrawling anti-regime graffiti. It is quite possible that they government can yet regain control of the momentum and protest movement. Syria lacks an organized internal leadership that can plan and administer continued demonstrations.

In another post Landis writes:

Steven Starr, a freelance reporter in Damascus and founder of the Near East Quarterly, makes a good point about the lack of any known leadership among the opposition and the diverse regional motivations for the demonstrations. The differing motivations and goals driving each of the protests suggest a lack of coordination. The government can restore control, this would suggest, if it doesn’t defeat itself by responding with too much force and if it listens to the people. This report suggests ongoing trouble: One Reported Shot Dead On Third Day Of Syrian Protest just as a delegation from Damascus arrived in the city to offer condolences for the four deaths the day before. Protesters demanding freedoms and an end to corruption set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party in the Syrian southern city of Deraa on Sunday.

Here is video of the demo

WALID AL MOUALEM is making friends with the Saudis… asserting that the movement of GCC troops into Bahrain is legal.

The second note, which is copied below in Arabic, is from a friend in Deraa whose entire family is there.  He explains how the demonstrations evolved as a protest to the 15 school children who were arrested for writing slogans that they had learned on al-Jazeera from the Egypt coverage.  He argues that the stupid actions of the governor and security exacerbated the situation, but that few want revolution and many fear disorder and chaos. All the same, he insists that no one wants the situation to return to what it was. Everyone wants change, but they want orderly change. The tribal customs of Deraa require protest for the arrests and particularly the killings, but, he suggests, the tribes also have concrete demands that can be fulfilled and negotiated. Their demands are not revolutionary, he insists. Khalid Oweis writes that revolutionary slogans have been a prominent part of the Deraa protests. He writes:

On Saturday, thousands of mourners called for “revolution” at the funeral of two of the protesters. Officials later met Deraa notables who presented then with a list of demands. It included the release of political prisoners, dismantling of secret police headquarters in Deraa, dismissal of the governor, public trial for those responsible for the killings and scrapping of regulations requiring permission from the secret police to sell and buy property.

Halabi writes: “Don’t you think that the people want freedom and end of corruption not fidya [blood] money?”

The demonstrations in Banyas were driven by a prominent family who was a client of Abdal Halim Khaddam, the ex-Vice President who went into opposition in 2005 and lives in Paris.

Another friend writes:

i believe that this is hard to stop and reverse. C… does not agree with me. i have been on the facebook page. there is no doubt that an Islamic current is underneath this whole movement. but they are clever. they have Egyptians advising them. but it is starting to draw none Islamists as well. i do stick to my original narrative that it is mostly about lots and lots of young hopless jobless men that see this as their Woodstock moment. corruption and rami is clearly a lightening rod. you see it in the comments. poverty breeds hatered towards the have from the have not. we are clearly entering this phase now. Khaddam’s site is also reinvigerated. they see their moment too. Tomorrow its the Kurdish new year day…the movement is pushing them to join too. i basically see this starting with islamists (hama hama), bringing the youth in the streets who see it as a chance to becomes heroes from zeros and now to bring in the kurds. my best friends in syria think damascus should hit very hard. i have been advocating the opposite. i am sure the same argument is going on at the palace itself.

2 thoughts on “Now Syria?”

  1. One country that must be keen on this bid for democracy to fail is Israel. The thought of having to give up the Golan to a free and democratic Syria will be giving the settler regime and its US financiers many sleepless nights.

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