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Archive for April 21, 2011

In Syria, Protesters and Government Mobilize for Friday


BY WORLD
APRIL 21, 2011
POSTED IN: WORLD

Residents described a mobilization in the capital, Damascus, and, in more pronounced fashion, the restive city of Homs, where a government crackdown this week dispersed one of the largest gatherings since demonstrations began last month. For days, organizers have looked to Friday as a potential show of strength for a movement that has yet to build the critical mass that protests eventually achieved in Egypt and Tunisia. 

“Together toward freedom,” read a Facebook page that has served as a pulpit of the uprising, over symbols of Christianity and Islam. “One heart, one hand, one goal.”

The calculus of both sides ahead of Friday’s protests is the same: to prove they have the upper hand in the biggest challenge yet to the 40-year rule of Mr. Assad’s family. While organizers were reluctant to call Friday a decisive moment, they acknowledged that it would signal their degree of support in a country that remains divided, with the government still claiming bastions of support among minorities, loyalists of the Baath Party and wealthier segments of the population.

“People are still hesitant,” said Wissam Tarif, the executive director of Insan, a human rights group. But he added, “If it’s not this Friday, it will be the coming Friday.”

The demonstrations may serve as a referendum of sorts on President Assad’s commitment to do away with the emergency laws in place since 1963 and institute a series of reforms like allowing civil liberties and abolishing draconian courts, which the president formally signed on Thursday. Some have called his promises a hard-won gain of an uprising that has shaken the Assad family, while others have been dismissive of initiatives that may prove elusive and that seemed aimed at blunting the demonstrations’ momentum.

“People don’t trust the regime anymore,” said Haitham Maleh, a former judge and an often imprisoned human rights activist in Damascus. “I don’t think that the Syrian people are going to stop before they bring down this regime.”

But Syria is a complicated country, with sizable minorities of Christians and heterodox Muslim sects that have looked with trepidation to the example offered by Iraq’s civil war. The prospect that Mr. Maleh raised — the government’s fall — has alarmed some, particularly among the minorities, who worry about society’s lack of independent institutions to navigate a transition and the fearsome prospect of score-settling in chaos.

“Everything is possible today,” said Michel Kilo, another government critic in Damascus. “If the regime believes that with security they can handle everything, then they will be turning Syria into a breeding ground for all kinds of extremist movements.”

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Massacres in Syria’s Latikia


The Syrian killers probably thought nobody would be able to get it on video at night.  But they were wrong.  An amateur videographer was filming the demonstration, and was just about to go down to the street and join in, when the gunshots broke out.  A young girl behind him started to scream, he pushed her down.. And yet the Syrian people, like the Iranian people, are judged unworthy of support from our so-called leaders.  Even Jimmy Carter would have been more.. American than this crowd.  Have a look.  And then tell your elected representatives to demand action.

 Talking point to use with your elected representative.  

By: Michael Ledeen – The PJ Tatler The aftermath:

April,19 2011 Latakia massacre

Latakia massacre Latakia Ugarit Tuesday the army is pulling bodies after his assault on the demonstrators with fire,  

 أوغاريت اللاذقية الثلاثاء الجيش يقوم يسحب الجثث بعد اعتداءه على المتظاهرين بالنار

SYRIAN AUTHORITIES URGED NOT TO SUPPRESS ‘GREAT FRIDAY’ PROTESTS


21 April 2011

Anti-government protests have persisted across Syria since 15 March © AP GraphicsBank

The Syrian authorities must not respond with violence to mass demonstrations planned across the country tomorrow, Amnesty International urged on the eve of a Facebook-promoted “Great Friday” protest.

“It is imperative that these demonstrations are policed sensibly, sensitively and in accordance with international law to avoid further bloodshed on Syria’s streets,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Anti-government protests have persisted across Syria since 15 March © AP GraphicsBank

“These ‘Great Friday’ protests could be the largest yet. If government security forces resort to the same extremely violent tactics they have used over the past month, the consequences could be exceedingly grave.”

Peaceful protests calling for freedom are expected to take place in cities and towns across the country including Damascus, Dera’a, Homs and Banias, in all of which demonstrators have been killed by security forces in recent weeks.

The death toll has already exceeded 228 as a result of the crackdown on the protests, which began on 15 March and have since mushroomed as people have taken to the streets to express their grievances.

On Tuesday, eight protesters were shot dead by the security forces while staging a peaceful sit-in protest in the city of Homs..

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has just signed a legislative decree to finally end the country’s repressive 48-year-old national state of emergency, in force continuously since 1963.

“The lifting of the emergency, so long a symbol of repression and violations of human rights, is a welcome if long overdue step,” said Malcolm Smart.

“But tomorrow will be a real test of the government’s sincerity in undertaking reforms. We must not see more people being shot down in the streets simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

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Hillary condemns Syria violence


Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillar...

Image via Wikipedia

Afp, Washington  April 22,2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday strongly condemned “ongoing violence” by the Syrian government against demonstrators, saying Damascus needed to launch a “serious political process” to end deadly unrest.

Clinton said the United States was particularly concerned about conditions in Homs, where at least 10 people were reported killed in clashes on Tuesday after 20,000 people staged an overnight sit-in protest demanding embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s ouster.

The government “must cease the violence and begin a serious political process,” Clinton said.

Demonstration of solidarity with Syrian pro-democracy movement of the Syrian people


Syrian Emergency Task Force

MEDIA ADVISORY

WHAT: Demonstration of solidarity with Syrian pro-democracy movement WHEN: Saturday April 23rd at 12:00 Noon in front of the White House WHERE: Lafayette Park, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW – Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The continuation of the Syrian regime’s policy of murder, repression and terrorism will not suppress the voice of the Syrian people and their calls for freedom and social and economic justice. The Syrian Emergency Task Force and the Syrian community in the United States of America and Canada, invite you to join us in a demonstration of solidarity and awareness which will take place in front of the White House in Lafayette Park in Washington DC., on Saturday 23 April, 2011 at 12:00 twelve noon to four o’clock.

The Syrian Emergency Task Force is a non profit organization based in the United States. The SETF was created to support the Syrian people’s democratic aspirations and to provide a venue for them to convey those aspirations to the American people.

### For information contact us at syrianetf@gmail.com or (800) 385-6806

RSVP for the event click here

PO Box#229, 6920B Braddock Rd. Annandale, VA 22003 (800) 385­6806

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Press Office April 21, 2011

Email: SyrianETF@gmail.com    Phone: (800) 385-6806

SETF_Media Advisory 4-21 

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Massacre in Lattakia Clean up by Assad thugs


The video below clearly show Assad thugs taking away the bodies of those who have been assassinated in the dark of night In the town of Lattakia, Syria on April 19, 2011.

Behind The Mystery Of Spam Tweets Clogging Syrian Protesters’ Streams


Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Syrian democracy activists on Twitter have found themselves threatened and spammed by mystery accounts. Now one prominent opposition figure claims the Syrian government may be involved.

Protests in Syria are getting intense. So has social media use by those seeking the latest news. But a more sinister brand of Twitter user has also taken to posting furiously under the same topic protesters have used.

A well-organized campaign with possible traces to the Syrian government has been drowning the #syria hashtag in spam–forcing Twitter to intervene and to block the spam accounts from appearing in searches. Shortly thereafter, at least one of accounts began threatening a well-known Syrian free speech activist.

The story broke when Anas Qteish, a Syrian expatriate “blogger, translator [and] tech enthusiast” based in the United States, noted at the GlobalVoices site that a number ofTwitter spam accounts had popped up after the beginning of the Syrian protests. The accounts Qteish mentioned posted primarily in Arabic. These spam accounts, with names such as @thelovelysyria@syriabeauty@syleague@karamahclub@syhumor@dnnnewsand @mbking13 all regularly posted automated tweets full of nonsense unrelated to happenings in Syria with the #syria hashtag appended. One account, for example only posted old sports scores.

BY NEAL UNGERLEIDER

Wed Apr 20, 2011

Read our previous article about this topic :

Spam Bots Flooding Twitter to Drown Info About #Syria Protests please report all listed to stop the spam

The Syrian revolution on campus ( Al-Jazeera English)


Pro-government students launched brutal crackdown on protesting peers at Damascus University, amid nationwide unrest.

Hugh Macleod and a reporter in Syria
 Last Modified: 21 Apr 2011 15:56

Holding olive branches and flowers in their hands 150 medical students gathered outside their faculty at Damascus University, their white coats bright in the midday sun.

Outraged at the news that more than a dozen protesters had been killed in Homs in two days, the students dared the previously unthinkable: a rally against the regime on a campus where even a whisper of politics could land you in jail.

“God, Syria, freedom only”, they chanted, their voices reverberating around the university buildings.

From across the campus a large crowd of some 500 students from the Students’ Union, which is run by the Baath party, slowly descended on the protesters. The call for freedom was soon drowned out. “God, Syria, Bashar only”, came the rhythmic chant, the familiar refrain of the regime’s supporters.

“We tried to ignore them at first, but they kept coming closer”, said Mohammad, 22, one of the student protesters. “Then they began to beat us with wooden sticks and their belts.”

The white coats scattered, olive branches and flowers left to be trampled underfoot. “There were so many of them and we didn’t want to fight,” said Mohammed.

“I feel sorry for them, because they do the dirty work of the security services. We were afraid of the secret police, but now we are afraid of our friends who sit next to us or live with us in the same dorms. It is a shame.”

Big Brother watching

At the main gates of Damascus University students and teachers pass under the gaze of a towering statue of the late president Hafez al-Assad, draped in a university robe and holding a stack of books.

While Syria’s socialist Baath party has opened up free university education to hundreds of thousands of students from poorer families, the party has also attempted to smother any form of dissent on campus through a web of informers keeping a watchful eye on the university’s nearly 220,000 students.

Students loyal to the party are rewarded and political life starts early. Elementary School students can enrol in the Baath Pioneers and later at High School the Revolution Youth Union.

Upon enrolment at university, students are encouraged by their teachers to join the Baath party itself. Membership guarantees students an instant increase in their grade points, a crucial boost for many hoping to enter the best faculties.

“Baathist students receive five to ten grade points more than us so they can get into the better faculties,” said Mohammed, who did not join the ruling party.

Membership of the Students’ Union, while not compulsory, also brings many rewards.

“It is easier to get a room in campus if you’re a member of the Union. Otherwise you might have to rent a room in the city which costs a lot of money,” said Mohammed.

The Students’ Union is run by Ammar Saaty, a Baath party MP and reportedly a close friend of Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother. No event can take place on campus without the permission of the Students’ Union.

Young informers

In a one-party police state the campuses of Syria’s universities have long been a place for gathering intelligence on students as much as educating them.

“All new ideas come from the youth and therefore the university environment is even more controlled than the rest of Syria,” said Fadi, a 25-year-old student at Damascus University.

Human rights activists have documented dozens of cases of students arrested after speaking their mind on campus and being informed on to the security services by a fellow student.

The arrest and disappearance of his sister after questioning the president’s abilities during a conversation on Damascus University campus was one of the leading motivations for Syrian cyber activist Rami Nakhle to join the opposition.

“Students report each other to supervisors, and in return they are offered privileges such as being allowed to stay out until late or better dorm rooms,” said Khaled, a former student of the university.

A current student said that the Students’ Union is now offering rewards to those who catch people filming at protests on campus: The successful agent gets to keep the mobile phone of the person caught and is given money.

Today the Students’ Union members are joined by hundreds of plain clothes secret police patrolling the empty and eerily quiet campus of Damascus University, according to students there.

While concerned parents have kept their sons and daughters at home, other students have decided to boycott classes, while many are just too scared to turn up.

“Now there are more than 300 secret police patrolling inside the university alongside members of the Students’ Union,” said Ahmad, a student at Damascus University. “They swear at people and if anyone answers back they will be beaten.”

Singled out

Coming from Daraa, where the uprising in Syria began, Ahmed said that he and his two brothers have been singled out for abuse at the university.

“They shout at us, ‘You’re a traitor!’ or ‘You’re a Salafi!’ or say that we are linked with foreign forces.”

Classes have been broken into by groups of thugs, said Ahmed, shouting “Long live Bashar!” and “There are traitors among us and we’ll kill you!”

In a chilling parallel to the crackdown on students in Iran during the Green Movement protests against the disputed re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian secret police were sent in to Damascus University to raid dormitories.

“I saw two large buses full of plain clothes security pull up to the statue of Hafez al-Assad last Thursday. The officers went to the dorms housing IT students and searched their rooms and arrested some of the students,” said Ahmad.

Not wanting to worry his parents back home, Ahmed said he had told them everything was fine at university. “We lied to our parents. They don’t know.”

On Wednesday this week, as they were leaving campus, Ahmed’s brother, Abdel Rahim, was told to show his ID to a member of security waiting at the gate. He was then driven away in a car. Ahmed was told his brother would be back in half an hour, but he is still missing.

“I went to the Students’ Union and asked why Abdul Rahim had been taken away and they told me he had been reported as having filmed a protest at the university on his mobile phone. But his phone is old and he never participated in a protest,” said Ahmed.

When he tried to call his brother’s mobile, Ahmed said a man’s voice answered, shouting: “We will F@#K you and we will F@#K Daraa!”

“I will not be quiet anymore. I am not scared anymore. I love my brother. Some students have been so badly beaten you cannot recognise their face,” said Ahmed.

“Now I think I am also going to be arrested because there is a report on me saying I participated in a protest at university. But that is impossible because that day I was home with my family in Daraa.”

A representative of the Students’ Union, contacted by a reporter, refused to comment on the testimony of students that they had been beaten by members of the Student Union.

Khaldoun, a 21-year-old member of the union and staunch supporter of the regime, said he had not participated in attacks on the protesters, but could understand why they had happened.

“Universities are for education not for demonstrations. Without the Baath party and president Assad none of us poor could get into university,” said Khaldoun.

“Those students who are protesting are studying in the government’s buildings: No one eats from a dish only to spit in it. Everyone against the country and Assad should be punished.”

But for many students, the fear barrier that kept politics off campus for so long has fallen in a matter of a week.

Last Sunday a group calling itself “The University Students of Syria” issued an eight-point statement denouncing “acts of force and humiliation inflicted upon university students inside campuses by security forces.”

“We want freedom and democracy for all of Syria. We want a stop to the killings in Daraa, Lattakia, Dumma and Homs,” said Ibrahim, one of the students who drafted the statement.

“We want freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, for political parties to be allowed and a free media. We are university students, but we are also Syrians: We feel and see what is going on in the country.”

Candle lighting ceremony for those who gave their lives in the name of Freedom


Syrian Citizens gather in the streets of Damascus, and Dara’a and held a candle light ceremony  in order to honour those brave young men that gave their lives for the pursuit of a Democratic government in Syria.

The End for Assad; Clock is ticking on Syria’s Ba’athist dictatorship (The Washington Times)


EDITORIAL: The end for Assad

Clock is ticking on Syria’s Ba’athist dictatorship

5:01 p.m., Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Washington Times Online Edition

Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is caving in to demands to reform his dictatorship. In that dark and oppressed part of the world, compromise can only mean that the end is near.

Authoritarian regimes faced with mass uprisings have basically two choices: Attempt to placate the people in the streets or unleash their security forces and brutally put down the rebellion. Historically, the crackdown strategy is the most reliable. It’s a regrettable fact that a dictator with loyal security forces can impose his will on people yearning to breathe free. Sometimes, regimes want to go the crackdown route but can’t because security forces sympathize with the rebellion. If this is the case, the dictator should hop the next plane to a cushy exile. But when the army and police – and, of course, secret police – are loyal and ruthless, overwhelming force rarely fails. The revolutions that did not happen in China in 1989 and in Iran in 2009 are cases in point. 

Occasionally, regime violence leads to further instability. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali attempted to quell demonstrators but lost his nerve after 28 days and fled to Saudi Arabia. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s Central Security Forces killed upwards of 800 protesters, but eventually the army – which had maintained the good will of the people – turned on Mr. Mubarak. The generals ended his regime but preserved military rule, at least temporarily.

In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is engaged in a failing carrot-and-stick negotiation with the growing opposition. In February, he promised to step down in 2013, which turned 20,000 people into the streets of the capital of Sana’a to denounce him. By the end of March, after a series of shootings, high-level defections and contentious negotiations, Mr. Saleh pledged to hand power to a “national unity government” by the end of 2011. It’s likely he will be out of power in a matter of months.

Mr. Assad and his Ba’athist cronies have been trying to silence dissent by force, for example killing 14 demonstrators in the town of Homs over the weekend. As in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, each incident turns more people out into the streets. Syria’s Interior Ministry warned that “armed mutiny” would not be tolerated and asked citizens “to refrain from any mass rallies or demonstrations or sit-ins,” pledging to enforce the laws “serving the citizens’ security and stability.” Syrian dissidents, however, already know they are taking their lives into their hands by standing up to the Ba’athists. If the hundreds of people killed over the last six weeks hasn’t stopped them, a press release from the Mukhabarat won’t make any difference.

Mr. Assad has tried to placate protesters with the usual gestures, such as releasing political prisoners, reshuffling his cabinet and pledging to “keep up with the aspirations of the people.” The government lifted an emergency law that had been in effect since a 1963 coup and abolished secret courts. The strongman even closed a casino that had been the focus of Islamist outrage. To regime opponents, these gestures demonstrate the effectiveness of mass protest. When dictators show this type of weakness, demonstrators are emboldened, protests intensify and key members of the regime’s power base begin to calculate the best time to jump ship.

Regime change in Damascus has the potential of giving the Syrian people their first taste of democracy since their republic was overthrown in 1949. It also would remove a key Iranian ally from the “Shiite Crescent.” Growing numbers of Syrians are seizing the opportunity to throw off Ba’athist rule, and Mr. Assad’s options are rapidly dwindling to a choice between exile or imprisonment.

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