Syrian Revolution News Round-up Day 67: Azzadi Friday, 20 May 2011
Back to the Beginning!
As Assad forces continue to seek salvation through bloodletting, protesters rely on sheer defiance and continued commitment to nonviolence, managing to reenergize their 9-weeks long movement.
44 dead and dozens wounded in the largest day of protest yet, with death toll expected to rise as more communities send their reports on Azzadi Friday (Azzadi in Kurdish means “Freedom”).
Damascus & Suburbs, Hama & Suburbs, Homs & Suburbs, Idlib & Suburbs, Deraa & Suburbs, Alboukamal, Deir Ezzor, Raqqah, Qamishly, Amudeh, Kobani Banyas and Jableh among others, all took part in the protests.
With so many dead today despite all international pressures and sanctions, it’s clear that the Assads won’t go gently into that good night, but since the protesters are foolhardy enough to keep taking to the streets to die for the cause, the choice facing world leaders is how much bloodshed will be enough before they act.
We might call it the Obama Effect: those who felt the American President’s speech as being too light on Assad felt angered and expressed their frustration by taking to the streets, and those who felt it was just right for now, having raised the possibility of Assad’s departure, have also taken to the streets feeling that the momentum is back on their side.
This is at least one explanation for the mass turnout today. But even if true, the Obama Effect is just one factor here, a marginal one even. The reality is: the protesters were reacting to repeated assertions by Syrian officials over the last two weeks that their movement has lost steam and that the authorities have regained the upper-hand. They were also reacting to the statements by Bashar Al-Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf that struck a raw nerve with Syrians by stressing the family-based nature of the regime and the willingness of the Assads to do whatever it takes to hang on to power.
Now it’s all about the Assads. The masks are off. Rami’s statements about Israeli security rendered all talk about resistance ideology rather meaningless. Even security officers are now order to chant for “Abu Hafiz” during their clashes with protesters. Abu Hafiz is Bashar’s traditional nickname and refers to the name of both his late father and his eldest son. The point is to say that Bashar will rule until his death and will be followed by his son. A pro-regime graffiti left on the walls of a Homs community by security officers even state “Bashar is our King.”
Forget about reforms then: the choice this is about Assad forever or Assad never. Whatever “reforms” Assad will be willing to entertain can never challenge his or his family’s hold on power, which is a complete anathema to the protesters. The resulting stalemate means more violence will continue to take place on a daily basis throughout the country, for the foreseeable future and until such time that army leadership begins cracking under pressure, with some changing their loyalties to the side of the protesters. Naturally, sectarian faultiness will figure highly in this. The ability of Syrian opposition forces to project an alternative that can be embraced by grassroots protest leaders and the international community will facilitate the adoption of a more proactive response by the international community, pushing leaders like President Obama into making clear-cut calls on Assad to leave or face certain dire consequences.