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syria : The Republic of Fear
The Republic of Fear
Recent protests in Syria have brought brutal government crackdown—and renewed paranoia among dissidents.
by Mike GiglioApril 03, 2011
A portrait of Syrian President Bashar al Assad on a Damascus street. Verzone Paolo / Agence Vu-Aurora

A portrait of Syrian President Bashar al Assad on a Damascus street.

His name is a pseudonym, adopted when he ran afoul of the secret police, his movements and whereabouts similarly a secret. The photo he uses for public consumption evokes an eerie sense of familiarity, but isn’t real. A computer-generated amalgam of many men, it is everyone and no one at all. Even his virtual presence is a specter, concealed behind encryption.

In a country where people have lived under surveillance and emergency law for decades, such precautions are necessary to stay out of prison, says Malath Aumran, a Syrian dissident who leads a phantomlike existence, trying to elude the government’s spies. The secret police, he says, “approach me in so many ways.”

Phony BBC reporters have contacted him to speak with activists on the ground. He has been approached by “honey traps”—agents who pose as pretty female activists, trying to ensnare him. Aumran was close with another activist for months before discovering that the man was a government mole. Making friends or connecting with other dissidents means taking a deadly risk. Paranoia is woven into the fabric of everyday life.
LIST: Despot Index: Allies in Oppression and Corruption »

As unrest built in Syria in recent weeks, a reporter from an Arab radio station called Aumran and asked for his take. “Give me a second to prepare the recording,” the reporter told him, and Aumran heard a click indicating the tape was rolling. Day after day, the reporter called for an update, and Aumran obliged, analyzing the dissent that has ranged from small sit-ins in Damascus to massive protests in the southern city of Daraa and beyond. On a recent afternoon, Aumran got curious and decided to check out the station online. After an extensive search, he realized that his interlocutor wasn’t a reporter at all. The radio station didn’t exist.

On the surface, Syria is a welcoming country, with an appealing mix of old and modern. The Great Mosque of Damascus is surrounded by a fragrant, sprawling bazaar where brawny men in dishdashas sell cardamom and sumac from bursting sacks made of burlap. In another part of the capital, a luxurious Four Seasons Hotel towers over a glass and marble shopping mall, where skinny women sell colorful, cloudlike Versace dresses that barely weigh down the polished racks.

But what tourists may fail to notice is the sinister, ubiquitous presence of the Mukhabarat, the secret police of the Baath Party, led by Bashar al-Assad, the lanky British-educated optometrist who, after the death of his father and brother, unexpectedly found himself the leader of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Like the inhabitants of Iraq, East Germany, and the Soviet Union before them, Syrians live in a house of mirrors, wondering who among their neighbors are really government spies. “People adopt two faces,” says Ahed Al Hendi, a former student activist who fled Syria four years ago. “One face they reveal to their families and their circles of trust. And the other they show people they don’t know because they assume they’re secret service. It’s like living in a prison. Every single word could be counted against you.”

Human-rights groups estimate that thousands of political prisoners currently languish in the country’s many jails. But while hundreds have been killed during recent demonstrations, so far at least Assad’s government hasn’t shown a penchant for systematic brutality. Still, memories of political violence run deep. The last time people tried to rebel, Assad’s father, Hafez, waged war on an entire city, killing more than 10,000 people, according to some estimates.

For Aumran, who has spent the last three years trying to organize other activists online, social-media tools can be useful, although few Syrian activists use their real names and the regime has proven particularly adept at subverting Facebook and Twitter. By now, Aumran knows that many of the new cyberdissidents who contact him are not who they seem to be. He’s no longer surprised by the female activist with the pretty profile picture who, after a bit of political small talk, falls in love and wants to meet. “All of them are usually in a hurry. They want to catch me in two days,” Aumran says. “One of them…used Julia Roberts’s picture. I swear.”

Someone has created an unauthorized Facebook page for Aumran that lists him as an Israeli spy, and on pro-government websites he has come across articles, supposedly his own, in which he blasts his fellow activists.

When demonstrations broke out in Daraa recently, phony activists on Twitter blasted out videos of massacres, which were duly picked up by dissidents including Aumran. The videos turned out to be fakes, discrediting the type of social-media elite who were crucial news sources in countries like Egypt and Tunisia. State television, meanwhile, has broadcast selective footage of pro-government rallies around the country. “We know how to keep the devil’s whispers away from us,” one of its reporters recently intoned while on air. As this disinformation campaign has picked up in tandem with the popular protests, it’s hard for Syrians to know what to believe.

“Sabeen,” a university student who has taken part in anti-government protests, says she has found herself arguing with longtime friends who believe the government’s propaganda instead of their own eyes. “People are…panicked,” she says. “And it’s not normal fear. It’s paranoia.”

Adding to the atmosphere of distrust and disorientation are rumors of murky power struggles between Assad and family members including his brother Maher, who heads the country’s most powerful security unit. Some analysts see this as one more way for the president to keep his opponents off balance. “The Syrians feed on this stuff because there’s no press. And they’re conspiratorial. And they’re being told that there are conspiracies,” says Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, one of America’s leading Syria scholars.

The regime has also fanned the country’s sectarian fears and suspicions of its neighbors, which include Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel. In a rambling speech last week, Assad hinted that the unrest had been sparked by foreign agent provocateurs. “We are not in favor of chaos and destruction,” the president said, warning of “plots being hatched against our country.”

Whether pro-government rallies express genuine support for the regime is hard to tell. Thuggish-looking men in black leather jackets often seem to lead the crowds, and on a recent afternoon, cameramen from a state-controlled TV station could be seen directing the protesters’ chants and movements like conductors at play in a symphony hall. Even the city itself is a kind of mirage, ever shifting. Overnight, billboard ads around Damascus were replaced with Syrian flags as, simultaneously, massive pro-Assad posters suddenly appeared in store windows.

Some activists have tried to evade security forces by assembling in the mosque, a traditional political space in the Middle East. But a few weeks ago, when worshipers began to chant for freedom in the Great Mosque, police barricaded the doors of the mosque, trapping the protesters inside. Some were beaten and thrown into the square outside, where pro-Assad demonstrators were waiting. “Every time they threw someone outside, after beating him up, people started chanting for the president,” one witness said.

This Friday afternoon, dozens of men in leather jackets sat in the courtyard in front of the mosque, halfheartedly peddling trinkets, waiting. Their eyes darted back and forth.

Given the danger of standing out, only a few political activists are bold enough to use their real names in public. “It’s very risky to have a big meeting in one place,” Razan Zeitouneh, a well-known lawyer and opposition figure in Damascus, told NEWSWEEK. “You cannot make a lot of phone calls; it will draw attention to you. So you need to always be in small numbers and not draw the attention of the authorities.”

Zeitouneh and Mazen Darwish, who heads the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, helped organize the first substantive protest in Damascus, a small sit-in in front of the Interior Ministry. On the eve of the demonstration, Darwish told NEWSWEEK he believed authorities would try to pick off the protester organizers “one by one.” “Just by having a different opinion than the regime, I’m already entering a risky area,” he said. Days later, Darwish was summoned by security forces. He has been in and out of prison since.

With reporting from Damascus

in arabic

يتحدث مايك جيغلو في مقاله المنشور بمجلة نيوزويك عن سوريا التي سماها جمهورية الخوف وكيف أدت الاحتجاجات الأخيرة هناك إلى إجراءات صارمة من قبل الحكومة وجددت جنون الشك والاضطهاد بين المنشقين. وكيف أن الاحتياطات التي يتخذها هؤلاء المنشقون من الأسماء المستعارة والتحركات السرية والعيش عيشة الأشباح تعتبر ضرورية للبقاء خارج السجون.

ويصف الكاتب الجو العام في سوريا بأنه، ظاهريا، بلد مرحب بزواره حيث يختلط مزيج جذاب من القديم والحديث. لكن ما قد لا يلاحظه السائح هو الوجود الاستخباراتي المشؤوم والمكثف في كل مكان المتمثل في الشرطة السرية وحزب البعث الذي يقوده الرئيس بشار الأسد الذي وجد نفسه، بعد وفاة والده وأخيه، على غير توقع منه قائدا للجمهورية العربية السورية.

ويضيف أنه مثل سكان العراق وألمانيا الشرقية والاتحاد السوفياتي قبلهما يعيش السوريون فيما يعرف ببيت المرايا، يتساءلون من من جيرانهم جواسيس حقيقيون للحكومة. فالأمر أشبه بالعيش في سجن وكل كلمة يمكن أن تُعد على قائلها.

وتقدر الجماعات الحقوقية عدد السجناء السياسيين الذين يقبعون في سجون البلد الكثيرة بالآلاف. وبينما يقدر عدد القتلى بالمئات في المظاهرات الأخيرة فإن حكومة الأسد لم تبد ميلا لوحشية منهجية بعد. لكن ذكريات العنف السياسي ما زالت ماثلة بالأذهان وكانت آخر مرة حاول فيها الناس التمرد شن حافظ الأسد حربا على مدينة كاملة وقتل فيها أكثر من عشرة آلاف شخص، وفق بعض التقديرات.

ويشير جيغلو إلى أن الإعلام الرسمي يشن حملة مضادة لإرباك المتظاهرين حتى أصبح كثير منهم يشكون فيما تنقله شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي بسبب النشطاء الزائفين الموجودين فيها. ومما يزيد من جو عدم الثقة والارتباك الشائعات المتداولة عن صراعات سلطة بين الأسد وأفراد أسرته بمن فيهم أخوه ماهر الذي يترأس أقوى وحدة أمنية.

وبعض المحللين يرون هذا الأمر طريقة أخرى يعمل بها الرئيس على إبقاء معارضيه في حالة عدم اتزان. وكما يقول أحد خبراء الشأن السوري بجامعة أوكلاهوما جوشوا لانديس "إن السوريين يقتاتون على هذه الشائعات لأنه ليس هناك صحافة. ويقال لهم إن هناك مؤامرات".

كذلك أجج النظام مخاوف البلد الطائفية وشكوك جيرانه مثل العراق ولبنان وإسرائيل. وهذا ما ألمح إليه الأسد في خطابه الأسبوع الماضي بأن الاضطرابات التي حدثت أشعلها محرضون تابعون لجهات أجنبية.
المصدر: نيوزويك

Prisoner of Damascus
– 2011/04/11نشر فى: English

Damascus, Syria

IN all my 50 years, I have never held a passport. Other than visiting Lebanon, I’d never left Syria when, in the fall of 2004, I was barred from leaving the country. I tried many times afterward to get a passport, but to no avail.

I spent 16 years of my youth in my country’s prisons, incarcerated for being a member of a communist pro-democracy group. During the recent protests, many more friends have been detained — most of them young — under the government’s catch-all emergency laws.

The state of emergency, under which Syria has lived for 48 years, has extended the ruling elite’s authority into all spheres of Syrians’ public and private lives, and there is nothing to stop the regime from using this power to abuse the Syrian population. Today, promises follow one after the other that these all-pervasive restrictions will be lifted. But one must ask, will it be possible for the Baath Party to rule Syria without the state of emergency that has for so long sustained it?

The official pretext for the emergency laws is the country’s state of war with Israel. However, restricting Syrians’ freedoms did no good in the 1967 war, which ended with the occupation of the Golan Heights, nor did it help in any other confrontations with the Jewish state, nor in any true emergencies. Because in the government’s eyes everything has been an emergency for the last half-century, nothing is an emergency.

Syria’s struggle against an aggressive Israel has encouraged the militarization of political life — a development that has been particularly favorable to single-party rule. And the suspension of the rule of law has created an environment conducive to the growth of a new ruling elite.

In 2005, the Baath Party decided, without any serious public discussion, to move toward what was dubbed a “social market economy.” It was supposed to combine competition and private initiative with a good measure of traditional socialism. In reality, as the state retreated, new monopolies arose and the quality of goods and services declined. Because local courts are corrupt and lack independence, grievances could not be fairly heard. Add to that a venal and idle bureaucracy, and the supposed economic reforms became a justification for the appropriation of economic power for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

Economic liberalization was in no way linked to political liberalization. After a half-century of “socialist” rule, a new aristocratic class has risen in Syria that does not accept the principles of equality, accountability or the rule of law. It was no accident that protesters in the cities of Dara’a and Latakia went after the property of this feared and hated aristocracy, most notably that of President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, a businessman who controls the country’s cellphone network and, more than anyone else, represents the intertwining of power and wealth in Syria.

Today’s ruling class has undeservedly accumulated alarming material and political power. Its members are fundamentally disengaged from the everyday realities of the majority of Syrians and no longer hear their muffled voices. In recent years, a culture of contempt for the public has developed among them.

Although some argue that the demonstrations are religiously motivated, there is no indication that Islamists have played a major role in the recent protests, though many began in mosques. Believers praying in mosques are the only “gatherings” the government cannot disperse, and religious texts are the only “opinions” the government cannot suppress. Rather than Islamist slogans, the most prominent chant raised in the Rifai Mosque in Damascus on April 1 was “One, one, one, the Syrian people are one!” Syrians want freedom, and they are fully aware that it cannot be sown in the soil of fear, which Montesquieu deemed the fount of all tyranny. We know this better than anyone else.

A search for equality, justice, dignity and freedom — not religion — is what compels Syrians to engage in protests today. It has spurred many of them to overcome their fear of the government and is putting the regime on the defensive.

The Syrian regime enjoys broader support than did Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. This is a source of strength, and one that Mr. Assad appears not to consider when he relies on the security forces to quell protests. If the regime is to keep any of its deeply damaged legitimacy, it will have to answer the protesters’ demands and recognize the popular longing for freedom and equality.

Whatever the outcome of the protests, Syria has a difficult road ahead. Between the pains of oppression and the hardships of liberation, I of course prefer the latter. Personally, I want to live nowhere but in Syria, although I am looking forward to acquiring a passport to visit my brothers in Europe, whom I have not seen for 10 years. I also want, finally, to feel safe.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a writer and political activist. This essay was translated from the Arabic
Robert Fisk: 'We will never cease our struggle until we bring down Assad'

Robert Fisk hears the defiance of Syrian refugees

Monday, 2 May 2011

Something terrible happened in the small Syrian town of Tel Kalakh. At the most it was a massacre of 40 civilians; at the least a day of live-firing into unarmed protesters, torture, arrests and panic. Almost half the Sunni Muslim population fled over the river frontier into Lebanon, babes in arms, old people in wheelchairs, pushed through the shallow waters of the Nahr el-Kbir.

Perhaps 4,000 of the Syrian Sunnis made it to the safety of Lebanon to be given food, shelter and blankets by relatives and by strangers and they were there yesterday – 80 living in one house alone scarcely 20m from Syria, desperate to praise the kindness of the Lebanese, fearful of the things they had seen, ferocious in their anger against their president.

One man, having described detainees from the town who had returned home with their nails ripped out and their beards burned off, broke down in tears. "We will never cease our struggle until we bring Assad down," he cried. "For 40 years, we have not been able to breathe."

The men responsible for the killings in Tel Kalakh were members of the Syrian army's 4th Brigade – the same unit, commanded by President Bashar al-Assad's little brother Maher, that is besieging the southern city of Deraa - along with government snipers and "shabiha" thugs from the Alawi mountains. Dressed in black, the latter spent some time, according to Syrian refugee women, tearing the veils off girls and trying to kidnap them.

Tel Kalakh, which lies 20 miles due west of the rebellious city of Homs, had a population of 28,000 – 10,000 of them Muslims, the majority Alawi Shia, the same group to which the Assad family belongs. Even before the shooting started on Wednesday, the military and the plain-clothes gunmen spent some time separating Sunni Muslims from the Alawi inhabitants, telling the latter to stay in their houses – as good a way of starting a local civil war as you could find in Syria. Then they shot into the crowds, firing also with tank-mounted machine guns into homes on both sides of the main streets.

None of the Syrian adults would give their names or have their photographs taken but they spoke with fury of what had happened to them six days ago. Several claimed that their protests against the Assad government started two months ago – an intriguing assertion which suggests the first rural protests in Syria may have begun weeks before the world knew what was happening – but that the protesters, all Sunnis, had been protected because of the intercession of the respected Sheikh of the town's mosque, Osama Akeri.

But last Wednesday morning, armed men seized the sheikh from his home and the Sunni Muslims of the city poured on to the streets. "We were shouting 'independence – give us freedom and independence' and they came in tanks and opened fire, the shabiha shooting at the men at the front; everyone started running but they went on shooting at us from the tanks and people fell everywhere," one man said.

"The tanks completely surrounded the town. People were running away into the fields, the babies screaming, trying to get to Lebanon."

In sight of the village of Arida Sharquia – on the Lebanese side of the border and linked to Syria by a stone bridge – many women and children were stopped by a military checkpoint, but it appears that men from Tel Kalakh set the roadblock on fire.

For three days, the Sunni Muslims fled their town, many creeping from their homes at night as shooting continued across the streets – the entire military operation a miniature version of exactly the same siege that is crippling Deraa – and some men had the courage to return from Lebanon with food for their families. Others did not dare. Tel Kalakh – just like Deraa – is not only surrounded, but all electricity and water supplies have been cut.

So fearful were those who had avoided the killings that they hid in their homes for more than 24 hours, too frightened to attend the funerals of the dead. "We didn't want to risk being killed again," another man said, apologising for not being able to give me even his first name. "The close families of the dead went to the cemetery and some old people. That was all."

One of the 40 dead was Muntaser Akeri, he said, a cousin of the arrested sheikh. Villagers tell different stories of the events. Shooting apparently went on for more than 24 hours and it was only on Thursday that some of the men dragged away in buses and cars by the "mukhabarat" secret police came back.

"Some had had their fingernails torn out and the ones with beards had had them burnt off," another man said. "There were so many soldiers and plain-clothes police and thugs that we couldn't escape. The Alawis didn't join our protest. We were alone."

Arida lies on both sides of the border of Lebanon – Sharquia means "east" and the western side of the town – Arida Gharbia – stands scarcely 20m away across the river, inside Syria.

Along with the refugees, it is also a smuggling centre – indeed,children were bringing barrels of Syrian propane gas across the river yesterday – and it was possible to talk to Syrians on the other side of the water. So close to Syria are the refugees that while I was talking to them, my Lebanese mobile phone kept switching to the "Syriatel" mobile system in Damascus, the message "ping" constantly – and ominously – drawing my attention to the words "Welcome to Syria... for tourist guide, dial 1555. Enjoy your stay."

But the men and women – and the hundreds of children – from Tel Kalakh have torn the lid off any such fantasy. Here at last were Syrians who had just fled their town, talking for the first time of their suffering, free of the mukhabarat, abusing the Assad family. A few had tried to return. One woman I spoke to walked back to Tel Kalakh yesterday morning and returned in the afternoon, shouting that it was a "hostile" town in which it was impossible for the Sunni Muslims to live. Many of the men said that all government jobs were given to Alawi citizens of Tel Kalakh, never to them.

There is, of course, room for exaggeration. No one could explain to me why so many soldiers were being killed in Syria although they said their own protests had been totally unarmed. Shooting is still heard at night on the Syrian side of the frontier, a phenomenon that has persuaded the Lebanese army to send night patrols through the orchards and olive groves on the Lebanese side. Just in case the Syrian military is tempted to chase in hot pursuit of their own refugees.
?Tell me why Lybia is not allowed to fire on their citizens but Syria is. That's all any of us want to know. Hmmmm, odd isn't it
مقالة ياسين الحاج صالح بالعربي:

ياسين الحاج صالح: سجين دمشق

موقع أخبار الشرق - الجمعة، 15 نيسان/أبريل 2011 22:57 بتوقيت دمشق

طوال سنواتي الخمسين، لم أمتلك جواز سفر. وعدا زيارة لبنان، لم أغادر سورية منذ عام 2004 عندما مُنعت من مغادرة البلاد. وقد حاولت مرات عديدة الحصول على جواز سفر، لكن دون جدوى.

قضيت ستة عشر عاما من شبابي في سجون بلادي متهما بالانضمام إلى جماعة شيوعية مؤيدة للديمقراطية. وخلال الاحتجاجات الأخيرة اعتقل العديد من أصدقائي - غالبيتهم من الشباب - بموجب قانون الطوارئ.
حالة الطوارئ التي تعيشها سورية منذ 48 عاما، زادت من تغلغل سلطة النخبة الحاكمة في كل مناحي الحياة العامة والخاصة للشعب السوري، ولم يعد هناك من رادع للنظام من استغلال هذه السلطة في إهانة هذا الشعب. واليوم تتوالى الوعود واحدا تلو الآخر لرفع هذه القيود القمعية. لكن على المرء أن يتساءل: هل سيتمكن حزب البعث من حكم سورية دون حالة الطوارئ التي فرضها طوال هذه المدة؟
الذريعة الرسمية التي يتحجج بها النظام السوري لتبرير قانون الطوارئ هي أن البلاد في حالة حرب مع إسرائيل، بيد أن تقييد حرية السوريين لم تُجدِ نفعا في حرب 1967، التي انتهت باحتلال مرتفعات الجولان، كما لم تكن معينا في أي مواجهة مع الدولة اليهودية، أو أي حالة طوارئ حقيقية، ونتيجة لأن كل شيء في نظر الدولة خلال الخمسين عاما الماضية كان حالة طوارئ، لم تكن هناك أي حالة طوارئ.

النضال السوري ضد عدوانية إسرائيل شجع على عسكرة الحياة السياسية في البلاد - وهو تطور لقي ترحيبا من جانب حكم الحزب الواحد، وتعليق حكم القانون خلق بيئة مشجعة لنمو طبقة حاكمة جديدة.
في عام 2005، قرر حزب البعث، دون أي مناقشات جادة، التحرك قدما باتجاه ما وصف بأنه اقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي. والذي يفترض أن يعمل على مزج المنافسة والشركات الخاصة مع الإجراء الجيد للاجتماعية التقليدية. حقيقة الأمر، كما كررت الحكومة دائما، ظهر العديد من الاحتكارات وتراجعت جودة البضائع والخدمات. ولأن المحاكم المحلية تفتقد الاستقلالية، فقد ساد الظلم في أرجاء البلاد، أضف إلى ذلك البيروقراطيين الخاملين والمرتشين وأصبحت الإصلاحات الاقتصادية المقترحة تبريرا لتخصيص القوة الاقتصادية لصالح الأغنياء وأصحاب النفوذ.

لم يكن التحرر الاقتصادي مرتبطا بأي شكل من الأشكال بالتحرر السياسي، وبعد نصف قرن من الحكم الاشتراكي، نشأت طبقة أرستقراطية في سورية لا تقبل مبدأ المساواة والمحاسبة أو حكم القانون. ولم تكن مصادفة أن تستهدف المظاهرات التي شهدتها مدينتا درعا واللاذقية هذه العقارات الخاصة بهذه الطبقة الأرستقراطية المهيبة والممقوتة من قبل الشعب السوري، خاصة تلك المرتبطة بالرئيس بشار الأسد.
استولت الطبقة الحاكمة اليوم في سورية على القوة السياسية والمادية بصورة غير مستحقة، فانسحب أعضاؤها، بصورة أساسية من وقائع الحياة اليومية لغالبية السوريين ولم يعودوا يسمعون الأصوات المكبوتة. وخلال السنوات الأخيرة سادت ثقافة الازدراء تجاه السوريين بين هذه الطبقة..

وعلى الرغم من ادعاء البعض بأن هذه المظاهرات ذات خلفية دينية، فإنه لا توجد مؤشرات على أن الإسلاميين لعبوا دورا رئيسيا في الاحتجاجات الأخيرة، على الرغم من بداية الكثير من هذه المظاهرات من المساجد. والمساجد هي أماكن التجمع الوحيدة التي لا يمكن للحكومة تفريقها، وكانت النصوص الدينية هي آراء لا يمكن للحكومة أن تقمعها. وبدلا من الشعارات الإسلامية، كانت أكثر الشعارات انتشارا في جامع الرفاعي في دمشق في الأول من أبريل (نيسان) «واحد، واحد، واحد، الشعب السوري شعب واحد». السوريون يريدون الحرية وهم مدركون تماما أنها لا يمكن أن تزرع أو تنمو في تربة الخوف، التي وصفها مونتسكيو بأنها أصل كل الشرور. ونحن نعرف هذا أكثر من أي فرد آخر.

البحث عن المساواة والعدالة والكرامة والحرية - لا الدين - هو ما أجبر السوريين على المشاركة في هذه المظاهرات اليوم. وقد دفعت الكثيرين منهم إلى التغلب على خوفهم من الحكومة وجعلوا النظام في حالة دفاع.
يتمتع النظام السوري بتأييد أكبر مما كان لحسني مبارك في مصر أو زين العابدين بن علي في تونس. وكان هذا أحد مصادر القوة والعنصر الذي يبدو أن الأسد لا يلتفت إليه عندما يركن إلى القوات الأمنية لقمع المتظاهرين. وإذا أراد النظام الحفاظ على شرعيته المعيبة إلى حد بعيد، فإن عليه الاستجابة لمطالب المتظاهرين وأن يدرك أن الشعب السوري متعطش للحرية والمساواة.

مهما كانت نتيجة المظاهرات فإن الشعب السوري يواجه مسارا صعبا، فعليه أن يختار بين ألم القمع ومصاعب التحرير، وأنا بطبيعة الحال أفضل الأخير. وبصورة شخصية أنا لا أرغب أن أعيش في أي مكان آخر غير سورية على الرغم من تطلعي للحصول على جواز سفر لزيارة إخوتي في أوروبا والذين لم أرهم في أوروبا منذ 10 سنوات، كما أرغب أخيرا في أن أشعر في النهاية بالأمن.
ياسين الحاج صالح: ناشط وكاتب سياسي
(خدمة «نيويورك تايمز»)

The New York Times

May 12, 2011
Signs of Chaos in Syria’s Intense Crackdown

¶ BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian forces carried out raids in towns on the outskirts of Damascus and a besieged city on the coast on Thursday, as the number of detainees surged in a government campaign so sweeping that human rights groups said many neighborhoods were subjected to repeated raids and some people detained multiple times by competing security agencies.

¶ The ferocious crackdown on the uprising, which began in March, has recently escalated, as the government braces for the possibility of another round of protests on Friday, a day that has emerged as the weekly climax in a broad challenge to the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

¶ Residents have reported that hundreds of detainees are being held in soccer stadiums, schools and government buildings in various towns and cities across the country, some of them arrested in door-to-door raids by black-clad forces carrying lists of activists.

¶ Others have said the arrests are often arbitrary, sometimes for little more than a tattered identity card, in a campaign that seems motivated to bully people to stay indoors and to restore a measure of the fear that has buttressed the Assad family’s four decades of rule. Many men have been forced to sign a pledge not to protest again, residents said.

¶ “The reaction of the authorities has excluded any possibility of having a rational solution,” said Rassem al-Atassi, the president of the Arab Association for Human Rights in Syria, in Homs, the country’s third largest-city and a center of the uprising.

¶ Mr. Atassi himself was released last week after being detained for 10 days.

¶ “I only see this crisis becoming worse,” he said. “There’s no political solution.”

¶ The brutality of the repression has led the United States and the European Union to impose some sanctions on figures in the leadership, though not on Mr. Assad himself. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton moved the United States a step closer to calling for the ouster of Mr. Assad on Thursday as she denounced the crackdown.

¶ “The recent events in Syria make clear that the country cannot return to the way it was before,” Mrs. Clinton said before a meeting in Greenland among Arctic nations. “Tanks and bullets and clubs will not solve Syria’s political and economic challenges.”

¶ The Obama administration has criticized the Syrian government repeatedly and imposed some sanctions on several senior security officials, but it has not yet pursued aggressive diplomatic measures, including action at the United Nations Security Council.

¶ Mrs. Clinton said that the United States would now pursue “additional steps to hold Syria responsible for its gross human rights abuses.”

¶ “There may be some who think this is a sign of strength,” she said, “but treating one’s own people in this way is in fact a sign of remarkable weakness.”

¶ A senior official elaborated that sanctions were being considered on additional Syrian officials. That could include Mr. Assad himself.

¶ Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Mr. Assad, said this week that Syrian officials thought that the American condemnations so far were “not too bad.”

¶ In the meantime, its military has besieged Dara’a, the southern town where the uprising began with protests over the arrests of youths, as well as Baniyas and Homs.

¶ The detentions have piled up so rapidly that assembling a tally has become guesswork. Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights put the number at 9,000. Wissam Tarif, the executive director of Insan, a human rights group, said his organization had recorded 8,000 people arrested as of May 3. In the past week, he said, they had recorded 2,800 more — though, as with the National Organization, he said he suspected that the number was much higher.

¶ “The numbers are in the thousands,” said Khalil Maatouk, a Damascus lawyer who works with prisoners and detainees. “Those who were released told me that the jails are packed, and they’re using stadiums and government buildings to keep them all.”

¶ The Syrian government has acknowledged the crackdown, calling it a response to an armed uprising of militant Islamists, saboteurs and even ex-convicts. American officials have acknowledged that some protesters are armed, though they are a distinct minority, and reports from refugees fleeing across the Syria-Lebanon border suggest that armed clashes between security forces and their opponents have erupted this week in Homs.

¶ Amnesty International, based in London, said it had firsthand reports of torture and beatings of protesters detained by security forces. Ammar Qurabi, president of the National Organization for Human Rights, said people who took part in the rallies were detained, while those identified as leaders or as having chanted slogans against the government were tortured.

¶ Indeed, human rights groups said the abuse might be part of the government’s aim: many detainees are released after a few days so that they can share their experiences, spreading fear among those who might be willing to join the demonstrations.

¶ The groups sketched a portrait of free-wheeling campaigns that sometimes seemed methodical and that other times showed little organization. Mr. Tarif said that in Baniyas, an oil industry town on the coast, security forces carried out a wave of arrests, collected information and then returned a few days later for another wave of arrests.

¶ Other times, he said, young men were arrested, released and then picked up by a competing security branch, which still had their names on circulating lists. Some had even already signed a pledge, admittedly under duress, not to protest again. “The local branches aren’t even coordinating,” Mr. Tarif said.

¶ The crackdown has played out along a crescent from the Mediterranean coast through Homs to drought-stricken regions of southern Syria. On Thursday, most arrests were reported in Baniyas and the nearby town of Bayda, along with the towns on the outskirts of Damascus where protests have proved to be especially resilient. Many residents described a pattern in which the military entered first, followed by the security forces and then armed men in plain clothes, known as shabeeha.

¶ The Syrian military said it had ended its operations in Homs, and residents reported that 10 tanks had withdrawn from the hardest-hit neighborhood, Bab Amr. After a day of shelling and gunfire, and sporadic shots heard before dawn, the area was relatively quiet on Thursday, a resident there, Abu Haydar, said by phone. “Most of the people have left Bab Amr,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.”

¶ Residents fleeing Homs for the Lebanese border said some had taken up arms against the security forces in Bab Amr.

¶ “Men are not sleeping at home,” said Umm Amina, a 53-year-old woman who left the Homs region on Wednesday. “They all sleep outside on the street and keep their rifles next to them to protect their women and their houses from the shabeeha.”

¶ The government has sought to forcefully keep campuses silent in Damascus and Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, which has been relatively quiet so far. But while students in Aleppo said that dozens of their associates had been arrested in past weeks, hundreds of people were reported to have protested Wednesday night at the university there.

¶ “We couldn’t just watch news of the daily killing in Homs, Baniyas and Dara’a,” said a law student who gave his name as Maher. “We are university students from all of Syria’s provinces, and we want to express our sympathy with our people.”

¶ Reporting was contributed by Hwaida Saad and an employee of The New York Times from Beirut; an employee of The Times from Damascus, Syria; and Steven Lee Myers from Nuuk, Greenland.

Geoffrey Robertson: Assad should face international justice

The President bears command responsibility for the killings. He is not the 'blind ophthalmologist' carried along by events

Friday, 13 May 2011

The European Union, following the United States, this week imposed some half-hearted sanctions – travel bans, money freezes and the like – on a handful of President Assad's cronies, but not on Assad himself. This will do nothing to change his regime's policy of murdering peaceful protesters. They also imposed an arms ban, which will merely stop the protesters from defending themselves.

The use of lethal force to disperse a one-off demonstration, like Bloody Sunday, is not an international crime. But a month of Bloody Sundays, the like of which, in Syria, has produced more than 800 dead so far – is a different matter. It counts as a crime against humanity, and it is now time for the Security Council to refer President Assad and certain members of his family to the International Criminal Court.

The uprisings against the Syrian regime do not qualify for the humanitarian protections of the law of war: they do not yet amount to an international armed conflict (although Iran is alleged to be teaching them how to crush a protest movement) and have not even reached the stage at which they can be legally classified as a civil war. The government's actions do not attract the duty to intervene to stop genocide, as the Syrian Muslin Brotherhood has claimed, because they are directed against political dissidents, not opponents exterminated on account of their race or ethnicity. However, a persistent brutal crackdown on a protest movement does amount to a crime against humanity, contrary to Article 7 of the ICC Treaty, if multiple acts of murder or persecution are committed, pursuant to state policy, "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population". The deliberate decision to use tanks, machine guns and snipers against un-armed crowds, repeatedly over seven weeks, is clear evidence of the commission of exactly such a crime.

President Bashar al-Assad bears command responsibility for these killings and his exclusion from the sanctions is ridiculous. It is no use anymore for Mr Hague to claim him as a would-be reformer boxed in by hard-liners. Nor is he "the blind ophthalmologist" (his previous profession) carried along by events. He made the decision to stop the protests by lethal force in order to protect his family's power and wealth from democratic challenge. His younger brother Maher, who commands the army's Fourth mechanical division which committed the Deraa atrocities, is another prime perpetrator together with relatives who run his brutal secret police, (the Mukhabarat) and others from his minority Alamite sect who are part of his inner circle. Even his wife, the fragrant Queens College (Harley Street) educated Asma al-Assad, deserves to be investigated as part of that circle. Credulous journalists on women's magazines have extolled her charity and compassion, but she remains in Syria, providing private aid and comfort to her brutal husband. (In international criminal law, Caesar's wife is not above suspicion).

The rules on the use of force and firearms during civil arrest were settled by the UN in 1990. Armies and police must only resort to lethal force when "absolutely necessary" in defence of themselves or others against the threat of death or serious injury. They have a duty to act proportionately to equip themselves with non-lethal incapacitating weapons like water cannon and to use these first. They must respect and preserve human life – for example by ensuring immediate medical treatment for the injured and by punishing any official guilty of arbitrary killing. "Internal political instability may not be invoked to justify any departure from these basic principles" says the UN rules and they apply "in the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but not violent". Even in the case of violent demonstrations, lethal force may be used only "when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life".

The blatant breach of these basic principles by the Syrian authorities has been accompanied by new forms of viciousness that require international condemnation. As in Bahrain, the arrest of doctors and nurses for performing their Hippocratic duties to attend the injured is particularly deplorable. So too is the tactic of leaving dead bodies in the street so their sight and stench will discourage others. Shooting or arresting civilians for taking picture of army brutality on cell phones or hand-held cameras – in the hope, no doubt, of providing evidence for an international court– should also be deplored. Some seven thousand citizens have already been arrested and placed in jails where torture is alleged to be routine.

The regime has banned all foreign media from the country – a tactic most recently deployed by the Sri Lankan government to ensure that there would be no impartial eyewitnesses to its massacre of Tamils. The Red Cross was allowed limited access, as it is in Syria, but only because of its iron-clad promise to keep all its observations secret – thus raising a serious question about its value in protecting civilians and prisoners.

In these circumstances, of an ongoing crime against humanity, the duty of the Security Council is to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC prosecutor as it did with Darfur, and has recently done with Libya under Resolution 1970. Sanctions will have little effect and the UN's Human Rights Council (boasting such members as North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Pakistan, as well as Russia and China) has already rejected a request by the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a full-scale international investigation. Instead, it is sending a "fact-finding" mission but nothing more, because realpolitik dictates that Assad the Syrian tyrant is safer than unpredictable developments which may follow his overthrow. It is unlikely that the "fact finders" (who will not include professional investigators or prosecutors), will find many people who will dare to tell them the true facts, for fear of joining the eight hundred dead and seven thousand already in prison.

This is a weak-willed response that betrays the UN's "responsibility to protect" doctrine. Nobody is suggesting "boots on the ground' in Damascus. At this stage, an ICC referral would mean the collection of evidence by professional investigators, whose work may well cause the ICC prosecutor to seek judicial approval for the indictment of Assad and his commanders. The very existence of an ICC inquiry would put pressure on the regime to reverse its "shoot to kill" policy and if an indictment is judicially approved this would set an important precedent for the rights of peaceful protesters, currently at risk in Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere. Assad may not be seated in the Hague dock any time soon, but if an indictment is in the offing, he may hesitate to add to its counts. The possibility of justice is more likely to deter a bloody tyrant than a travel ban on a few of his cronies.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is a former UN judge and author of 'Crimes Against Humanity' (Penguin)

اندبندنت: بشار الأسد يتحمل مسؤولية مباشرة عن القتل واستثناؤه من العقوبات أمر سخيف

حتى زوجته العطرة تستحق التحقيق معها

نشرت صحيفة "ذي اندبندنت" البريطانية اليوم الجمعة مقالا للقاضي البريطاني السابق لدى الامم المتحدة المحامي في مجال حقوق الإنسان جيفري روبرتسون يدعو فيه الى جلب الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد امام العدالة الدولية بسبب مسؤوليته عن اعمال قتل المواطنين المتظاهرين سلمياً في بلاده حالياً ومنذ اكثر من شهر.

وهنا نص المقال: "فرض الاتحاد الأوروبي هذا الأسبوع، بعد الولايات المتحدة، عقوبات ضعيفة –حظر سفر، تجميد أموال وما شابه- على حفنة من رجال الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، ولكن ليس على الأسد نفسه. لن يساهم ذلك في تغيير سياسة نظامه بقتل المتظاهرين السلميين. كما فرضوا حظرا على الأسلحة، وهو ما ليس من شأنه سوى منع المتظاهرين من الدفاع عن أنفسهم

استخدام القوة القاتلة من أجل تفريق تظاهرة لمرة واحدة، مثل يوم الأحد الدامي (في ايرلندا الشمالية) ليس جريمة دولية. لكن شهرا كاملا من الأيام الدامية، كما حدث في سوريا وتسبب بمقتل أكثر من 800 شخص حتى الآن- هو أمر مختلف. فذلك يعتبر جريمة ضد الإنسانية، وحان الوقت الآن ليقوم مجلس الأمن بإحالة الرئيس الأسد وأعضاء معينين في عائلته على محكمة الجنايات الدولية

الثورة ضد النظام السوري ليست مؤهلة للحمايات الدولية بموجب قانون الحرب: فهي لا تعتبر نزاعا دوليا مسلحا (رغم ما يقال عن أن إيران كان تعلمهم كيف يقمعون الحركات الاحتجاجية)، ولم تبلغ بعد الحد الذي يمكن عنده أن تعتبر حربا أهلية. تصرفات الحكومة لا تتطلب القيام بواجب التدخل لوقف الإبادة العرقية، كما ادعت جماعة الإخوان المسلمين السورية، لأنها موجهة ضد المعارضين السياسيين، وليس إبادة الأعداء على أساس العرق أو الأقلية. لكن الهجوم الوحشي المستمر على حركة احتجاجية يرقى إلى مستوى جريمة ضد الإنسانية، وفقا للمادة السابعة من معاهدة محكمة الجنايات الدولية، إذا وقعت تصرفات عديدة من القتل أو الاضطهاد، وفقا لسياسة الدولة "كجزء من هجمات واسعة أو منظمة ضد أي سكان مدنيين". القرار المتعمد باستخدام الدبابات، والأسلحة الرشاشة والقناصين ضد حشود غير مسلحة بشكل متكرر خلال سبعة أسابيع، يعد دليلا واضحا على ارتكاب هذه الجريمة بالتحديد

الرئيس بشار الأسد يتحمل المسؤولية المباشرة عن هذا القتل، واستثناؤه من العقوبات أمر سخيف. لا فائدة الآن من أن يدعي (وزير الخارجية البريطاني) ويليام هيغ بأنه إصلاحي في مواجهة متشددين. كما أنه ليس "طبيب العيون الاعمى" (وظيفته السابقة) الذي جرته الأحداث

لقد قرر وقف المظاهرات من خلال القوة القاتلة من أجل حماية سلطة أسرته وثروتها من التحدي الديموقراطي. شقيقه الأصغر ماهر، الذي يقود الفرقة الرابعة الميكانيكية من الجيش التي ارتكبت الجرائم في درعا، هو مسؤول رئيسي آخر إضافة إلى أقارب يديرون شرطته السرية (المخابرات) وغيرهم من الأقلية العلوية ضمن الدائرة المقربة منه. حتى زوجته العطرة، خريجة كلية "كوينز كوليج" (هارلي ستريت) الأنيقة أسماء الأسد، تستحق التحقيق معها لأنها جزء من تلك الدائرة. كان الصحافيون السذج في المجلات النسائية يشيدون باعمالها الخيرية وتعاطفها، لكنها تبقى في سوريا، تمنح المساعدة والراحة لزوجها. (في القانون الجنائي الدولي، زوجة قيصر ليست فوق الشبهات).

قوانين وقواعد استخدام القوة والأسلحة النارية أثناء اعتقال مدنيين تمت تسويتها من قبل الأمم المتحدة عام 1990:

يجب ألا تلجأ الجيوش والشرطة إلى القوة القاتلة إلا في حالة "الضرورة القصوى" خلال الدفاع عن أنفسهم أو غيرهم في حالة التهديد بالموت أو الإصابة الخطيرة. وعليهم واجب العمل لتجهيز أنفسهم بأسلحة غير قاتلة مثل المدافع المياه واستخدامها أولا. وعليهم الحفاظ على الحياة الإنسانية واحترامها – على سبيل المثال من خلال توفير العلاج الطبي الفوري للمصابين ومعاقبة المسؤولين عن القتل التعسفي. تقول قواعد الأمم المتحدة أن "الاضطرابات السياسية الداخلية لا يمكن ان تستخدم لتبرير أي مخالفة لهذه القواعد الأساسية، التي تنطبق في حالة تفريق التجمعات غير القانونية وغير العنيفة". وحتى في حالة المظاهرات العنيفة، يمكن استخدام القوة القاتلة فقط "حين يتعذر تماما تجنبها من أجل حماية الأرواح"

وقد ترافق هذا الخرق الواضح لتلك المبادىء الاساسية من جانب السلطات السورية مع اشكال جديدة من السلوك الشرير تتتطلب التنديد الدولي. وكما في البحرين، فان اعتقال الاطباء والممرضات والممرضين لادائهم واجبات ابوقراط بمعالجتهم للجرحى امر يستحق الشجب بصورة خاصة. وينطبق الامر نفسه على تكتيك ترك جثث القتلى في الشوارع كي يثني منظرها ورائحتها عزيمة الآخرين. كذلك ينبغي شجب اطلاق النار على او اعتقال مدنيين لالتقاطهم صوراً لوحشية الجيش بهواتفهم الجوالة او كاميرات اليد- على امل تقديم دليل، من دون شك، الى محكمة دولية. وقد اعتقل حتى الآن نحو سبعة آلاف مواطن واودعوا السجون التي يزعم ان التعذيب فيها امر روتيني

وفرض نظام الحكم حظراً على دخول كل وسائل الاعلام الاجنبية الى البلاد – وهو تكتيك استخدمته في الآونة الاخيرة الحكومة السري لانكية لضمان عدم وجود شهود عيان محايدين على مذبحتها ضد التاميل. وسمح للصليب الاحمر بالوصول بصورة محدودة، مثلما هو الحال في سوريا، ولكن فقط لتعهده الاكيد بابقاء كل ما يلاحظه سراً مكتوماً – ما يثير تساؤلاً خطيراً بشأن قيمته في حماية المدنيين والسجناء

وفي ظل هذه الظروف ونتيجة مواصلة الجرائم ضد الانسانية، فان من واجب مجلس الامن ان يحيل الوضع في سوريا على مدعي محكمة الجنايات الدولية مثلما فعل بالنسبة الى دارفور، واخيراً بالنسبة الى ليبيا بمقتضى القرار رقم 1970. اذ ليس للعقوبات تأثير يذكر، كما ان مجلس حقوق الانسان الدولي (الذي يضم اعضاء من كوريا الشمالية وايران وكوبا وباكستان اضافة الى روسيا والصين) رفض طلبا من المفوضية العامة لحقوق الانسان لاجراء تحقيق دولي على نطاق شامل. وبدلا من ذلك فانه سيرسل لجنة "تقصي الحقائق" وليس اكثر من ذلك، لان الواقعية السياسية تفترض ان الاسد، الطاغي السوري، هو أكثر امنا حيث هو من التطورات غير المتوقعة التي قد تنشأ في حال الاطاحة. ومن غير المحتمل ان يجد "الباحثون عن الحقائق" (الذين لن يكون من بينهم محققون او مدعون مهنيون) الكثير ممن يجرأون على ابلاغهم بالحقائق خشية ان ينضموا الى ثمانمائة قتيل وسبعة الاف سجين

انه رد الارادة الواهنة التي تنتهك "مسؤوليات الامم المتحدة لحماية" الميثاق. فلا احد يطالب "بارسال قوات برية" الى دمشق. وفي المرحلة الحالية، تعني الاحالة على محكمة الجنايات الدولية الحصول على ادلة من محققين مهنيين، الذين يمكن ان تؤدي اعمالهم الى قيام مدعي المحكمة بالحصول على الموافقة لتوجيه الاتهام الى الاسد وقادة قواته

ان قيام المحكمة الدولية بالتحقيق سيضغط على النظام لاستبدال سياسة "اطلاق النار بقصد القتل"، وفي حال اقرار القضاء للاتهام فانه سيفتح الباب امام سابقة مهمة تجاه حق الاحتجاج السلمي، الذي يواجه المخاطر حاليا في اليمن والبحرين واماكن اخرى. وقد لا يقف الاسد في قفص الاتهام في لا هاي في وقت قريب، ولكن اذا صدر الاتهام ضده فقد يتردد الى اضافة المزيد الى رصيده. فهناك امكانية ان تردع احتمالات العدالة الطاغية الدموي اكثر من حظر السفر على بضعة من اقرانه.

بي بي سي
تايم: سلطات سوريا تجوّع المناطق الثائرة

المناطق المحاصرة بلا ماء ولا كهرباء

أشارت مجلة تايم الأميركية إلى ما وصفته باتباع السلطات السورية سياسة تجويع المناطق الثائرة كإحدى الخطط والتكتيكات لإجهاض الثورة الشعبية وقمع المدن والقرى الثائرة، ومن بينها مدينة درعا والبلدات المجاورة على الحدود الأردنية.

ونسبت تايم إلى سوريين قدموا الجمعة إلى الأردن من نقطة جابر الحدودية بين البلدين قولهم إنهم لجؤوا إلى الأردن لشراء الأغذية والاحتياجات الأخرى، وإنهم ينوون العودة إلى بلادهم قبل وقت صلاة الجمعة حيث تنطلق المظاهرات الاحتجاجية.

وقال أحد القادمين إلى الأردن من سوريا إن السوريين في البلدات المحاصرة كانوا يقتسمون ما لديهم من الأغذية في ما بينهم، مضيفا أن السلطات السورية تتبع سياسة تجويع المواطنين في المدن والقرى الثائرة من أجل إخضاعهم.

وأوضح "أبو إبراهيم" الذي يخشى من نشر اسمه كاملا بالقول إنه تجرأ على الخروج من بلدة في ضواحي درعا بعد 18 يوما من الحصار، موضحا أن السلطات سعت لإخضاع أهالي المنطقة بكل الطرق، ومن بينها الحصار والتجويع، وإن القوات الأمنية انتشرت في كل الأرجاء، وإن الدبابات انتشرت في المدينة والبلدات التي حولها، والقناصة انتشروا في أنحاء متفرقة داخل المنطقة على بعد 11 كيلومترا من الحدود الأردنية.

نساء وأطفال
وأضاف أبو إبراهيم أن بلدته الواقعة في إحدى ضواحي درعا باتت قرية للنساء والأطفال بعد أن أمعنت السلطات السورية بالرجال والشباب ذبحا واعتقالا وتنكيلا، موضحا "أنهم يريدون عزلنا، نحن السنة".

وأما درعا أو مهد الثورة الشعبية السورية -بحسب المجلة- فقطعت السلطات الماء والكهرباء عن أكثر من نصفها، وقامت بتقديم الإغراءات للمواطنين من أجل التعاون مع النظام.

كما أشارت تايم إلى الانتقادات التي توجه لنظام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد على استمراره بقمع الشعب السوري ونشره دباباته وآلياته العسكرية الثقيلة لمحاصرة وقصف المدن والبلدات والقرى السورية، في ظل الثورة الشعبية الساعية إلى إسقاط النظام بعد مقتل المئات من المدنيين.

الجزيرة نت
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Friday, May. 13, 2011
Starving the Rebellion: Syria's Brutal Tactics
By Rania Abouzeid / Jaber Border Crossing

Abu Ibrahim, a stocky, bespectacled Syrian from the besieged southern city of Dara'a, bounded into the general store on the Jordan-Syria border in his white plastic sandals, grasping his daughter Noor's hand as the 6-year-old struggled to keep up. He'd left Dara'a, the center of a two-month-old antigovernment uprising, just a few hours earlier and was desperate to get back before the end of Friday midday prayers — and the start of the weekly nationwide protests that have always followed. "I left because we need to find food," he said in a hurried tone. "We've all been sharing what we have with our neighbors, but now we're starving. They have starved us."

It was the first time that Abu Ibrahim, who did not want his full name published, said that he'd dared to venture out in the 18 days since Syrian security forces cordoned off the city and used tanks, snipers and gunfire in a bid to pummel its people into submission. Dara'a is about 11 kilometers from Jordan's Jaber border crossing in the north, which has remained open despite the fact that the larger, nearby Ramtha transit point — just a few kilometers from Dara'a — was sealed on April 25 by Syrian authorities. "It's now a village of only women and children. The men are gone — slaughtered or detained," Abu Ibrahim said of his hometown. "They want to eliminate us, the Sunnis." The city — or rather half of it — was without electricity and water. He claimed that there were incentives to collaborate with the regime, alleging that the Mahata neighborhood (less than a kilometer from his home) had "surrendered" and was rewarded with restored electricity and water. (Read about Syria's video rebels.)

In the past few weeks, the Syrian protest movement has morphed from a ripple cautiously calling on President Bashar al-Assad to undertake reforms to a wave of nationwide anger demanding the overthrow of Assad and a decades-old regime stacked with loyalists from his minority Alawite community, which makes up about 12% of Syria's population, which is largely Sunni. The unrest has taken on an increasingly sharp and bitter sectarian tone in what was (at least outwardly) a strictly secular state.

Thousands of protesters once again poured into the streets on Friday, despite a ongoing government crackdown that Syrian human-rights activists say has left anywhere from 680 to 800 people dead — hundreds in the last week alone. The protests are an unprecedented act of defiance for a once apolitical, long-cowed populace afraid to speak against, let alone call for the ouster of, their longtime Ba'athist, Alawite rulers. (See TIME's interactive map of rage across the Middle East.)

At least six demonstrators were killed on Friday, according to reports out of Damascus, despite President Assad's reported call for no violence from security forces. More than 9,500 people have been rounded up, the activists say, in mass arrests that have overstretched prisons and prompted authorities to turn stadiums into makeshift jails.

Syria's Information Minister, Adnan Hassan Mahmoud, told reporters in Damascus that a national dialogue with the opposition would begin within days. Earlier on Friday, the Interior Ministry said that 5,077 people connected "with riots turned themselves in to date," just days before a May 15 amnesty for "those who were misled into participating in or committing unlawful acts," according to the state news agency SANA. They were "released immediately after pledging not to repeat any act that harm security of the homeland and citizens."
See pictures of protest in Syria

See TIME's Special on the Middle East in Revolt

Amnesty is one thing. Some Syrians — like Abu Hamza, a rail-thin man with a wispy moustache — appear in no mood to excuse the regime for its repression. The young man, who asked that neither his name nor his hometown on the outskirts of Dara'a be mentioned, stood at the Jaber crossing (86 kilometers north of the Jordanian capital, Amman) waiting for a ride across the border back into Syria. A small black suitcase lay at his feet. The mobile-phone salesman said he hadn't been home since the uprising began and was worried about his family, given that landline and mobile-phone communication in many parts of Syria has been cut. "There's just been too much blood," Abu Hamza said as he lit a cigarette and peered out across a rain-drizzled patch of road. Several freight trucks crossed from Syria to Jordan, but there were precious few cars traveling in either direction. (Jordanian border guards at both the Jaber and Ramtha crossings say there's been a massive slowdown in traffic.) "We can't just forgive them for spilling so much blood," Abu Hamza said. "What was our crime? Tell me, what did we do to deserve this?" A Jordanian border guard looked at him sympathetically. "Inshallah kheir," the guard said, which roughly translates as "God willing, things will be good."

There are close blood, marital and trade ties straddling the border in these Sunni towns and villages. On Friday the previous week, hundreds of people from Ramtha marched to the border crossing to express their solidarity with friends and family in Dara'a. The protest was not repeated this week, although according to the local Jordan Times newspaper, many Ramtha residents have taken in Syrian refugees but are loath to publicize the hospitality, given their heavy reliance on trade with Syria. The daily quoted a 45-year-old Jordanian trader who said he had secretly taken in several Syrian members of his tribe but feared being blacklisted by Syrian authorities should they find out. "It's a shame, but our lives depend on traveling to Syria," he said. "This regime never forgets, and it doesn't look like it will fall either." (Can Assad reform the government without causing his own downfall?)

Back at the general store, Haithem al-Zaibe stood behind the counter of his cousin's shop. The 21-year-old from Ramtha also has family across the border in Dara'a, and says he wishes he could do something to help them. It's not as if he doesn't have time. Business is down 40%, he said, and before Abu Ibrahim rushed in, he hadn't seen a single customer for several hours. His Syrian family (several of whom own Jordanian SIM cards that have enabled them to maintain communications) are terrified to attempt to leave their home, let alone try and cross the border. "They're running out of food," he said. "I've seen Syrians park their cars out here," he gestured, pointing outside his store, "and smuggle bread, I've seen it with my own eyes. You won't believe where they hide it. Even milk, they will pour powdered milk into a bag and hide it in the undercarriage of their vehicle. They're desperate."

Abu Ibrahim, who had just hurried in and caught Zaibe's last comments, nodded his head. Cars are searched entering and exiting Dara'a, he said, not just for weapons, but for anything that may alleviate the people's suffering. A friend, he claimed, was detained for trying to smuggle in a dozen candles. "That was last month, and nobody's heard of him since," Abu Ibrahim said. "I have most of what I need now, I've hidden it. I have been reduced to acting like a thief, look at my hands! Look!" he said as he thrust his thick, greasy fingers forward. He wouldn't say where he'd hidden his food supplies, for fear that it would jeopardize further attempts. He looked down at his watch. It was almost noon. "I have to get there soon, before demonstrations start and I can't get back into the city," he said. (See why Assad's supporters are turning against him.)

Zaibe handed the Syrian a bag full of flat, Arabic bread. "God be with you," he said, refusing payment. The stocky man thanked him, and quickly ushered his shy daughter out the door toward their white station wagon. It was an overcast, chilly day. The wind outside had picked up, kicking swirls of gritty sand into the air. "They're probably hoping for a storm to wash away all the blood in the streets," Abu Ibrahim said wryly, referring to the Syrian security forces. "They've butchered people," he said, shaking his head. "I'm telling you, they have butchered people."

See the world's most influential people in the 2011 TIME 100

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A message from Syrian citizen
– 2011/05/15نشر فى: English

The UN, the EU, the US, the UK, and the Arab League, ladies and gentlemen,

The democratic revolution has reached Syria, and a protest movement started in Der’a exploded into nationwide uprising, tens of thousands of protesters marched in cities, towns and villages around the country, posing the greatest threat in decades to the Baath party's iron-fisted rule. The doubters have been proved wrong. Syria is a police state beyond comparison run by a militarized Mafioso family. When Syrians say they want “change”, they mean regime change, not just a change in the law, and when they talk about “freedom” they mean freedom not to be ruled by the Assads.

Syrian security forces fired live ammunition at protesters in Syrian cities which prevented mass demonstrations to happen. The shooting against civilians is taking place before beginning in large crowds where there is a clear decision as to prevent sit-ins. If Syrian regime allows people to express their opposition to the regime without shooting or arresting them, I would expect millions to go out onto the streets demanding regime change. However, protesters come out now, despite the danger of death and detention “which could happen to their families as well” whereas there is a memory of how Syrian security forces dealt with civilians of Hamah in 1982. As a matter of fact, since the protests began in earnest “in mid-March” more than 1000 people have been killed and 10000 people have been arrested across the country as human rights groups say. Tanks have besieged and entered into some cities and started bombing civilians at their homes. Security forces stopped and cut all sorts of essential supplies such as bread, Water, medicine, electricity and communication facilities in some cities such as in (Der’a, Darayya, Homs, Banias, Al Moadamyeh and Duma).

Unfortunately for the people of Syria, they are on their own. Almost two months of protests, the brutality of Syrian security forces continues and there are no signals from the presidency that those who killed protestors, or those who put the cities and villages under siege and prevented the injured from leaving to seek medical attention, will be brought to justice. There are no steps being taken to prevent armed thugs and outlaws from attacking people, nor that security forces will loosen their grip on the lives of people.

The reason is because of the nature of these agencies, which are led by the president’s relatives and whose primary goal is to protect the regime. There are no real actions to real reform. Let’s say that clearly, there can be no real reforms in Syria while security forces abuse people with impunity. Eventually, the Syrians are marching for their freedom and nothing will stop them. They have made up their minds; it’s only a matter of time.

Marwa Ali – Syrian Citizen

المواضيع المحتمل أن تكون متشابهة .
الموضوع : الكاتب الردود : المشاهدات : آخر رد
  Independent : Syria slides towards a civil war...??? بسام الخوري 0 2,503 02-23-2012, 07:59 AM
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  video about syria -syrien in english and germany language بسام الخوري 0 5,172 08-07-2011, 01:12 PM
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Star news about syria in englisch....AlJazeera -English بسام الخوري 0 3,071 04-26-2011, 08:10 PM
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  Will Syria become more democratic?...By David Ignatius بسام الخوري 0 3,619 02-27-2011, 10:16 AM
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  Now Syria is at the top of the bad guys' league table بسام الخوري 1 1,702 03-02-2005, 03:34 PM
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يقوم بقرائة الموضوع: بالاضافة الى ( 1 ) ضيف كريم