Nowhere to hide

Guest post by DaveM

Even Al Jazeera, which has traditionally taken a soft line on the Assads, isn’t staying silent on the killings in the southern Syrian city of Daraa.

The Ba’athist regime now has nowhere to hide; it’s cornered so it is just resorting to what it does best– murder and denial.

“Kill his own people!? Kill his own people!? You’re our brothers! You’re our brothers!”

The cry was raised from outside the al-Umary Mosque in the old city of Daraa, Syria.

From afar a mobile phone camera observes the security forces which attempted to put down by force the demonstrations which have been ongoing since last Friday.

The reports from both sides– the demonstrators from one side and the authorities from the other– have been contradictory, however they both confirm that people have been killed.

The latest confrontations took place under the cover of night with both the electricity or mobile phone networks cut off.

So the people of the border region resorted to using Jordanian mobile phone networks.

The mass deployment of the army both in and around Daraa wasn’t an effective barrier preventing the spread of demonstrations to other cities.

According to eyewitnesses, among those killed was a doctor who was treating some of the wounded inside the mosque, which has become the protesters’ stronghold.

Outside Syria, opposition circles consider what’s taking place in the south are the winds of change of the storm of Arab Spring.

Inside Syria, officially Damascus is accusing what it describes as armed gangs of being behind what took place in Daraa. And the details of which are that an alleged armed gang was stockpiling weapons and ammunition inside the mosque.

The opposition has commented on this saying with the advent of new media [such as the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) this type of talk is no longer of any use and is baseless.

Mazin Adi, member of Damascus Declaration: “Now with the revolution in modern communications it’s all out in the open, in both picture and sound, which everybody can now see. It’s no longer possible to resort to covering up, blacking-out, ignoring or belittling people’s intellect. The authorities have to admit that there’s a political crisis.”

To ensure the health and safety of the current regime, Damascus has endeavored since the very start of the demonstrations to send an official delegation to listen to the demands of the angry residents of Daraa, which lies just 120km south of Damascus.

Their demands revolved around three main points: 1) political reform 2) combat corruption and 3) end the state of emergency.

Many generations were born and raised in Syria and suffer under this enforced law which had been in place for almost half a century.

Nobody can deny that President Bashar al Assad, who inherited his position from his father in 2000, had rushed to announce a package of reforms and social promises immediately following the events which peacefully brought down the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. However these reforms were within a political system which has passed its sell-by date in the Arab context, thus raising the bar of demands even higher.

So this time it’s impossible to find inspiration from the events of Hama or from the Damascus Spring.

I think this means the rules have now changed, and that things are no longer as they were.

So in the age of modern mass communications what’s been the official Syrian response?

You’ve probably guessed it already.

News summary from the newsroom of TV channel adDounia [the world], peace be upon you.

More than a million text messages, with Israel being the source of most of them, have been urging the use of mosques as bases for commencing acts of rioting and disturbance in Syria.

And in connection to this a Syrian official source said that a gang was carrying out an armed attack just after midnight on an ambulance medical crew which was passing close by the al-Omry mosque in Daraa.

And this attack lead to the martyrdom of a doctor, a first aid worker, and the ambulance driver.

According to an official source, security forces who were nearby confronted the assailants, got hold of a number of them and arrested some of them. In doing so a member of the security forces was martyred.

The official source added that the security forces will continue their pursuit of the armed gang which is terrifying the civilians along with acts of killing, stealing and carrying out arson attacks on public and private facilities.

The official source revealed that the armed gang was stockpiling arms and ammunition inside the al-Umary mosque, and was using children, whom they had kidnapped from their families, as human shields.

The source indicated that the gang had also been terrifying residents of the buildings adjacent to the mosque by occupying their homes and using them to open fire on passers-by and people going to pray.

The security forces had confronted members of this gang and pursued them in order to hand them over to justice.

Not only this but Syrian TV showed pictures of weapons, ammunition and large amounts of money which the armed gang were hiding inside the mosque. And the pictures showed a number of grenades, sub-machine guns and bullets. And security forces are continuing to find more weapons and advanced communications equipment which the gang were using.

And observers confirmed that the existence of this amount of weapons inside the al-Umury mosque is more evidence that the events in Daraa were organized and aimed at harming the security of the Syrian nation and its people.

According an official source foreign agencies are spreading lies about the situation in Daraa in order to incite and terrify the residents of the city. The source explained that these agencies are continuing to spread lies about the situation in Daraa by claiming that they’re receiving messages and footage from inside the city, and that a massacre has taken place.

And they’re doing that to instigate and terrify the people of Daraa. Except during this time the people of Daraa are co-operating with the security forces in pursuing members of this group, arresting them and handing them over to justice.

And on and on and on it goes. Except no one’s buying this crap any more, as they don’t have to.

It’s kind of ironic, as Bashar Assad always liked to present himself as a tech-savvy modernizer who would reform Syria and bring it onto information age.

In the last years of his father’s life, Assad emerged as an advocate of modernisation and the Internet. He was also put in charge of a domestic anti-corruption drive. Now his regime is cutting off communication networks to Daraa. What started as a call for reform has now developed into protests calling for regime change.

So far the death toll stands at 15. But it may already be higher still.

And there have been calls for a day of protests this Friday.

It could get get very very bloody indeed, as the Assads aren’t the sort to go without a fight.

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