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Syria’s Opposition Divided, Demonstrations Have Different Goals – OpEd


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


Here is video of the demo

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

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

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

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


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

Another friend writes:

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

Steven Starr writes:

There are talks of opposition but what opposition? The opposition I know of are at war with each other more than with anyone or anything else.

What happened in Damascus last Tuesday and Wednesday was and remains separate from what took place on Friday. The Tues. and Wed. events were instigated by HR people who have had long-time issues with the authorities. This was a ‘genuine’ rights issue.

What happened in the south and on the coast were also separate from each other (the south because of boys beaten up for writing graffiti complaining against rising prices, the coast because of the closure of an Islamic school). This was a ‘general concern of the people’ issue and will have much more legs and appeal than the former above.

It is being reported internationally as being one unified event, if I can say that, which is reductive and perhaps even dangerous.

Is there some sort of link in terms of a general unhappiness with the authorities? Probably. Does it justify wholescale change? Most probably not.

I think, though the daily situation is very difficult for many Syrians, (some) people need to be careful in what exactly it is they are calling for. They need to think through and understand what they want as much as they want to be understood themselves.

ما يحدث الآن في حوران هو ليس نتيجة آنية او قنبلة صوتية

بدأت الأحداث بسبب قسوة تعامل بعض القيادات الأمنية في محافظة درعا مع حادثة سببها طلاب مدراس خرجوا يقلدون في مسرحية صبيانية ما يشاهدونه في التلفاز من حركة ثورات فتم عتقالهم ومنهم طلاب من مدارس ابتدائية وإعدادية ولكن كل المناشدات لاطلاق سراحهم مع المسؤولين المحليين لم تجد نفعاً وذلك قبل وقت غير قصير قبل امس يوم الجمعة .

ويضاف لها الممارسات المستمرة من الفساد و التدقيق الشديد في محافظة درعا خاصة بعد أن ألقوا القبض على بعض الطلاب يكتبون ببخاخات الدهان

ماحدث يوم الجمعة هو رد فعل من من أشخاص مدنيين مختلفي الانتماءات من عائلات حوران المختلفة وبعض العائلات معروفة بتوجهاتها السياسة المختلفة من جوابرة وعياش وأبازيد والحريري … الخ

وبعض الفيديوهات المنشورة عبر شبكة الانترنت تبين الشعارات التي اطلقت يوم الجمعة لم تخرج عن إطارالمطالبة بإسقاط المحافظ وبعض مسؤولي بعض الأجهزة الامنية .-سميوا بالاسم عاطف نجيب -..والشعب يريد اصلاح النظام …..ويا حيف درعا(حوران) يا حيف شعبك واقف على الرصيف …. وحاميها حراميها وسموهم بالاسم ولم يردد احد بكلمة ضد الرئيس أو سوريا

هذا الشعب المدني لم يرد الا اطلاق سراح ابنائه وايقاف تعنت بعض المسؤولين المحليين

وأبناء حوران لم يريدوا الفوضى يوماً ونسبة شبابها المثقف العالي والمغترب دليل نجاح وأزمة بنفس الوقت

اما ما جرى بعد التظاهر جعل الأهالي يغضبون لمشاهدتهم أربع شهداء في ريعان الشباب …

رد فعل قاسية جداً وغير مدروسة من المؤسسات الأمنية والمحلية في درعا تدل على توتر وعدم معرفة بالأرض

الآن المظاهرات لن تبرد إلا بحقن الدماء والتدخل شخصياً من أعلى المستويات

لأن هذه الأحدات التي جرت بدرعا تختلف عن ما حدث في باقي المدن السورية فقد كانت احداثاً لا تقارب ما حدث في درعا من حيث الحجم والخطاب .

هذه الأحداث يحاول الجميع من الخارج امتطائها وتضخيمها وجعل حوران محرقة وكبش فداء لفوضى لن تجعل سوريا تربح سوى الفوضى ولا أحد يريد تدمير البلد والثورة ضد الحكومة ولكن لا احد يريد العودة لنظام يبقى الحال على ماهو عليه ويتجاهل صرخات عائلات ابناؤهم طلاب مدراس مسجونون

ولكن لا يجوز السكوت على ممارسات المحافظ والأجهزة الامنية في درعا وكله يعود للفساد وتفشيه

أبناء درعا أبناء حوران يريدون رد اعتبارهم والاصغاء لمطالبهم والوقت لم يفت

الوقت لم يفت وهذا يعني التحرك السريع لاستيعاب الأزمة واللجوء لأناس ذوي خبرة بالتعامل مع عائلات حوران وأبنائها وعاداتها

الموضوع لم يعد يتعلق بأرباح آنية أومطالب

الموضوع أصبح يتعلق بأبناء منطقة عريقة تستحق الاصغاء وتستحق احترام مصابهم

طه محمد …..

The Syrian Gov has shut the office of Al-Jazeera in Damascus.

Alawis are changing their profile photos on Facebook to Bashar’s.

Syria to release children who sparked anti-government protests

Demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa after 15 children were arrested for writing freedom slogans inspired by Egypt, Tunisia unrest.
By Reuters and Haaretz Service Tags: Israel news Syria

Syrian authorities said on Sunday they will release 15 children whose arrest helped fuel protests in the southern city of Deraa during which security forces killed four civilians.

An official statement said the children, who had written freedom slogans on the walls inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, will be released immediately.

Here is a good precise of the talks I recently gave in Maine and DC

Syria’s relationships key to Middle East peace
By Andrew Benore | Mar 19, 2011 (Photo by: Andrew Benore)

Joshua Landis discusses Syria at the monthly meeting of the Mid Coast Forum on Foreign Relations. … Joshua Landis said promoting peace between Syria and Israel is important for the United States if it wants to “preserve its broad interest in the Middle East and good relations with Arab allies…. “The democratic revolution now spreading across the Arab world is fraught with opportunity and danger for the U.S.,” Landis said. “If the U.S. does not solve the Arab-Israeli conflict it will increasingly be forced to choose between friendship with Israel and its longtime allies in the region.”

He said Turkey is a “bellwether for this trend.”….Golan is the key to Syria’s friends and enemies.

Friends of Syria include Iran and Russia, Hezbollah, the PLO and Hamas. “All of these are countries that are willing to arm it or help it in its struggle with Israel in an attempt to pressure Israel to give back the Golan,” Landis said.

Enemies of Syria in the Arab world are America’s allies, Landis said. They include Egypt, which signed the Camp David agreement. Landis said the recent uprising in Egypt was labeled “The end of the Camp David regime” in Syrian media.

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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