Archive for the ‘ Syria ’ Category

Demonstration in Jordan in support of Syria’s anti-Assad protests

May 21, 2011

Amman – Hundreds of Syrians living in Jordan staged a demonstration outside the United Nations office in Amman on Saturday, in support of protesters in Syria calling for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

They crowd held up placards and chanted slogans against al-Assad, calling for and end to his leadership and security crackdown on protests in Syria.

Meanwhile, Jordanian media reported that the government had asked the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood movement, whose leaders have been given refuge in the country, to stop protests outside the Syrian embassy in Amman.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who ended a visit to the United States earlier this week, has reportedly asked US President Barack Obama to give al-Assad ‘a chance’ to implement the reforms that protesters are demanding.

Authorities on Friday prevented hundreds of Jordanians from demonstrating near Ramtha and in support of protesters across the border in the Syrian city of Daraa.

Source: Monsters and Critics.
Link: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1640590.php/Demonstration-in-Jordan-in-support-of-Syria-s-anti-Assad-protests.

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Kuwait elected to U.N. rights panel instead of Syria

By Patrick Worsnip
Fri May 20, 2011

(Reuters) – Kuwait was among 15 nations elected on Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council after Syria, under pressure over its crackdown on protesters, dropped its bid for an Arab slot on the controversial panel.

Kuwait stepped into the race last week after Western countries persuaded Arab states that Syria was not a suitable candidate. In a General Assembly vote, the Gulf emirate was elected along with India, Indonesia and the Philippines on a clean, or uncontested, slate of Asian nations for three-year council terms.

Africa and Western Europe also presented clean slates but there were contested votes for Eastern Europe — where the Czech Republic and Romania defeated Georgia — and Latin America, where Chile and Costa Rica edged out Nicaragua.

The 47-nation Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, is the main U.N. body charged with monitoring member states’ compliance with international rights norms.

Critics say it spends too much time denouncing Israel while ignoring violations by Sri Lanka, Bahrain, China, Russia and other countries. Libya, elected to the council last year, is suspended because of its civil war.

Syria told a closed meeting of Asian U.N. members on May 11 it had agreed to swap candidacies with Kuwait, which was set to run for the council in 2013, and drop out of the 2011 race, diplomats said.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari denied at the time that the decision was connected with events in his country, where troops and tanks have killed hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in recent weeks.

He said the move was based on “reconsidering our priorities” and Syria would run for the council in 2013.

SYRIA RECEIVED VOTES

Even though Syria was not standing up for membership, five of the 192 countries in the General Assembly voted for it on Friday, assembly president Joseph Deiss said in announcing the results. Because the ballot was secret it was unclear who they were.

Elected for the so-called “Western European and others” group were Austria and Italy, while Burkina Faso, Botswana, the Congo Republic and Benin were elected for Africa.

Human rights groups have hailed the fact that Syria will not be elected this year but, as they have done in past years, criticized the clean slate system under which regional groups present only as many candidates as seats are available.

“Without competition for seats on the Human Rights Council, the membership standards set by the General Assembly become meaningless,” said Peggy Hicks of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Manufactured slates of candidates may be easier for states, but they are bad for the council.”

Geneva-based group UN Watch said Kuwait and Congo were “not qualified” to be on the council.

Kuwait’s “ruling family largely sets the policy agenda and dominates political life. Formal political parties are banned,” it said, adding that the country limits freedom of the press and assembly and has no independent judiciary.

In Congo, the group said, recent elections were “marred by irregularities,” press freedom was limited and the judiciary was subject to corruption and political influence.

The defeat of Nicaragua was a setback for left-wing governments in the Latin America group, which also includes Caribbean states.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

Source: Reuters.
Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/20/us-rights-un-council-idUSTRE74J5IO20110520.

Syrian activists call general strike in new tactic

By ZEINA KARAM | AP
May 18, 2011

BEIRUT: Syrian protesters have called for a one-day nationwide general strike, urging students to skip school and workers to bring commerce to a halt in a new strategy of defiance against government crackdowns that appear to be turning more brutal and bloody.

The strike, planned for Wednesday, marks a shift by opposition forces to strike at President Bashar Assad’s regime from new angles: its economic underpinnings and ability to keep the country running during two months of widening battles.

A sweeping popular acceptance of the strike call would be an embarrassing blow to Assad and show support for the uprising in places, such as central Damascus, where significant protests have yet to take hold and security forces have choked off the few that have taken place.

“It will be a day of punishment for the regime from the free revolutionaries … Massive protests, no schools, no universities, no stores or restaurants and even no taxis.

Nothing,” said a statement posted on the main Facebook page of the Syrian Revolution 2011.

The strike call came as the United States and European Union planned new sanctions against the Syrian leadership.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters that the tighter measures could be imposed in the coming days.

Meanwhile, watchdog groups and Syrians fleeing into neighboring Lebanon added to the accounts of violence.

A Syrian rights activist, Mustafa Osso, said government agents chased and beat students taking part in a protest against Assad’s regime at a university in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest largest city. Security officials in Lebanon said at least 170 people entered the country Tuesday, including a 2-year-old girl with a shrapnel wound in her chest.

Syrians pouring over the Lebanon border in recent days have described horrific scenes of execution-style slayings and bodies in the streets in the western town of Talkalakh, which has been reportedly encircled by security forces.

Osso, head of the Kurdish Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Freedoms in Syria, said there were reports of gunfire in Talkalakh on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether there were injuries.

At least 16 people — eight of them members of the same family — have been killed in recent days in Talkalakh, a town of about 70,000 residents, witnesses and activists said.

Syria’s official news agency said eight soldiers and policemen were killed Tuesday and five others were wounded while pursuing fugitives in Talkalakh and nearby areas. The report said security forces arrested several fugitives and confiscated a large amount of weapons.

Syria’s top rights organization has said that the crackdown by Assad has killed more than 850 people since protests erupted in mid-March in the most serious threat to his family’s 40-year dynasty. Thousands of others have been detained.

A pro-democracy activist in the central city of Homs expressed support for the nationwide strike, calling it “the only way to hurt the regime without putting people’s lives at risk.” But the activist, speaking by phone to The Associated Press, doubted the response would be big.

“The majority of businessmen and merchants are either supportive of the regime or fear for the businesses. They have too much to lose,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Anthony Skinner, an analyst at Maplecroft, a British-based risk analysis company, said he expected the current conflict to become even more protracted and bloody.

“Although the crackdown has failed to snuff out dissent, protests have also not gained sufficient momentum to overextend the armed forces,” he said.

On Tuesday, the National Organization for Human Rights said in a statement that at least 41 people were killed in the past five days in the villages of Inkhil and Jassem near the southern city of Daraa, where the rebellion took root.

Ammar Qurabi, the head of the human rights organization, also said a “mass grave” with 24 bodies, and another containing seven bodies including a father and his four sons, were discovered in Daraa on Monday. Calls to Daraa on Tuesday seeking to verify the reports were unsuccessful.

International rights watchdog Amnesty International urged Syrian authorities to carry out a prompt, impartial investigation into reports of the graves.

“If true, these reports of multiple corpses buried in a makeshift grave show an appalling disregard for humanity,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

A Syrian Interior Ministry official dismissed the reports about a mass grave in Daraa as “completely baseless.” The unnamed official, quoted by state-run news agency SANA, said Tuesday that the “allegations came in the context of the campaign of provocation, slander and fabrication” against Syria.

The official said an “armed terrorist group” opened fire on a police vehicle near Homs, killing two policemen and wounding four others, including an army officer.

Assad has blamed the unrest on armed thugs and foreign agitators. He also has played on fears of sectarian strife to persuade people not to demonstrate, saying chaos would result.

Source: Arab News.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article411728.ece.

Iran helped Damascus suppress rebellion?

AHVAZ, Iran, May 16 (UPI) — Iranian military forces are training Syrian troops to help put down a wave of deadly demonstrations across the country, an Iranian opposition leader said.

Syrian troops are roaming the streets of the country to curb anti-government demonstrations that have raged throughout the country. Hundreds of people have been killed or injured in the protests.

Ammar al-Qurabi, the head of Syria’s National Organization of Human Rights, told Asharq al-Awsat during the weekend that Syrian authorities have turned the country into a “huge prison.”

Nasir Jabr, a spokesman for the opposition Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz in western Iran, told the pan-Arab daily newspaper that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps have been training Syrian forces since 2009.

“The Revolutionary Guards Corps currently provides the latest military training for the forces of (Syrian President) Bashar Assad and helps them with tactics to bring the protests in Syrian cities under control,” he was quoted as saying.

Some regional observers note the Syrian upheaval is reminiscent of the Iranian response to the political unrest that greeted the 2009 re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The opposition leader said Tehran was anxious to see the Syrian regime remain intact.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2011/05/16/Iran-helped-Damascus-suppress-rebellion/UPI-15221305556269/.

Syria: One hundred days of struggle

Khalil Habas
Counterfire, June 30, 2011

A general strike and continued street demonstrations marked the passing of one hundred days of protest and repression in Syria. Khalil Habash writes on the popular protest movement for democracy, social justice and against imperialism.

The Syrian uprising has exceeded 100 days. Despite harsh repression, the protest movement is continuing and increasing. Since 15 March more than 1,500 civilians have been killed, including around 70 children, and about 10,000 people arrested, according to Syrian human rights groups.

Many Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. More than 11,700 are now housed or seeking shelter in Turkish refugee camps, while a few thousand are now in Lebanon. Demonstrations are still being repressed by security forces, thugs of the regime and a section of the army, despite various declarations of the regime that they will not shoot on protesters if they demonstrate peacefully.

In Jisr al-Shughour and other towns such as Homs, military forces used helicopters and tanks to shoot at protesters. Some 15,000 troops and 40 tanks have reportedly been deployed to the city and surrounding region.

The protest movement is nevertheless growing, with demonstrations nearly on a daily basis in various cities in Syria, while on the “Friday of Tribes”, 10 June, protests were reportedly held in 138 cities and towns across the country. Similar demonstrations happened on Friday 17 and Friday 24 June.

On Thursday 23 June a successful general strike marked 100 days of the revolution and was upheld in the governorates of Homs, Hama, Deraa, markets of Deir Zor, the city of Lattakia Banyas, Douma and the majority of Rif Damascus. Universities, especially in Damascus and Aleppo, have witnessed demonstrations from students against the regime.

President Assad tries to contain the revolt

President Bachar Al Assad, in his speech on Monday 20 June, did not say or give anything new to satisfy the protesters. He maintained a defiant position. President Assad acknowledged that a certain segment of the protest movement might have some legitimate demands and wished to participate in democracy, but claimed immediately after this short statement that as many as 64,000 “outlaws” are leading the havoc in Syria and that, alongside this “army” of criminals, the uprising in Syria is also being stirred by radical and blasphemous intellectuals, trying to infiltrate into Syria wreaking havoc in the name of religion.

The Syrian media, all controlled by the State directly or indirectly, have been portraying all protesters as terrorists controlled by foreign powers.
Assad adds that Syria’s image has been “smeared” internationally, and that some protesters are being paid money in order to film demonstrations and deal with media. He claimed that Syria is a victim of “political conspiracies” which he likened to “germs”. This conspiracy theory against Syria is used by the Syrian regime in each official speech.

These accusations against the protesters did not prevent him calling for national dialogue with the opposition and the protest movement. He also indicated that the greatest danger the country now faced is the weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy.

But how does this speech fit with the reality of the situation in Syria?
Firstly, the reality is very different from Assad’s depiction of a protest movement dominated by terrorists, salafists and opportunists linked to foreign conspirators. We are now witnessing in Syria a popular national movement struggling for democracy and social justice. The protesters include the different ethnic and sectarian components of the country, as well as all the governorates throughout Syria.

Major demonstrations have taken place in the two big cities of Aleppo and Damascus. In addition to protests in Aleppo University, the two last Fridays also saw protests in Aleppo neighborhoods such as Salahedeen and Seif al-Dawali. In the villages north of Aleppo, around 5,000 protesters had turned out across Tal Rifaat, Hreitan, Mareaa and Aazaz. In Damascus as well protests were presents in the suburbs as well as smaller ones in the city.

The opposition outside Syria has also started to organize, gathering in several conferences across Europe. A consulting committee of the Antalya conference from May 31 to June 3, the main coalition of the Syrian democratic opposition, was set up. The main promoters of this conference were the left and liberal forces around the Damascus Declaration (DD).

Out of 31 members of the consulting committee 4 members each are from the DD, Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Kurds (who are predominantly leftist) and the tribes. The remaining 15 are independent personalities. These outside organized forces of the opposition are nevertheless very weak on the ground. The MB as well as the left has been driven out by decades of severe persecution.

One of the main points of the Antalya declaration was to oppose any foreign military intervention. The protest movement on the ground has also refused any foreign military intervention which would serve the regime and would probably lead the country to civil war.

The popular movement in Syria is in favor of the unity of the Syrian people and against division, with a developing feeling of national solidarity and social solidarity that transcends sectarians and ethnic divisions.

The regime is using sectarian issues to scare one community against the other and divide people. It built the army according to sectarian criteria to maintain loyalty. While the majority of the conscript soldiers are Sunni according to their population share, the officers’ corps is predominately Allawi and fidels of Assad’s family.

The sieges and military intervention against the rebellious towns were nearly all by the 4th brigade led by Maher al Assad and special units in which most of the soldiers are Allawi. President Assad does not dare to use normal soldiers as he fears mutinies. There have only been some individual defections so far.

Secondly, the so called dialogue called by Bachar Al Assad can’t be taken seriously while the killing, injuries, repression and arrests against protesters are still going on. No dialogue is possible when tanks and helicopters are sent against the people. The popular movement has refused any so called dialogue until demands from the protesters are implemented. The so called general amnesty granted by the President for crimes committed before 20 June did not see the liberation of the 10 000 protesters detained since 15 March.

The democratic demands of the popular movement for a democratic, civic, and free Syria are not being met by the regime, which has drafted a new political party law which proposes establishing a “Party Affairs Committee” chaired by the Minister of Interior. Its members will include a judge from the Court of Cassation, and three independents appointed by the President of the Republic. Any person wanting to establish a political party will have to apply for a license along with 50 founding members “over the age of 25.”

They have to be residents of Syria representing no less than 50% of Syrian governorates. Additionally, party founders need to have a clean legal record and cannot be members of any other political party simultaneously. Any party needs to have secured 2,000 members at the time of applying, along with premises for its headquarters.

Parties cannot use government agencies to market themselves, nor can they operate out of charity organizations, educational institutes, or religious venues (church or mosque). This is all designed to maintain the Baath party’s monopoly.

Economic problems in Syria

As well as Assad mis-representing the protest movement and failing to engage in real dialogue, a third problem is his remarks on the economy. In relation to the possibility of the collapse of the Syrian economy, the Syrian President did not understand that his economic model has already collapsed for many people. This is part of why they are protesting against the regime.

Syria doubled its GDP between 2003 and 2008, but the economic growth did not benefit the Syrian people. Economic liberalization policies started in the early nineties, which were accelerated and boosted since Bashar Al Assad’s arrival to power in 2000. These policies have benefited a small oligarchy and few of its clients.

Syria witnessed the emergence of private banks and foreign investment in the country’s market, alongside privatization and liberalizing of foreign trade.

Tourism has become a flourishing sector, accounting now for 12% of the Syrian GDP – it brings revenues of about $ 6.5 billion and employs about 11% of the workforce. Syria, which was self sufficient in the past and used to have a strong industrial sector, is now importing food.

This economic policy had severe consequences for the people. Per capita income remains well below the average for the Middle East, the economy is still “developing”, the welfare state is gone, controlled prices on first necessity goods have been abandoned in some cases and poverty affects one third of the population.

Extremely reliant on service, the economy is now not creating enough jobs, especially for the young graduates.

The regime has progressively abandoned the agriculture sector which represents 20% of the Syrian economy. The countryside has endured harsh conditions as a result of four years of drought. The government did not answer the plight of the farming population, a lot of them having to leave their rural areas to cities to find jobs. Today, the rural poor are providing the foot soldiers of the uprising.

The announcement that Rami Makhlouf – the cousin of President Bashar Al-Assad and focus of anti-corruption protests – is quitting business and moving to charity will not solve the problems of the Syrian economy and definitely not appease the protesters. Rami Makhlouf controls several businesses including Syriatel, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, duty free shops, an oil concession, airline company and hotel and construction concerns, and shares in at least one bank.

As the uprising continues, manufacturers and merchants of Damascus and Aleppo, who have been until now supporters of the regime, have started questioning their political loyalty to the regime. They are now confronting a difficult situation by closing facilities and laying off staff. The bourgeoisie and the merchant class might therefore question their political loyalty to the regime if the situation continues this way and no viable alternatives are found. There are even now signs that some elements of the business elite are thinking of switching side.

The popular movement has refused any foreign military intervention in Syria and personalities linked to foreign imperialist interests such as Abdel Halim Khadam, Rifaat Al Assad and Mahmoun Homsi. There are those who make excuses for the Assad regime, and castigate the protest movement as ‘pro-imperialist’ for opposing it, like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. They should be reminded that it is the Syrian people who pressured the Syrian regime to support the resistance now and in the past. It is the Syrian population who welcomed Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis refugees when they were attacked and occupied by the imperialist powers such as Israel and the USA.

It is this Syrian regime which arrested the people of Syria who struggled for the liberation of the Golan and Palestine for the past 30 years. struggle for the liberation of the Golan and Palestine for the past 30 years. This is the same regime which crushed the Palestinians and the progressive movements in Lebanon in 1976, while participating in the imperialist war against Iraq in 1991 with the coalition led by the USA. The Syrian people are the true revolutionaries and anti imperialists, and not the regime of Bachar Al Assad. The victory of the Syrian Revolution will open a new resistant front against the imperialist powers, while its defeat will strengthen these latter.

In conclusion, the Syrian popular movement is struggling for democracy, social justice and anti imperialism. The Syrian people will not go back to their houses despite the repression and the killings; they will continue to demonstrate until their demands are met. The Syrian people will not step down and attempts to divide the popular movement will not succeed – the Revolution will be permanent!

Source: Uruknet.
Link: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=79134&s2=02.

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