Syria

Syria: beyond the wall of fear, a state in slow-motion collapse

Syria: beyond the wall of fear, a state in slow-motion collapse
Despite the superficial calm in Damascus, everyone knows change is coming. The only question is, how much will it cost?

Ian Black in Damascus
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 January 2012 17.30

Members of the Free Syrian Army demonstrate against Bashar al-Assad near Idlib. Photograph: Handout/Reuters
Sipping tea in a smoky Damascus cafe, Adnan and his wife, Rima, look ordinary enough: an unobtrusive, thirtysomething couple winding down at the end of the working day in one of the tensest cities in the world.

But like much else in the Syrian capital, they are not what they first seem: normally, he is a software engineer and she a lawyer; now, they are underground activists helping organise the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

It is dangerous work. Over the past 10 months, thousands of Syrians have been killed – perhaps twice the 5,000 figure given by the UN – as Assad has pursued a ruthless crackdown that shows no sign of ending. But his opponents are equally determined to carry on.

Adnan and Rima are unable to work or contact their families. They have false identities. Adnan changes his appearance regularly. He has just shaved off his beard. It clearly works: a friend at a nearby table fails to recognise him.

Most of their friends are on the run from the mukhabarat secret police. "It used to be scary but we've got used to it," said Adnan. The revolution destroyed the wall of fear. At school, we were taught to love the president – Hafez – first. And it didn't get any better when Bashar took over. Now, everything has changed. Assad's picture is defaced everywhere and we are certain that at some point we will topple the regime."

Syrian army kills 23 in shelled town

The northern province of Idlib has witnessed intense clashes between Syrian troops and army defectors in the past weeks. Yesterday, security forces killed up to 70 army defectors as they were deserting their military posts in Idlib near the Turkish border, activists said.

Army defectors 'kill Syrian troops'

Several dead in Syrian clashes 11/12/11

 

Syrian troops battled army defectors today in clashes that left several military vehicles in flames. The fighting and other violence around the nation killed at least 5 people, activists said.

For the first time protest against President Bashar Assad's regime spilled across the border into Jordan, where about a dozen Syrians attacked their embassy in the capital, Amman, wounding at least 2 diplomats and 4 other consulate employees.

The 9 month-old uprising against Syria's authoritarian President Bashar Assad has grown increasingly violent in recent months as once-peaceful protesters take up arms and rebel soldiers joining the uprising fight back against the army. The UN says more than 4,000 people have been killed since March.

Opposition activists called for a general strike starting today to add to the pressure on the government to stop its bloody crackdown. Assad has refused to buckle under Arab and international pressure to step down and has shown no signs of easing his crackdown, which has included assaults by the military on unarmed protesters.

Now, fighting between loyalist forces and defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army threatens to push the confrontation into civil war.

Syrian forces kill 40 as Arab League denounces attack - Guardian - 291011

Syrian forces kill 40 as Arab League denounces attack

Amnesty International - Urgent Action Syrian Activist at Risk

Amnesty International USA

Syrian activist, Anas al-Shogre, who has been detained incommunicado since May, apparently for calling for and leading protests in the coastal city of Banias, is now believed to be held at a State Security branch in the capital Damascus. Reports suggest that he is in poor health and may have been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

One of Anas al-Shogre’s brothers, who is living outside Syria, has told Amnesty International that the family have learnt from an apparently reliable source that Anas al-Shogre is currently held at the State Security branch in Damascus, that he is unwell and “has lost a lot of weight”. This has heightened concern that he may have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The source reportedly provided no further information.

Anas al-Shogre, a 23-year old student, was arrested during a security forces operation that began in Banias on 7 May. He was in hiding at the time. The Syrian authorities have not disclosed the reason for his arrest or where he is being held although, according to his brother, his family have made relentless efforts to obtain information about him.

 

Anas al-Shogre’s family and local human rights activists believe that his arrest is related to his involvement in calling for and leading popular protests in the city of Banias, and for informing the media, including the BBC’s Arabic Service, about human rights violations committed in the city by Syrian security forces. Amnesty International believes that Anas al-Shogre may be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and is concerned that he is being held in conditions that amount to enforced disappearance. 

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