An unprecedented scene in Syria this morning as an estimated 1500 people took to the streets in a spontaneous protest.
They were angry that the son of a shop owner had been allegedly beaten by a traffic police officer. So they went on to the streets at Hariqa, just south of Souq Al-Hamidiyah in Damascus. From the video, it seems as if the protest spread down to the western end of Medhat Pasha.
They chant “the Syrian people will not be humiliated”, interspersed with, “shame, shame” and “with our soul, with our blood, we sacrifice for you Bashar”. That’s a very Syrian way of saying they were furious at the police, not the president. Also, note there was no chanting of “the people want the fall of the regime” (the words used in Tunisia and Egypt, and now in Yemen and Bahrain).
At the start of the video, almost every person in is holding up a mobile phone. With mobile phone video cameras plus Twitter and blogs to distribute the footage, public servants face a degree of accountability that they have never faced before.
In a surreal moment, the Minister of the Interior arrives and asks the crowd why they are demonstrating. He has now promised an investigation.
The protestors dispersed three hours later.
Demonstrations like this are unprecedented in Syria. But it really shows what a tight-knit community the souq is, and highlights their ability to organise. A few years ago, Sharia Malik Faisal, on the north side of the Old City, was going to be widened, destroying hundreds of old shops and forcing business owners to move. The plans were scrapped – in part because of a campaign by those Damascene businessmen.
In contrast, when a Syrian ‘Day of Rage’ was orchestrated on Facebook earlier this month (probably by people outside the country), not a single person turned up.
A couple of interesting tweets from Seleucid: