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Activists admit the opposition has taken up arms

May 30th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Politics

Activists, who have been very careful to paint a picture of a peaceful Syrian uprising, have finally admitted that some protestors are armed.

Of course, this does not justify the security forces’ crackdown, but it means that there is some truth to the crude state propaganda that we have been rejecting since March. It also means the opposition may alienate some of the Syrian population who blame protestors for the chaos engulfing Syria.

AP: Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian army

Residents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades put up fierce resistance, activists said. State media said four soldiers were killed.

Most of the opposition to autocratic President Bashar Assad has taken the form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though authorities have claimed throughout the uprising that it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign conspiracies.

Two activists in the area said residents of two towns under attack in central Homs province since Sunday had taken up arms against troops and members of the security forces.

He said many people are armed in Syria and over the past years weapons have been smuggled into the country from Lebanon and Iraq.

Monday’s accounts by the two activists, however, were the first credible reports of serious resistance by people who have taken up arms. It is not clear how widespread such resistance might be elsewhere in the country, but the government has claimed that more than 150 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the unrest began.

Now, this is a half-hour read, but is one of the most fair accounts of the complexities surrounding the Syrian uprising. Things are not as black-and-white as the YouTube activists would like you to believe.

Syria in fragments: divided minds, divided lives

Adham is an atheist whose family is of Shia background. Being an atheist and coming from a Shia family, he is in no way sympathetic to Sunni Islamism. Therefore, it’s telling when he affirms that “there are no Salafiin in Dera’a. I can say for sure that any group of such people that exists is very, very small.”

Rather, he explains that the government’s siege has been effective in unifying the muhafiza of Dera’a against it. By treating the entire muhafiza as criminal, the sentiments of most of its inhabitants (not just those inside the city of Dera’a) have turned against the regime. It’s interesting that identity runs not only along religious, ethnic, and tribal lines, but also along geographical lines, in that the people of Dera’a—not only the city, but the entire muhafiza—are viewing themselves as a unit, separate from those who comprise the leadership of Syria. “I can say that 90% of people in the entire muhafiza are against the government,” Adham says. Rather than viewing the uprising as one of sectarian character, he explains that “my brother’s family in the city of Dera’a has Christian neighbors. There are many Christians in the city of Dera’a and in other villages who have joined in the protests.”

Dera’a is becoming a unit—I hesitate to say almost separate from Syria—not only in how people there are beginning to view themselves as separate from the state (an understandable effect after feeling attacked by the state), but in the way many other Syrians are reacting to Dera’ans. Adham tells me that in the hospital where he works in Damascus, he is experiencing a new, unmistakable resentment and coldness from his coworkers. “They say nothing, but I can see in their faces that they blame us for the current situation in Syria.” He says that he doesn’t feel safe responding to the opinions voiced by people in his workplace. He believes that people’s opinions are misled and mistaken, but if he defends “his own” Dera’ans, he fears reprisal.

And finally, if you only read one thing on Syria, read this…

Robin Yassin-Kassab: Blundering and adapting

A good number of Syrians want to believe the regime’s version of events because they are genuinely fearful of the chaos regime-change could unleash. Others are guilty of class and sectarian prejudices, and ascribe only the worst intentions to the ‘mob’. Others still suffer what must be called a slave mentality. They have grown so used to justifying the government’s violence against them that they now believe it has a perfect right to murder men, women and children, as many as it sees fit.

Most Syrians, however, have had their illusions shattered. Their president kills to keep his seat. It only makes it worse that he once pretended to be something different. The nationalist pretensions also ring hollow after the president’s cousin told the New York Times, “If there is no stability here, there’s no way there will be stability in Israel.” Syrians had previously been told that their half-century State of Emergency was designed to confront Israel – which occupies the Syrian Golan Heights – not to protect it.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 qunfuz // May 30, 2011 at 11.20 pm

    thanks, Sasa.

    I’m not sure that the news of armed resistance vindicates state propaganda. The state version was that the security forces were confronting armed gangs of infiltrators and salafis from the start. What has happened is that unarmed civilians and residential areas were shot and bombed. And now, weeks later, some syrian civilians have started to defend their communities with arms. This is a very sad and dangerous development, but an almost inevitable one given the level of state violence. Clearly the regime wants an armed fight, which risks giving the agenda to the militias that will arrive. The regime prefers civil war and societal failure to a peaceful transition. This context makes its mendacious propaganda all the more repulsive.

  • 2 Sasa // May 31, 2011 at 1.14 am

    Robin, there’s nothing in your analysis that I can disagree with.

    And no, it doesn’t vindicate the state media narrative. What it does do is show that we’re not getting the whole picture from either extreme. State media paints the whole thing as a Zionist-Salafist armed conspiracy. And the foreign-based net activists would like us to believe that Syrians are one, that the uprising is entirely peaceful.

    Of course the picture is more nuanced, but that is getting lost in the rush to freedom.

  • 3 Syrian Knight // Jun 11, 2011 at 1.57 am

    Quntfuz, we have seen since the beginning, armed protesters. Don’t give me your bullshit that people are now just defending themselves. My aunt, with her OWN EYES, witnessed in the beginning of this Islamic revolution, armed terrorists lighting things on fire ON HER OWN STREET. The arsonists then called the fire department, and when they came, they SHOT AND KILLED THE FIREFIGHTERS. She saw this with her own eyes! There are even videos of armed terrorists killing innocent people just so they can blame it on the government! Don’t forget that before the video of Nidal Janoud was released, the opposition said he was killed because he refused to fire on peaceful protesters! Then the video was released and showed that he was KILLED BY YOUR PEACEFUL PROTESTERS while he was in a market trying to sell tomatoes! And they killed him because of his religion!!! Is this defending yourself??? Is there ANYONE in the opposition who isn’t a lying, Islamist dumbfuck???

  • 4 Nir // Jun 12, 2011 at 12.07 am

    Nice democracy you have there :) ))

    Thanks god we have the Golan to keep you there.

    Say hello to the rapist soldier in Rastan city….very humanitarian army you have.

  • 5 Walter William Safar // Jul 5, 2011 at 6.58 pm

    The Syrian people must have civic rights to freedom of expression.
    Remember:neither a dictator and the army can not kill the voice of Freedom!!
    Only cowards and thugs shoot at civilians, a brave and honorable soldiers protect civilians.

    Syrian soldier,Syrian officer,Syrian politician,Syrian people:REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!!
    Walter William Safar poet

    NAMELESS GRAVE

    Demonic fires blaze in the eye of the stone palace,
    and me,
    I only stand in the dark beneath the sky
    that reaches its invisible hands
    out towards scores of nameless graves.
    For callous dictator Assad,
    they are but nameless graves
    upon which no one’s tear fell.
    They were silently and swiftly buried into the black soil,
    without speeches and tears,
    without too many imprints
    on the black soil.
    (They say that everyone’s life is worth attention,
    and that the dark truth is that only death equally appreciates each life)
    And while they treacherously, silently and swiftly
    dug a new nameless grave,
    only death was faithfully listening to the crickets
    feverishly spluttering away in the dark
    to honor the dead child.
    In the hazy grave lies the child,
    like a shadow of many dreams,
    and the raindrop,
    brought from the honorable mountain
    by the honorable wind,
    softly and timidly trembles
    on the dead poet’s white face,
    like an angel’s tear.
    And dictator, tycoons and thugs
    are sitting in the golden loges now,
    ghastly and faithfully acting:
    the righteous, the charitable, the Believers,
    crying their copper voices
    out into Global silence,
    like a copper bell,
    and the dead child
    now waits for one tear
    in a nameless grave.

    ©Walter William Safar

    TELL ME,FREEDOM

    Tell me FREEDOM…

    Oh…tell me Hope

    Does your hot breath

    Travel the cold mountain,

    -where the solitary scream

    strays through the pestiferous fog-

    Tell me,golden FREEDOM

    Tell me hope

    How can I descend

    Into the mild valley

    Where Your wings

    Chase away

    The fog

    Towards the white heavenly fields

    Where yours wings

    Chase away the screm

    Oh the Life

    Did our acquaintance

    Turn into

    An everlasting friendship

    FREEDOM…

    Golden hope

    My friend!…

    My Life!

    Is what I drink from your spirit…

    From yours spirit-

    Walter William Safar©

  • 6 Syria: What’s a progressive to think? | ClickRally // Sep 12, 2011 at 9.21 pm

    [...] United States has for many years given financial support to Syrian opposition groups. In addition, reports are gradually emerging of a preponderance of arms among certain Syrian opposition outfits, a claim [...]

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