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Posts Tagged ‘demonstrations’

A week ago I spent an afternoon in Hama in the hope of seeing how the city was recovering after several military blockades and attacks (for various security reasons I decided to hold off posting this until now). An afternoon is far too little time to accurately gauge the condition of a place but from what I could tell Hama has done remarkably well and many of its residents seemed cautiously optimistic.

The central clock tower – note the missing clock 

I arrived in Hama by regular public transport. The road from Aleppo had already revealed evidence of what was happening in Syria’s central provinces. From Idlib down to Homs, the region has suffered the full brunt of Assad’s security forces. The bus passed dozens of tanks sitting in fields and amid olive groves, their long barrels pointing toward the road. The army had taken up residence in numerous half-built houses, turning them into observation posts and barracks. (more…)

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After several months confined to the city of Damascus I recently decided that it was time to travel to the northern commercial centre of Aleppo to see how the uprising had affected Syria’s second largest city. While the road and the towns along the way held plenty of evidence of the 5 months of protest and brutal crackdown, Aleppo, like much of Damascus, remains in comfortable denial of the thousands of deaths throughout the country.

Along with a partner in crime, I headed north from the Harasta bus terminal in an air-conditioned Pullman coach. The bus quickly escaped the polluted suburbs of Damascus and after being waved through a makeshift military checkpoint we were out on the open road, surrounded by rocky desert and scraggly bushes.

After a couple of hours we knew that we were approaching Homs by the increasing number of military trucks on the road.

(more…)

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The opposition in Damascus will have been waiting for a day like this. They needed it. For almost 5 months, the rest of the country has been taking to the streets, shouting, chanting and dying. But the capital remained frustratingly quiet.

But the first Friday of Ramadan has brought change. It’s hard to gauge the exact number at this point but reports from al Jazeera, Twitter, and first hand accounts suggest that the scale and ‘spread’ of last night’s protests were greater than anything seen before in Damascus. And the death toll keeps rising.

From the information that I have been able to gather so far the largest demonstrations were in the Midan area, just south of the Old City. Accordingly, Midan is also generating the most reports of dead and injured protestors. A YouTube video supposedly shows plainclothes police officers firing on protestors.

The other flashes of protest have occurred in a loop around central Damascus, a circle of dissent. There are unverified reports of protests in Al-Qadam, al-Hajar al-Aswad, Kafar Souseh, Harasta, Zamalikah, Maamouniyeh, Doumah and Rukn al-Deen, amongst others.

There have been no sequels to Tuesday night’s protests in Abu Roumaneh, Roudah and Salihiyiah but the fact that the opposition hit the area at all this week is quite a feat. Security is tight and, as mentioned in the last post, the area is staunchly pro-regime. But there is no doubt that the opposition activists and organisers will be eyeing the area up. If they can manage a repeat – angry protestors marching through the streets of the commercial and political heart of Damascus – it will be a major blow to the regime’s confidence.

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There’s a lot of speculation as to what will happen once Ramadan starts on either 1st or 2nd July. No one doubts that the violence will escalate but to what degree and for how long is open to speculation.

Business in the Middle East slows down considerably as Ramadan lethargy sets in and one would expect that it would have a similar effect on an uprising. No one wants to shout for the downfall of the regime when you haven’t had a drop to drink since 4 in the morning. The problem with that argument, as a recent article in the National explained, is that “Ramadan will be like a month of Fridays. Every night people will leave the mosques and protest”.

One young Syrian that I spoke to predicted that Fridays alone will continue to be the big protest day but that gatherings will be on a scale greater than seen before as more people attend prayers during the month of Ramadan.

Whatever happens, there’s a good chance that August will be the defining month in the Syrian uprising.

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