Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, July 2011
Syrians Insist on Changing the Regime, No Dialogue, in Various Cities
July 8, 2011
The Arab media, particularly TV stations, have shown an escalation of the Syrian protests against the dictatorial regime of Al-Assad family. Protests have spread all over the country with more people's participation than ever before. Syrian protesters have continued calling for a complete change of the regime ("Befalling the Regime," as Arabs say). This Friday, they chanted, "No Dialogue" But "Befalling the Regime."
Two important observations can be mentioned to describe what has been happening in Syria recently. First, the regime's security forces have not cracked on the protesters in this Friday protests, meaning that they have learned their lesson. Basically, everytime they kill protesters, it leads to more anger and more protests.
The second observation is that the capital, Damascus, and the second major city, 'Halab, have been almost void of protests. This means that the regime has focused its efforts on these two cities to prevent the spread of protests to them. The objective is making these two cities as the regime's castle, copying the Qadhafi Libyan regime's focus on Tripoli and Al-Zawiyah, as its strongholds.
By allowing the French and US ambassadors to come to 'Hamah this Friday and by not cracking down on protesters there, the Assad regime wants to show cooperation with the US and France in an attempt to win them against the revolting Syrian people.
It's doubtful that the ambassadors would go to Hamah without approval of the regime, despite its claims to the contrary.
Syria blasts overt US meddling
Press TV, Friday July 8, 2011 6:41AM
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford Syria has charged the United
States with meddling in its internal affairs and inciting unrest by
dispatching its ambassador to the restive city of Hama without
coordination with Syrian authorities.
US ambassador's visit to Hama prompts Syrian ire
Syria has reacted with anger to the Thursday visit of United States ambassador Robert Ford to Hama, accusing the US of meddling and damaging the country's security. Hundreds have fled the city ahead of Friday's planned demonstrations.
By News Wires (text)
AFP - Syria accused the United States of meddling after the US ambassador visited the flashpoint city of Hama, where hundreds have fled fearing a crackdown ahead of anti-regime demonstrations on Friday.
"The presence of the US ambassador in Hama without previous permission is obvious proof of the implication of the United States in the ongoing events, and of their attempts to increase (tensions), which damage Syria's security and stability," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Syria warns against such irresponsible behaviour and stresses its determination to continue to take all measures that will bring back calm and stability to the country," it added after Robert Ford's visit.
Hundreds of people have fled Hama ahead of planned demonstrations Friday under the banner of "no to dialogue" with President Bashar al-Assad's regime, activists said.
They were headed for Salamiyah, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) to the southeast.
Syrian authorities have been trying to quell protests in Hama, traditionally a centre of opposition to the central government, and had positioned tanks on the main entrances to the city, except in the north.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that about 100 families -- or 1,000 people in total -- had left Hama, where it said Syrian troops had killed 25 civilians since Tuesday.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said two civilians were killed on Thursday at Hama.
"Security forces shot them in the legs and then ran them over in their vehicle. They were fatally injured and died on the way to hospital," he said.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ambassador Ford visited the tense city to "make contact" with opposition leaders.
Hama has been a symbol of opposition since the 1982 crackdown on a revolt by the banned Muslim Brotherhood against then-president Hafez al-Assad, father of the present leader, in which some 20,000 people were killed.
Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, said the situation in Hama was calm and that barricades erected in the streets by protesters had been dismantled.
The authorities had told demonstrators to avoid any confrontations and clear the streets so residents could go to work and to avoid what it called a "last resort" military operation, according to the newspaper.
It also said protesters were calling for the former governor to be reinstated, detained demonstrators to be freed, a pledge that the security forces would not intervene and a guarantee of freedom to demonstrate.
Last Friday, an anti-regime rally brought out half a million people in Hama, according to pro-democracy activists. The security services did not intervene and Assad fired the city's governor the next day.
Human rights activists said that anti-regime demonstrations took place overnight into Thursday in several towns in response to a number of pro-regime rallies held on Wednesday.
Residents of Hama and the central city of Homs staged a general strike ahead of Friday demonstrations, according to Abdel Rahman.
"Dialogue makes no sense if security forces do not pull out of the streets and the regime does not stop its violence against citizens," lawyer Anwar al-Bunni told AFP.
Rights groups say that more than 1,300 civilians have been killed and 10,000 people arrested by security forces since mid-March when the anti-government protests erupted.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on the Syrian president to make good on his promises.
"In Syria, meanwhile, the killing continues. This must stop," Ban said in Geneva.
"I call on the Syrian leadership to deliver on its commitments and to allow our UN humanitarian assessment team and the human rights fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council in.
"It's time to see progress here. We cannot go on like this."
Syrian forces storm suburb; ambassador in Hama
By Khaled Oweis
AMMAN | Friday, July 8, 2011 1:16am EDT
AMMAN (Reuters) -
Syrian security forces stormed the northern Damascus suburb of Harasta, injuring two people, residents and a human rights group said on Friday, ahead of further protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Overnight, about 300 security personnel entered the suburb, where there have been daily protests demanding political freedoms, and started firing from machineguns mounted on trucks and making house to house arrests, they said.
Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said in a statement that security forces also raided the main hospital in Harasta, a tactic used in similar assaults on cities and towns elsewhere in Syria, and abducted three injured protesters "whose lives are now in extreme danger."
Some of the biggest protests against Assad's rule have been staged after Muslim prayers on Fridays.
The U.S. ambassador to Syria toured the city of Hama on Thursday to show solidarity with residents facing a security crackdown after weeks of anti-government protests there.
Syria condemned ambassador Robert Ford's visit, which it said went ahead without approval from Damascus, as an attempt to incite escalation in the city where more protests are planned on Friday.
The U.S. State Department said the U.S. embassy had informed the Syrian government that an embassy team -- without naming Ford -- was traveling to Hama, which residents say is still ringed with tanks, and said Ford hoped to stay until Friday.
"The fundamental intention ... was to make absolutely clear with his physical presence that we stand with those Syrians who are expressing their right to speak for change," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
"We are greatly concerned about the situation in Hama," Nuland told a news briefing in Washington.
The city was the scene of a 1982 massacre which came to symbolize the ruthless rule of the late President Hafez al-Assad and has staged some of the biggest protests in 14 weeks of demonstrations against his son Bashar.
Residents blocked streets with burning tires on Thursday, trying to keep out busloads of security forces, and dozens of families fled to a nearby town, an activist and a resident said.
Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two men were found dead on a bridge leading out of Hama toward the industrial city of Homs.
Tanks were deployed around the outskirts of Hama this week after tens of thousands of people rallied in a central square last Friday demanding Assad's departure, the culmination of a month of growing protests in the city.
Protesters were exploiting an apparent security vacuum in the city after Assad's forces pulled back following the killing of at least 60 protesters on June 3.
Assad sacked the Hama provincial governor on Saturday. Security forces swept in on Monday and activists say at least 26 people have been killed in a wave of arrests and shootings, but the tanks have stayed outside the city. Residents say water and electricity supplies have been cut.
U.S. STEPS UP EFFORTS
Ford's trip marked a sharp increase in U.S. efforts to dissuade Assad from taking further military action to quash protests against his rule.
Activists say Bashar's forces have killed at least 1,300 civilians in the unrest. Authorities say 500 police and soldiers have been killed by "armed groups" whom they also blame for most of the civilian deaths.
Syria has barred most independent media from operating inside the country, making it difficult to verify accounts from activists and authorities.
It has also largely shut out the United Nations. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Damascus on Thursday to give U.N. aid workers immediate access to evaluate the needs of civilians caught up in the crackdown and to allow a team of U.N. human rights investigators to carry out their mission in Syria.
Syria's al-Watan newspaper said a parliamentary election due in August would be postponed to allow parliament to pass new laws on the media and political parties, part of a package of reforms Assad has pledged in response to the unrest.
The president raised the possibility of delaying the election in a speech last month in which he set out plans for a national dialogue with the opposition. Opposition figures say they will not talk while killings and arrests continue.
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