By Monday afternoon, images of the crackdown were starting to come in to U.S. and European family members abroad. Using the Thuraya Satellite and Jordanian cell networks, a number of videos and pictures were smuggled out, showing the incredible brutality the Syrian military attacked with. SHAMSNN, a YouTube news channel, has uploaded a number of videos since the protests began and kept up by the hour updates on the situation.
The videos show that the military spared no one. Children, women, and the elderly were found with bullet wounds alongside able-bodied men whose corpses lined the streets. Ambulances were not allowed to deploy and military police hovered in the hospitals, ready to arrest anybody with a protest-related injury. It seems Bashar al Assad, the dictator of Syria, was sending a clear message to his people. Once considered mild-mannered and even progressive, it seems it was only a matter of time before he took on the brutal tactics of his father, Hafez. Hafez al Assad was known for sparing no mercy, and once massacred an entire town of 35,000 people. So by Syrian standards, Bashar still has a long way to go. But by the standards of the Arab Spring and recent government crackdowns, Syria is going above and beyond. Sawasiah, a local human rights group, reported that more than 500 protesters have been killed in only 5 weeks of protesting (and many of the initial protests being fairly low profile).
However, interestingly enough, this is one of the first times that the Syrian government has openly shot at their own citizens. Before they were sending plainclothed “security officials” into crowds of protesters in Homs, Damascus and Daraa. But now everything is out in the open with the latest official military incursion. In other parts of the country such as Jaleh, Duma, and Suwaydaa there were also violent military crackdowns, and in Damascus it was reported that there were mass arrests of journalists, intellectuals and anybody with any hint of a tie to the opposition movement.
As the government closes the border with Jordan, turns cell phone access on and off, and tries to convince the people that they are only really doing this to protect the citizens (something nobody believes), numerous governments around the world have condemned the attacks. The EU is calling for sanctions, and U.S. and Turkish leaders spoke out harshly against the crackdown. However, we should not be expecting some kind of Libya-esque NATO interference within the country. For one thing, the opposition is not banded together in the same way the Libyan groups (or even Yemeni groups) have. Nor is there an indication that this is not resolvable through internal means, unlike the situation with Gaddafi.
The protesters within the country, from Aleppo in the north to Daraa in the south had, up until now, simply been calling for an opening up of freedoms. The first arrests which sparked the protests in Daraa, a group of young adults who had written a list of grievances on the wall, were almost simplistic in comparison to the level of revolt that’s now taking place. The 50-year emergency law was lifted and certain other freedoms had been “given,” but still life in Syria has not changed. The government is still killing those who speak out, the “President” was given his position by his daddy, and no Syrian has seen free and fair elections on the executive level in well over 50 years.
There is very little left to lose for the Eastern Mediterranean country. If they stop now, the crackdowns will simply continue and it’s likely that freedom within the country will become more restricted than ever before. So the tone has changed. Instead of asking for freedoms, the protesters are now demanding a complete ouster of the regime. This is a notable change and likely played some role in the recent massacre.
Damascus has yet to catch on in any massive way to the protests being held around the country. However, if there were to be large scale revolts in the capitol for a number of days it is not at all inconceivable that Syria could have their own Mubarak moment. The biggest issue, it seems, is the Syrian military’s willingness to fire upon their own brothers and sisters. For the revolution to be successful, something there has to give. With pressure mounting and international support turning away from the al Assad regime, it is hopefully only a matter of time before Syria gains the kind of government that would refuse to fire upon the nation’s children.