Syria: the labour movement must speak out!

Submitted by martin on 10 May, 2011 - 1:31

The Assad dictatorship in Syria is going for endgame. It wants to crush the people's revolt now, with whatever violence it takes.

Despite some small mutinies, the armed forces are standing with Assad, not splitting as in Libya or turning against the dictator as the Egyptian army turned against Mubarak and the Tunisian against Ben Ali.

The big powers, while deploring the repression, are too anxious about their difficulties in Libya to want to get much involved. With most news from Syria blocked by the regime, media coverage is low-key.

Too much of the left is more interested in repeating its familiar "NATO out!" slogans about Libya than in any solidarity with the people of Syria (or Libya).

The methods of the Assad regime have been described by Cal Perry of Al Jazeera, reporting on a demonstration near Deraa at the end of April: "I could see clearly a crowd of people marching from my left to my right over the bridge. Suddenly gunfire rained into the crowd. The truck drivers dove for cover. And, for what seemed like an eternity, I sat there in the car, stunned and frozen. People were falling on top of each other, being cut down like weeds in a field by what I think must have been a mix of both small arms fire and machine gun fire. I saw at least two children shot. They fell immediately. People were screaming. Gunfire rattled on...

"This was unlike anything I had ever seen. After covering seven separate wars in as many years, I've never seen people march directly into a hail of gunfire".

And now the regime thinks it can finish off the revolt. (Or this revolt, at least. Whatever Assad does in the next week, the people of Syria will rise again, sooner or later).

On Monday 9 May, government representative Bouthaina Shaaban claimed that the regime had "gained the upper hand over a seven-week uprising". Echoing Qaddafi's rants against the revolt in Libya, she demonised the rebels as "a combination of fundamentalists, extremists, smugglers, people who are ex-convicts and are being used to make trouble".

Tanks are in the cities of Baniyas, Homs, and Tafas. A human rights advocate in Homs told the New York Times: "They [the regime] want to finish everything this week".

In those cities and in Damascus too, the army has raided hundreds of houses over the last few days. Thousands of people (according to Syrian exiles), or at least 350 (according to Amnesty International) have been rounded up over the last few days in Baniyas, and put under guard in a soccer field.

Syrian oppositionists able to get Internet access have stated their demands on Assad, reported in the French newspaper Le Monde. "Stop firing on demonstrators. Let peaceful demonstrations take place. Take down all the public portraits of yourself and your father. Free all the political prisoners. Start a national dialogue. Allow political pluralism, and organise free and democratic elections within six months".

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