Syria: a new phase

Submitted by Matthew on 9 July, 2011 - 5:21

In early July film footage came from an unnamed Syrian town, showing a group of young men – perhaps six or eight of them – bare-chested on a dusty road.

They are so agitated they are repeatedly getting up and then lying down again. They are beating their chests and shouting at figures in the distance. The translation tells us they are screaming: "Cowards! Kill us if you dare!" at the Syrian armed forces.

Over 1500 people have been killed in the course of the Syrian uprising. Those young men might very well be shot dead. Their extreme bravery illustrates the extent of the contempt and hatred in the Syrian revolt for the absurd, corrupt, one-party regime that has spent months attempting to crush it. The people want freedom and are prepared to die for it.

Despite the torture, mass arrests and murders, the protest movement continues to grow.

Demonstrations have taken place in more than 150 towns and villages, in every corner of Syria. Each Friday more than 100,000 people have protested. The protests are getting bigger. Friday 1 July saw the biggest mobilisations yet.

In Hama, a city of 800,000, more than 300,000 marched. The state had lost control of the city.

President Bashar Assad responded by sacking the town’s governor, Ahmad Khaled Abdel Aziz, on Saturday 2 July. Activists in Hama expressed worry to al-Jazeera that a hard-line replacement would be sent.

Tanks began to mass on the outskirts of Hama on Sunday 3 July.

Syria’s army appears unable to deal with the new scale of these widespread mass protests. Their strategy appears to have been to focus on one area at a time, and that means that they cannot deal with widespread, simultaneous actions.

The Economist reports that although the army’s nominal strength is 400,000, only a quarter is well armed and able to fight, and only 50,000 are considered to be reliable.

The US is alarmed by the threat of instability. It appears to be encouraging a wing of the opposition to enter a dialogue with Assad.

An opposition conference was openly held in Damascus on 27 June, something that would have been inconceivable prior to the recent uprising.

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