April is, for me at least, a month of bloody memories. It was a year ago when I came to a decisive conclusion that what is being called peaceful protests in Syria are no more than a cover for something profoundly bloody that endangers the whole country.
Quoting British MP George Galloway, we “journalists should have a memory longer than a few weeks,” and with such a longer memory is how we should investigate the Syrian Opposition’s current position on advocating violence and accepting to be manipulated by foreign powers.
How, when and why did what was largely portrayed in the media as a peaceful uprising against the Syrian president Assad turn into a blood hungry warfare? Has there really been a change in the nature of the movement? Or has it been bloody from the very beginning, with an ongoing increase in magnitude, accompanied by a change in the way the media portrays it? The latest statements by Aljazeera former reporter in Lebanon, Ali Hashim, who told Assafir newspaper that he has been “ordered” to “forget about militiamen and armed groups completely,” suggest that there has been something that the media worked to conceal at first, then endorsed under the name Syria Free Army.
AL Observers mission: The real unveiling
Back to December 2011-January 2012, we all remember the pressure put by Qatar and other parties on the Syrian government to accept the AL initiative and allow for AL observers to work in Syria. In parallel with this pressure, opposition activists were insisting that, should the observers come, there will be huge demonstrations conquering main squares in all major cities in Syria. In fact, they even named their first Friday demonstrations after the observers started their mission “The March to Freedom Squares Friday”. That was Dec 30, but the Friday right after took a very religious turn. It was called “the Friday of: If you stand by ALLAH, ALLAH will stand by you.” This was accompanied by a soft slogan in the bottom of the logo art saying: internationalization will remain our demand. The Friday after that took an even wider step away from peaceful protests: It was called “The Friday of Supporting the Syrian Free Army.” (For more on this Free Army please see our report here). But why did this shift happen? Didn’t they promise that they would fill main squares with peaceful protesters when the observers come?
The shift is very easy to explain: They failed in delivering their promise. The AL observers mission ended, and protests failed to increase in size or involve new areas. This failure resulted in a vicious attack targeting AL observers, both from opposition activists (see this video for example, where they accuse them of being bribed with money and sex) and the very same government that arranged the whole thing: Qatar, whose Prime Minister was the first to criticize the AL observers.
This may have come as a surprise to many people, including some in the opposition itself. But to us, it was no surprise. In fact, it is not even new. The opposition relied on militiamen since the very beginning, as manifested by the events in Banias a year ago, discussed in detail in our report here. That was as early as April 10, 2011. The only difference now is that they call the militia a free army.
It seems that the Syrian Opposition have learned their lesson: Now with the UN Deputy Kofi Annan’s mission, they are not promising huge demonstrations, instead, they are criticizing the mission before it even starts, and countries that invested much in toppling the regime even organized a “Syria Friends” conference in Turkey that decided to support rebels militia with money and more. One would think that the opposition should be happy with internationalization of the Syrian crisis, since they were the first to call for it.
Annan is proposing negotiations and immediate end of violence, but is the Syrian Opposition advocating the no violence solution?
The Syrian Opposition calling for more blood to be shed in Syria
The Syrian opposition called its last Friday, April 6, the Friday of “He who prepares a fighter is as if he fought himself”, and their page cover had the photos of 4 fighters of the so called Syria Free Army. The name is a clear indication of them refusing to cease fire, not to mention that it has clear religious inclination, since it is a saying by Prophet Mohamad encouraging Muslims to donate money and goods to the Muslim Army. Considering that this happened after the Syrian Government accepted Annan’s six points plan, this can be understood as a clear incitement for more violence from the armed militia, something the militia was happy about obviously.
This video, uploaded yesterday April 6, shows rebel fighters attacking a Syrian Army tank, the same tank Annan’s plan requires the Syrian Government to withdraw from hot areas.
This video, also uploaded yesterday, shows rebel fighters bragging about destroying anther Syrian tank near Homs.
This video, uploaded yesterday, but voice in it said it was filmed April 4, shows rebel fighters launching a missile in old city Homs, an area full of civilians. Looking at the missile, we can guess that it is of a type with low accuracy, which indicated that it could easily hit civilian areas not army barracks or barricades.
This video, also uploaded yesterday, shows rebel fighters attacking the immigration and passports center in Douma, near Damascus.
On the other hand, This video. Uploaded April 3, shows an attack on a Sam 3 anti-aircraft missile base in north Syria.
There are many similar videos that show such acts that took place after Annan started his mission, and the question remains: If such acts were taking place in the US or France, would their governments agree to withdraw “heavy military vehicles” from hot areas?
When did the bloody attacks start?
In our report back in October 2011, we presented evidence that the bloody attacks started as early as April 10, 2011 against army units, and April 11, 2011 against civilians who do not support the uprising. Lately, some international news outlets have discovered that we were right. Der Spiegel for instance, in its report about Baba Amro Butcher, stated that the butcher admitted that his “death brigade” started butchering civilians in Homs as early as May 2011. Please read carefully: as early as May 2011, before the term Syria Free Army was even used in the media.
Even before that, as early as April 19, 2011, Omar Idelbi, a prominent activist in the LLCs and one of the activists who organized early demonstration in Homs, confessed on Al Arbiya News Channel that it was the opposition fighters who attacked the police station in Bayada in Homs with machine guns. Of course Mr. Idelbi claims that this does not harm the peaceful nature of the protests, and I really would like to understand how.
In our report in Arabic, back in June 2011, we published a testimony from a Syrian soldier who served in Homs in May 2011. The soldier told us how they were constantly under sniper attacks every time a “peaceful protest” took place near the army barricade where he served. He told us that one day he was hit with 3 bullets (luckily, the three hit his protective shield) before they managed to find the sniper and bring him down. Of course the sniper was counted as a civilian casualty by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
Back to Hama, the city that was the center of protests back in June and July 2011, and the city that had the direct support by the US ambassador in Syria Robert Ford, who claimed after his visit to it that he did not see a single gun in the city, was also a place where deadly armed attacks on government facilities. It was also where the rebels threw the dead bodies of their victims in the river.
There is no doubt to us that the bloody nature was the prevailing one from the very beginning. The fact that this has become the only face of the movement at the moment is just natural, considering the failure to gather real large numbers in the streets that could endanger the regime. Today, the only thing the opposition asks for is more weapons, even though the Annan mission could be a chance for them to reach much of they claim they are fighting for without shedding any more Syrian blood.