Anti-regime demonstrations reportedly erupted last week among the Alawite inhabitants of the coastal city of Lattakia. Demonstrators were apparently frustrated with Bashar al-Assad’s style of leadership which, from the perspective of many Alawite, is allowing for the erosion of their power and control over the state, raising the specter of potential Sunni domination in the minds of many, with all the acts of vendetta that such a state of affairs is perceived to entail. For this reason, demonstrators reportedly hoisted pictures of Bashar’s uncle, the one and only Rifa’at Al-Assad, the champion of the bloody crackdowns of the early 1980s. Bashar’s brother-in-law and chief of security, the illustrious General, Assef Chawkat, is said to be taken charge of the crackdown. Scores have reportedly been arrested.
Meanwhile, students in the al-Ittihad University in the city of Manbij in the northeastern Governorate of al-Raqqah, have gone on strike in protest over the sudden increase of their tuition rates.
On Thursday, protestors in the town of Ariha in the Governorate of Idlib, marched against the local government in protest over a decision to tear down their shops. Local officials said their decision was spurred by aesthetic considerations and their desire to bring into the focus the “civilized aspects” of the city. Shop-owners affected by the decision, however, seem to have a different definition of civility, and outright different priorities when it comes to local governance. Over thirty protestors were arrested.
Earlier today, Kurdish demonstrator in northernmost Governorate of Qamishly, protesting the planned incursion by the Turkish military into Kurdish territories in Northern Iraq, and the support of the Syrian regime of this step, clashed with local authorities who opened fire into the crowd killing three and wounding many. As a result, demonstrations turned into full-scale riots which continue to rage as per latest reports. Local enforcement troops are said to have raided dozens of homes and arrested score of activists, including a few known Kurdish leaders.
Indeed, these are separate instances of popular disaffection; there is no clear connection here between these various incidents and no invisible hand at work. But this could all change. People are finally breaking the barrier of fear, despite all the regional raucous around them, despite continuing regime propaganda meant to underscore the benefit of the stability proffered by it, despite the repeated text messages that continue to invade people’s mobile (sent by the company owned by the President’s cousin of course) reminding people of how bad things are elsewhere (elsewhere i.e., from sub-Saharan Africa to Iraq). Yes, the long silent Syrian Street is actually stirring, which opens our lives to all sort of possibilities, negative (i.e. sectarian and ethnic conflict) , and positive (the beginning of the logn road to freedom perhaps). Whatever the case maybe, whatever others might think and say, I see potential, and, and my other colleagues at Tharwa Syria are more than wiling to invest in it. Much work lies ahead.