North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fear now stalking Syrian people

A Syrian mother of six who opened the door to a secret policeman in the border town of Deraa just had time to scream "Israelis are more merciful than you" before he shot her dead, relatives said .... so reported Reuters today, as the Syrian government headed by Bashir Assad began to savagely repress protests in several of its cities.

Um Omar, 42, was buried in her own backyard -- Muslim tradition barred putting her body among 22 male corpses kept in a refrigerator truck awaiting burial. "They have no fear of God. As Um Omar said before she died, if we had Israelis besieging Deraa, they would be more merciful," said her cousin Ibrahim, 52, from the Masalmah tribe.

Tanks from an unit headed by Bashir Assad's brother, have been sent to Deraa

Enraged residents say at least 40 tanks of the ultra-loyal Fourth Mechanised Brigade, commanded by Assad's brother Maher, have deployed in Deraa, near the border with Jordan. As the army siege enters its fourth day, the town is in lockdown. Snipers are prepared to shoot anyone venturing into the streets. Few risk going to the local state hospital, now occupied by troops, as residents say hundreds of people wounded during six weeks of protests have been taken into custody from the hospital. Secret police are also said to be whisking bodies out of the morgue to prevent funerals that might spark further unrest. Even the pharmacy store shelves across the city have been emptied of basic medicines by Assad's loyal forces to prevent treatment.

The early mass protests in various Syrian cities are now in danger of becoming a thing of the past. Syrians place their lives at risk to congregate.

More than 450 people have allegedly been killed since the pro-democracy protests began nearly six weeks ago. However, even as the control tightens, cracks in Syria's ruling elite are seen. 200 Baathist party members have resigned in protest over the government crackdown (though as there are an estimated 1 million party members, it is relative). Perhaps of more importance are reports surfacing of some soldiers refusing to fire on protestors, along with instances - unconfirmed - that some refusing to obey orders have been executed on site (vague similarity to the account of deserters within Wehrmacht army in the 1940s, being memorialized today). The majority of troops are Sunni Muslims, but most officers belong to the same minority Alawite sect as Assad.

Another article noted that Assad's decision to storm Deraa echoed his father's 1982 attack on the city of Hama to crush an uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Up to 30,000 people were killed at that time, and Deraa residents are asking whether another Hama is emerging.

(Click on image below for full view)
Syrian map showing the city of Hama[h] in the north where a large massacre once occurred and the city of Deraa (Daraa) in the very south, now "out of sight" from the world's eyes.

Stepping away from the up-front horror of violent repression, a deeply divided UN Security Council failed to agree on even a mild EU-proposed statement condemning Syria's violent crackdown against protesters. The draft proposed by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal was opposed by several within the 15-member council. Russia insisted that events in Syria did not constitute a threat to international peace. China and India called for political dialogue and peaceful resolution of the crisis, but stopped short of condemning the violence.

The UN Security Council will be headed by Turkey in June 2011, which has recently placed some proposals before Syria as a way out of its repressive predicament.

In another irony, a vote in three weeks (May 20) could place Syria on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Despite U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling for an independent investigation into the Syrian crackdown, he is apparently not yet contemplating doing much about blocking Syria’s path to the position.

(Click on image below for full view)
The UN Human Rights Council meets in a room with a striking ceiling. The Council's record of outrageous declarations and arguments, along with the makeup of its members, is regularly (and unfortunately) pointed to as an example of UN hypocrisy and irrelevance.

"That's not really for the secretary general to suggest to a member state," said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the secretary-general, when asked if the U.N. chief would ask Syria to drop out of the running for the post. Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian human rights activist based in Washington, called on the secretary-general "to have a greater sense of decency and courage, and to realize that his position gives him a certain moral authority and puts him exactly in the position to tell the Assads that their candidacy at this stage is unwelcome."

Points of modern Syrian history

Granted independence from France in 1944, Syria remained unstable for decades (though not unstable enough to prevent it waging two wars with Israel in 1948 and 1967) with a series of coups and counter coups until Hafez al-Assad emerged as the strong man and eventual dictator, ruling from 1970 to 2000. The country cultivated close links with Iraq, with a vaguely similar Baathist party doctrine as the basis of governance in front of one man power. Syria dominated its small neighbor Lebanon for decades, culminating with it being accused of assassinating Rafik Hariri in 2005 who was leading Lebanon on a more democratic path. Currently it is a strong supporter of Hezbollah in Lebanon as its proxy. (See January 19, 2011 Lebanese focus in this blog)

A reminder in Syria's Golan Heights of its record of conflict with Israel.

Bashir Assad, son of Hafez, and another example of a family elite retaining dictatorial power through the generations, maintains close ties with Iran. Last October in Tehran, he was awarded with Iran's highest national medal by his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Bashir, friend of Ahmadinejad, receiving a high award in Iran.

The ordinary people of Syria, in essence, haven't had a "voice" for decades, and if it is to surface, it appears that much more violence and bloodshed will accompany it.


Teatree said...

PS - remember that Fridays are volatile in the Muslim world. The faithful gather in mosques, clerics communicate, and the followers then head for the streets. Tomorrow is probably no different. A reporter writes, "Syrian activists are calling for further popular protests ...
Among those reported to be joining the appeal to stage a "day of rage" were the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

Demonstrations expected after Friday prayers would express solidarity with the city of Deraa..."

Sarah said...

Wow. once again, thanks for a broader view, even though it's horrifying. Yep, I think that's the right word.