Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘regime’

Brave Syrians Not Alone

Dear Friends,

This morning, 4 western journalists are home safe with their families, the echoes of the horror and heroism of Baba Amr still ringing in their ears. Over 50 Syrian activists, supported by Avaaz, volunteered to rescue them and scores of wounded civilians from the Syrian army’s killzone. Many of those incredible activists have not survived the week.

Abu Hanin is one of the heroes. He’s 26, a poet, and when his community needed him, he took the lead in organizing the citizen journalists that Avaaz has supported to help the voices of Syrians reach the world. The last contact with Abu Hanin was on Thursday, as regime troops closed in on his location. He read his last will and testament to the Avaaz team in Beirut, and told us where he had buried the bodies of the two western journalists killed in the shelling. Since then, his neighborhood of Baba Amr has been a black hole, and we still don’t know his fate.

It’s easy to despair when seeing Syria today, but to honour the dead, we must carry forward the hope they died with. As Baba Amr went dark and fears of massacre spread, Syrians took to the streets — yet again — across the country, in a peaceful protest that showed staggering bravery.

Their bravery is our lesson, the gift of the Syrian people to the rest of us. Because in their spirit, in their courage to face the worst darkness our world has to offer, a new world is being born.

And in that new world, the Syrian people are not alone. Millions of us from every nation have stood with them time and time again, right from the beginning of their struggle. Nearly 75,000 of us have donated almost $3 million to fund people-powered movements and deliver high-tech communications equipment to help them tell their story, and enable the Avaaz team to help smuggle in over $2 million worth of medical supplies. We’ve taken millions of online actions to push for action from the Security Council and the Arab League and for sanctions from many countries, and delivered those online campaigns in dozens of stunts, media campaigns and high-level advocacy meetings with top world leaders. Together we’ve helped win many of these battles, including for unprecedented action by the Arab League, and oil sanctions from Europe.

Our team in Beirut has also provided a valuable communications hub for brave and skilled activists to coordinate complex smuggling operations and the rescue of the wounded and the journalists. Avaaz does not direct these activities, but we facilitate, support and advise. We have also established safe houses for activists, and supported the outreach and diplomatic engagement of the Syrian National Council — the opposition movement’s fledgling political representative body. Much of the world’s major media have covered Avaaz’s work to help the Syrian people, including features on BBC, CNN, El Pais, TIME, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, AFP and many more, citing our “central role” in the Syrian peaceful protest movement.

Today, a dozen more nightmares like that visited on the city of Homs are unfolding across Syria. The situation will get worse before it gets better. It will be bloody, and complicated, and as some protesters take up arms to defend themselves, the line between right and wrong will blur. But President Assad’s brutal regime will fall, and there will be peace, and elections, and accountability. The Syrian people simply will not stop until that happens — and it may happen sooner than we all think.

Every expert told us at the beginning that an uprising in Syria was unthinkable. But we sent in satellite communications equipment anyway. Because our community knows something that the experts and cynics don’t — that people power and a new spirit of citizenship are sweeping our world today, and they are fearless, and unstoppable, and will bring hope to the darkest places. Marie Colvin, an American journalist covering the violence in Homs, told Avaaz before she died, “I’m not leaving these people.” And neither will we.

With hope, and admiration for the Syrian people and courageous citizens everywhere,

Ricken, Wissam, Stephanie, Alice, David, Antonia, Will, Sam, Emma, Wen-Hua, Veronique and the whole Avaaz team.

Help the Syrian People Now

Dear Friends,

This urgent video appeal just came in from one of Avaaz’s brave citizen journalists in Syria — our community may be the only one that can help Danny and his friends before the next massacre.

Right now, the regime is murdering men, women and children and tearing cities apart. China and Russia just handcuffed international action at the UN and gave Assad license to unleash his murder machine to crush the Syrian Spring once and for all. But Danny and the democracy movement are more determined than ever and are urgently asking for our continued international solidarity and support.

Let’s be clear — as embassies close, medical agencies withdraw and journalists pull out, Avaaz has the only network that is both smuggling medical equipment and journalists in and images and information out. The UN has failed, but we can help peaceful democracy heroes like Danny loosen the dictator’s grip on their country. Click here to see Danny’s appeal and chip in now so we can continue our Arab spring campaigning and support for citizen journalists — if 20,000 of us donate now, we can get aid to the most besieged cities and towns before the next attack:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/smuggle_hope_into_syria_q/?vl

Activists like Danny are risking their lives for freedom and counting on our global support. On Saturday, Syria’s brutal forces killed another one of Avaaz’s citizen journalists, a 23-year-old named Omar who was a leader of our 400-strong network of activists as he pulled people from the rubble after a deadly massacre in Homs. Omar died as he lived, photographing the regime’s crimes, helping others and sacrificing for freedom. After the regime kicked the international media out, brave civilians like Danny and Omar have risked their lives to break the news blackout and help 18 of the world’s leading journalists from foreign news outlets into the locked-down country. It’s likely that the images you have seen on your TV or photographs in your newspaper came from this courageous team.

But that is just a part of what the Avaaz project has done. Thanks to the generous support of members across the world, Avaaz is providing a rare lifeline of critical support to the democracy movement in Syria. When activists told us medicines were running out, we set up a smuggling network to deliver over $1.8 million worth of medical equipment into the country, saving thousands of lives. When the Syrian National Council was struggling to present a credible leadership alternative to the world, we organized meetings in the UN, Russia and across Europe to support their work.

Day after day, Danny and Omar and hundreds of other heroes have turned out to film and protest, facing down tanks with no support from international governments. But what happens in the next two weeks will be decisive. This is the pinnacle of the Arab Spring and the global struggle against brutal despots. Together we can secure a lifeblood to the resistance and walk with the brave Syrian people on their journey to freedom. Click to watch Danny’s desperate appeal and make a life-saving donation now:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/smuggle_hope_into_syria_q/?vl

This year people power in the Middle East has taught the world an important lesson — together we are stronger than the fiercest dictator, and fiercer than the most ruthless army. On the streets of Syria, Avaaz is a beloved partner in the struggle for freedom. As one opposition leader put it, “the Syrian people have gained strength from knowing that the world, through the Avaaz community, stands with them.” Together, we have made the impossible possible and with our help Assad’s regime will come to end.

With hope and determination,

Alice, Ian, Antonia, Emma, Ricken, Mouhamad, Morgan, Wissam, Sam, Bissan, Will and the entire Avaaz team

Nonviolence in Syria

From Nation of Change
by Stephen Zunes
1 February 2012

Unarmed Resistance Still Syria’s Best Hope

The Syrian pro-democracy struggle has been both an enormous tragedy and a powerful inspiration. Indeed, as someone who has studied mass nonviolent civil insurrections in dozens of countries in recent decades, I know of no people who have demonstrated such courage and tenacity in the face of such savage repression as have the people of Syria these past 10 months.

The resulting decline in the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad’s government gives hope that the opposition will eventually win. The question is how many more lives will be lost until then.

While the repressive nature of regime has never been in question, many observers believed it would be smarter and more nuanced in its reaction when the protests of the Arab Spring first came to Syria in March. Indeed, had the government responded to the initial demonstrations like those of Morocco and neighboring Jordan with genuine (if relatively minor) reforms and more subtle means of crowd control, the pro-democracy struggle would have probably faded rather quickly.

Instead, the regime has responded with live ammunition against overwhelmingly nonviolent demonstrators and with widespread torture and abuse of detainees, even as the protests spread to every major region of the country. The death toll as of this writing now stands at more than 5,000.

Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the opposition was relatively united and was able to take advantage of divisions within the ruling circles, the elites in Syria have been united against a divided opposition. Decades of human rights abuses, sectarian divisions, suppression of independent civil society institutions, ubiquitous secret police, and an overall culture of fear have made it difficult to build a unified opposition movement. Furthermore, the Israeli occupation of the southwestern region of the country, foreign invasions and occupations of neighboring Lebanon and Iraq, and periodic threats by Turkey, Israel and the United States have allowed the nationalistic regime to further solidify its control.

Another difference is that Assad is not a singular ruler, but part of a powerful oligarchy composed of top military officers, wealthy businessmen, Baath Party officials and others. Dictatorships that rest primarily on the power of just one man are generally more vulnerable in the face of popular revolt than are oligarchical systems where a broader network of elite interests has a stake in the system.

Syria has not had much experience in democracy. Its brief democratic period following independence was aborted by a CIA-supported coup in 1949. Following two decades of coups, countercoups, a brief union with Egypt, and chronic political instability, Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970 and ruled until his death in 2000. Despite that the republican Baath movement was founded in large part on opposition to dynastic succession so common in the Arab world, Assad was succeeded by his son Bashar. The younger Assad, while allowing for an initial wave of liberalization upon first coming to power, soon cracked down on dissent. Indeed, the only liberalization subsequently has been on the economic front, and that has primarily benefited only a minority of Syrians and greatly increased social inequality.

Read complete story at Nation of Change.

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