Beyond the Days of Rage in Syria
Syria, like Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and all the other countries in the Middle East region, is plagued by poverty, unemployment, lack of human rights and corruption, and has been experiencing high price increases on staple commodities such as bread and oil.
It is primarily because of these conditions that anti-government protests in the Middle East began to sweep across the whole region. Inspired by the social media revolutions pioneered by Tunisian and Egyptian protesters, Syrians used Facebook and Twitter to call for their own Day of Rage to take place on February 5th in the capital Damascus.
This online social media campaign simply coined as “Syria’s Day of Rage” went viral over the internet promoting and calling out for an organized anti-government demonstration These protests, organized on Twitter and Facebook pages as “The Syrian Revolution 2011” collected thousands of supporters at these social networking sites.
Facebook had been banned in Syria, which didn’t stop people from using proxy servers over the years to still gain access to this massive networking site. Facebook has helped spread the word to the press, people, of the growing turmoil and cries for reform from the current regime of President Bashar Assad. Overall, the protests in the Middle East could be greatly attributed to the success and access of the people to social media and here in Syria they took advantage of this opportunity made available to them through social media.
The Assad Family ruled Syria for well over 40 years. The current president Bashar Assad, took over the throne of his late father who died in 2000. Bashar, only 34 years old at the time, is a British-trained ophthalmologist who is known by people close to him for his fondness of the internet and photography. Originally, he didn’t want to assume the presidency, but when his older brother Bassel was killed in a car accident, he took over as president.
To date, Syria’s authoritarian president has resisted calls for political freedoms and jailed all critics of his regime. President Bashar has slowly moved to lift Soviet-style economic restrictions by letting in foreign banks, creating imports and further empowering the private sector. However, his failure to match economic reform with liberal political reforms and his continued repression of critics of the regime by imprisoning them created outcry from international human rights groups.
The Day of Rage
On the actual Day of Rage, it was raining and there was not a single protester in sight. What seemed to have garnered massive support on the social media sites resulted in no shows on the actual day. Statements taken from the streets that day all pointed to the notion that Syrians didn’t want the type of violence that had occurred in Egypt.
Plain clothed security forces and a handful of hopeful journalist waiting for the scoop of their career were the only people gathered at the parliament building in Damascus as protesters failed to respond to the calls of protest in the Syrian capital. A Syrian activist said “The Security forces have effectively suppressed civil society and scared people into submission”. The mukhabarat – the Syrian secret police stepped up their activities during the week prior to the planned “Day of Rage” intimidating the population by breaking up small gatherings, and warning people against protesting.
Syria’s president, Basher al-Assad said “that protest were unlikely to occur as there is no gap between the government and the general population. “You have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue,’’ he said. We could argue that the increase in security as well as closely monitoring the streets only enforced his statement into reality.
Syrian news update
Protests and violent clashes between Syrian forces and demonstrators have occurred in the city of Deraa. More protests have occurred in the surrounding towns of Deraa. It is reported that some 20,000 people were marching on the streets in Deraa. At least 20 people have been shot and killed by security forces who opened fire on the demonstrators. The numbers of those killed are difficult to confirm at this point in time.
Mass arrests occurred after the protests.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad is promising reforms in an effort to halt the demonstrations, however, the same sort of reforms were promised in 2005 but nothing materialized. Syria has existed under a state of emergency since 1963.
This amateur video from YouTube shows the escalating violent confrontations between protesters and the security forces in Syria.
Tagged as: Bashar al-Assad, Deraa, Facebook, social media, Syria, Syrian protests, Twitter
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