LATEST: Video — Raqqa Sit-In Condemns Kidnappings by Islamic State of Iraq
We start Saturday with the question, “Where Did the Protests Go?”
For more than two years, Fridays in the Syrian conflict were marked by the numerous protests across the country — some of them drawing many thousands of people — against the Assad regime. We could choose from dozens of videos to post features on the range of demonstrations, with iconic markers like the posters of Kafranbel in Idlib Province.
Now the footage is relatively sparse and the news of rallies scattered. The Local Coordination Committees, which used to record the number of demonstrations — sometimes reaching several hundred — no longer bother to do so. Instead, they post the figures for casualties, points of shellings, and conflict between insurgents and regime forces.
In those numbers is part of the answer to our question: the protests have been disrupted and often suppressed by attacks and military stalemate. There are further explanations — for example, the demonstrations we used to see across Syrian Kurdistan have been replaced in part by the new battle-front between the Kurdish militia YPG and the insurgency. Trying to survive has become even more difficult in some areas with shortages of food and basic provisions.
And, for me, the question: have fatigue and disillusionment sapped the strength from the drive to challenge the regime over the fundamentals of rights and respect?
A rally on Friday in Kafar Zeta in Homs Province:
Footage has been posted of residents of Raqqa, the largest city held by insurgents, criticising abductions by the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.
Highlighted cases included that of Father Paolo, the Italian Jesuit priest who went missing after a meeting with the Islamist group last week. Conflicting reports dispute whether he has been kidnapped or whether he is acting as a mediator between the ISI and other factions. The opposition Syrian National Coalition criticized ISIS on Saturday over the “kidnapping”.
Two days after insurgents attacked what they claimed was a regime arms depot adjacent to the pro-regime neighborhood of Wadi Al Zahab in Homs, State media on Friday report a visit by regime officials to inspect the area.
SANA reports that the facility hit by insurgents was a “technical service building”, without offering more explanation as to what such a facility could be. This is the first time that State media has referred to any specific facility in the area being hit in the insurgent attack.
SANA cites the governor of Homs, Talal al-Barazi as indicating that morale in the pro-regime area is high:
During a tour to inspect the damage caused to the southern entrance of Homs, the technical service center and Wadi al-Dahab neighborhood after being targeted by terrorists’ shells on Thursday, the governor said that the employees’ insistence to be at their workplaces is an indication of their high sense of responsibility.
Barazi said the regime is working to reconstruct the area and that “maintenance workshops are working at full speed to rehabilitate the technical service building so as to be ready by Sunday”.
SANA show photographs of bulldozers in the residential section of Wadi Al Zahab — but not of the “technical service building” — and also of a visit by Barazai to local hospitals to visit those wounded in the attack. SANA does not say how many people were wounded or refer to any deaths.
The report almost buries another telling piece of information:
[Barazi] pointed out that there will be a mobile field hospital in Homs within 15 days to offer medical services to citizens.
Barazi does not say whether the field hospital will be in Wadi Al Zahab — which would indicate that local hospitals are overstretched and casualty figures were higher than the the regime has admitted — of whether it will be stationed in another, previously insurgent-held area of the city.
A Lebanese security official has said that at least nine people have been killed and nine have been wounded by a Syrian warplane near the border with Lebanon.
The dead were in the insurgent-held town of Yabroud just across the border from Arsal in northeast Lebanon.
Many Syrians fled to Yabroud this spring from Qusayr, captured by regime forces in June.
Ramazan Zeybel, a Turkish man, was killed Saturday by a stray bullet fired from across the Syrian border.
Zeybel died in hospital in Ceylanpinar, which lies across the border from the town of Ras al-Ain where the Kurdish militia YPG has been fighting Syrian insurgents in recent weeks.
Four Turkish civilians have been killed by cross-border fire in that time.
One phenomenon that has emerged and developed during the course of the Syrian conflict is the concept of the “embedded citizen journalist”, activists who follow the FSA and document not only the fighting, but also tell and to some extent mythologize insurgent victories. Many of these videos are not straight journalism, even though they document events, because they are given a particular ideological slant or are used to disseminate a particular message, including to push back against regime media propaganda.
The phenomenon and style is particularly strong in Daraa province, where the media activist Abdelnasser Abo Gamal operates, and also the Nawa Media Office.
This video, created by the Nawa Media Office, tells the story of the Battle of Nawa — the capture of the city in July and the insurgent defeat over regime forces. The story is told by one of the field commanders, who shows us where the regime forces had been stationed in the city. To help set the scene, we are shown the FSA positions, behind walls of sandbags, and pro-regime graffiti “Souria Al-Assad” on one wall.
The bearded commander — who is not wearing a uniform but is clad in a kaffiyeh to show he is an ordinary Syrian — shows us just what the insurgents had been up against — he pours used cartridges from a bag onto the floor.
The video ends with an emotive speech by the commander, who says the FSA is the Syrian people.
Another Side Of The “Media Mujahideen” — Activist Video Tribute To Civilians Killed In Al Wa’er, Homs
Our last update looked at a promotional video activists created about the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, an example of the role of the “media mujahideen” in using audiovisual media to express and disseminate certain ideological concepts.
The video in this post — also labelled a “promo” — is quite a different example of the concept of “media mujahideen”. Rather than — as many other activists do on a daily basis — documenting deaths as citizen journalists, by filming corpses and funerals, this video is conceptual and is intended as a moving tribute to those civilians, including children, killed by regime forces in the conflict, specifically in the Al Wa’er neighborhood of Homs.
[Viewer discretion — video contains images of people killed in the conflict]
Alongside creating footage of insurgent factions in action on the battlefield, some groups — particularly Islamist factions — have created promotional videos that show off their activities, both military and in local communities.
This video, posted by a Homs activist on Friday, is a “promo” for a Jabhat al-Nusra training camp. The video, set to a soundtrack, shows scenes of balaclava-clad men training in various military skills both in the field and in a classroom setting, by watching training films and writing notes.
The Local Coordination Committees claim 88 people were killed on Friday, including 31 in Damascus and its suburbs, 20 in Idlib Province, and 13 in Daraa Province.
The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 68,338 since the start of the conflict, a rise of 128 since Friday. Of these, 51,872 are civilians, an increase of 85 from yesterday.