Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Angry Arab's correspondent in Homs

So I asked Angry Arab's correspondent (protester) in Homs to comment on relations with `Alawites and about women, he answered (he asked me to remove some personal references to protect his safety):  "I don’t know what Shadid said. But do you mean are there checkpoints at which people are butchered according to their ID? Yes, from the shabihas side, but not from the thuwar. X was severely beaten up several times by the army just for being from Baba Amr. And his sister in law’s husband was kidnapped, and severely tortured to death. He was a taxi driver. Also, Y owns a store in a suburb of Homs. The guy he was renting it to was kidnapped and murdered, and SANA claimed that he was the leading funder of the “terrorists”. Y hadn’t received rent on the place for three months, the guy was so poor.
Y is a university student, and him and a hundred Homsi students were arrested, just for being from Homs. Thankfully they only spent a day in jail, but most of them needed medical aid when they came out.
So you see As’ad, this is just what happens to people I know. Multiply that by what happens in Homs, Latakia, Hama, Deir al Zour, Damascus country side, and a thousand other places that don’t make it to the news, and ask yourself what people’s feelings towards Alawites should be? They should have murder in their eyes when they hear the name Alawite, right? Well, amazingly, they don’t. Inevitably some extremists might take matters into their own hands, but so far I have been astonished by the Syrian people’s forbearance in the face of this unprecedented brutality. The regime wants to turn this into a sectarian war, and people in general have refused to oblige them...By the way, the latest Homsi joke is about the mazot shortage. You heard the phrase “Souria, Allah Hamiha”. Well, now its “Souria, Allah Emdafiha”...There are women in the demonstrations, but they always go out veiled to hide their identity. I know girls who usually don’t wear the veil but do so at demonstrations. There are quick women only demonstrations at the main commercial areas.
With regards to the chants, they haven’t changed much. Songs adapted to political slogans. Believe me, I have not once heard anything against Alawites or Christians, and it was only a couple of months ago that people started chanting “Khayen khayen khayen, el jaish el Souri khayen”.
As for organization, all I can tell you is what goes on in my own neighborhood. How do I know that the Ikhwan aren’t organizing the demos? Because they would be better organized if they were. Once at a Friday demo we tried to simulate the Syrian flag with colored pieces of cardboard. It took us half an hour just to get the red, white and black in the proper places. We didn’t even try to put the stars. Often I’ve seen disagreements on which chant to shout, and even on who the chant leader should be at any given moment. Half the time the video shots of the demos in my area aren’t very good.
I don’t know the people who organize the demos. I moved to my area at the start of the year, and I’ve deliberately kept a low profile so no one in my immediate area knows me too well. I’ve given numerous interviews to the BBC, and the last thing I need is some shabih recognizing my English accent. The only people who could possibly turn me in are close relatives, and if it’s come to that, then I give up on this whole freedom idea.
I am however, amazed at how quickly professional looking banners are printed for the occasion. It is only on Wednesday when the slogan for a particular Friday is decided. By Friday morning banners are printed and disturbed all over the city.
You mentioned on your website dodgy anti-regime videos. It’s the regime’s fault really, they don’t allow impartial press coverage, so there is no way to guarantee anything. Please remember that a video camera isn’t always around for most of the atrocities that happen in Homs."