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Was Friday a Turning Point for Syria?

Posted: 07/25/11 12:07 AM ET

Friday, July 22nd, will be remembered by the world because of a terrible act of terrorism in Norway, the bombing outside the Prime Minister's office in Oslo and the shootings in Utoeya. Many died, and the country was terrorized, but history might miss what may be a more important story, with larger implications.

In Syria, July 22nd may be remembered as a turning point. There were massive demonstrations in every major region, and in every major city, in the country. At least 11 people died, in the latest chapter of Arab Spring. I liveblog the developments of Arab Spring almost every weekday, and today ranks in my memory as one of the most impressive days of defiance I've seen yet.

In EA Worldview's first video live-blog, Scott Lucas documented protests in Idlib in the northwest, Artouz (Damascus province), Binnish (northwest), a truly massive protest in Hama (claims of 650,000+ protesters in the streets), Aleppo, Saraqab (Idlib province), Qamishili (northeast), Horan (south), Kobanî (Ain Arab) and Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ain) in the Kurdish area of Syria, Kafr Nabl in the northwest, and the Midan section at the heart of Damascus.

In our second video special, we see more massive protests in the Midan and Al-Qadam districts of Damascus, the suburbs of Damascus (Tal Rifaat, Harasta), huge crowds in Deir Ez Zor, northeast Syria, where as many as 550,000 gathered, Zabadani (north of Damascus), Idlib (northwest), Halfaya (Hama province), Jableh on the coast, Al-Raqqa, Lattakia, Homs, and the largest protest in Hama we've seen yet.

In one of the most important videos from Friday, Syrian security bashes into the Amne Mosque in Aleppo, beating protesters. Perhaps even more important, the video posted below shows that military cadets joined the protesters in Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, a city that has been unable to foster a sustained protest movement, but a city that erupted in protest today.

While concerns have been mounting that Syria is approaching a sectarian civil war, the Local Coordinating Committees rejected this idea this week, and the youth of Latakia released a statement stating that the Assad regime wanted sectarian violence, but the the opposition in Syria needed to respect minorities and remain united.

Friday, the Syrian regime may have been counting on divisions between the Kurds and the Arabs to hinder protests in northeastern Syria, but they have miscalculated. Security forces have attempted to disrupt protests in both Qawalishi and Hassake. An eyewitness tells Al Jazeera English:

There were rumours that the Kurds would not protest today because of disagreements with other opposition groups on the issue of naming a future Syria, the Syrian Arab Republic... The regime was betting on cracks emerging between Arabs and Kurds, but today's demonstrations in the Kurdish areas prove that the Kurds still share the same united goals of the revolution.

The security forces have fled Hama and Deir Ez Zor, they are trying to quell the protests in Homs and around Damascus and Aleppo, but they are not succeeding. It is hard to imagine that the regime has any strongholds of significance left. Through crackdowns, and threats of sectarian violence, the protests have only grown in both scale, scope, and reach. To repeat the rhetorical questions I asked earlier on Friday; Where AREN'T they protesting in Syria?

Perhaps an even more pressing rhetorical question; How can the Assad regime possibly expect to survive this level of democratic upheaval?

Some of the text here was written while covering the live-blog at EA Worldview.

 

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