This post is designed to salute the Syrian Local Coordinating Committees (LCC) and to describe some important aspects of their work in organizing and running the peaceful freedom uprising in Syria. The two highest priorities of the LCC’s are to emphasize the peaceful and non-violent nature of the uprising and to actively battle all regime efforts to undermine the freedom struggle by sowing sectarian tension among Syrians. Their web site is located here: http://www.lccsyria.org/
The LCC runs a Facebook-based, virtually continuously updated news service with bulletins from all across Syria. The service also includes YouTube videos from all regions of Damascus and Syria. The statements note the number of protestors by date and area. This bilingual Arabic and English news service is an invaluable information source for Western analysts and supporters of the Syrian uprising.
The LCCs report a vast number of demonstrations just in the last 14 hours or so. The largest protests include: 20,000 in Deir Ezzer’s Tahrir Square, two separate protests of 5,000 each in Hama, several thousand people in the Khaldeyeh section of Homs at a funeral, 3,400 people in various suburbs of Damascus, and 1,500 people in the Damascus suburb of Madaya. These six large demonstrations alone involved around 38,000 people altogether in Deir Ezzer, Homs, Hama, and the Damascus surburbs. Smaller protests of 500-1,000 people each also occurred in in the eastern villages of Daraa and the Saraqeb area of Ildib province and 500 people in Alzawiya mountain in Idlib. The protests encompass rural and urban areas alike, thus overcoming the urban-rural divide. Two all-female protests included 500 girls at Ghernata school in Ghota district in Homs and also 300 women in the suburbs of Damascus. A small protest also occurred in the Almedan district of Aleppo. The scale of the protests reflects a profound challenge to a regime which is facing an increasing level of public discontent.
To mark the three-month anniversary of the uprising’s launch, the LCC issued a very strong statement against sectarianism located here at http://www.lccsyria.org/923. The LCC commended Syrians for working actively to overcome sectarian divisions which can impede the freedom struggle. The statement said,”Syrians have shown an unprecedented degree of awareness towards national unity and solidarity among people coming from different cities and towns or belonging to different religious or ethnic backgrounds.” The effort was devoted to overcoming divisions based upon region as well as religion and ethnicity.
The statement describes the significance of democratic principles for the Syrian freedom uprising and reflects a a desire to develop a multi-ethnic and multi-religious future for a democratic Syria. For instance, the statement said, “We are not struggling against one discrimination for another discrimination.” The statement notes the danger of overcoming one form of discrimination only to fall victim to another type of prejudice. The statement says,”We look forward creating democratic majorities and minorities that transcend sects and ethnicities within the framework of a civil state based on the aspirations and political programs, economic and social that wraps around the Syrian citizens.” Through their work, the Syrian LCC is putting forth a vision of a new kind of Syria. They aim to replace the Assad-led totalitarian regime which manipulates ethnic and religious differences in order to remain in power with a Western-style pluralistic system where majorities and minorities will be based upon political principles instead of ethnic and religious identities. The LCCs seek to overcome the kind of ethnic and religious divisions which have severely undermined the development of democratic institutions in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq.
As part of their resistance against sectarianism, the LCC issued a protest against sectarian riots in the city of Tripoli, Lebanon. They also declared their solidarity with the Lebanese and with Palestinian supporters of the Syrian uprising. They thanked the Palestinian residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp for shouting the slogan,”One, one, one - Syrians and Palestians are one."
The Syrian LCCs also continually emphasize the non-violent nature of their democratic struggle which they continually contrast with the barbaric crackdowns of the Syrian regime. The statement says,”Syrians have also shown a high degree of discipline by maintaining the pace of protests while maintaining the peaceful nature of their struggle towards a civil free and democratic Syria.” On June 16, they noted that their only weapon of resistance against the regime was “their bare chests.” Syrian democrats are indeed to be commended for running a highly efficient and also peaceful protest movement.
The LCC seeks to unify Syrians across not only regions but also professions. Thus, the LCCs issue continual statements from cities including Daraa, Hama, Homs, Idlib, Damascus, Lattakia, Douma, and Der Ezzer. In addition the LCCs have issued statements from physicians and students in Damascus. One statement on June 14, 2011, noted that 2,000 physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, and engineers participated in a protest against the regime in Hama. The statements are designed to refute the regime propaganda claiming that Assad is fighting armed opponents and to emphasize the peaceful nature of the protests. The protests would be even more effective if they included statements and actions of support from workers and merchants as well.
The LCCs included several statements specifically from members of the health professions. A statement of June 19, 2011, from the Damascus doctors included physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and hospital owners. –The statement declared,”We support our people demand in freedom, and liberty from this oppressive regime, and to be liberated from this regime and the inheritable power” This statement asks all their colleagues to “join the public uprising” and attacks the union for failing to support the freedom struggle.
The statement also describes how the regime is preventing doctors from doing their job of taking care of their patients. They showed that security forces did not allow them to remove bullets from the heads and chests of their protesting patients, thus murdering them. They described horrific incidents in which patients were publicly beaten to death in hospitals in front of doctors and the patients’ grieving parents. A regime which commit crimes like this has no moral right to remain in power. They said the regime was committing such horrendous acts of cruelty in public hospital settings that they had to flee the public hospitals and some of the private hospitals and cruelty.
On Thursday, June 16, 2011, doctors in Latakia stated that many patients were afraid to go to the national hospital to receive treatment for life-threatening bullet wounds because they feared they would be arrested at the hospital or deliberately denied health care which lead to their deaths. They said that two patients with bullet wounds were saved by being sent to private hospitals. On the other hand, 15 year old Bassel El-Turk and Abdullah Ali Shaabo were murdered twice by the regime: first by bullet wounds and then by deliberate denial of medical care. This policy of denying medical care to injured protestors reflects the regime’s total contempt for the sanctity of human life.
At least three physicians were arrested in early May for having provided life-saving health care to protestors: Dr. Mohammad Sheikh Ibrahim, Dr. Mohammad Ayrout and Dr. Ahmad Rabah Shaker. Another physician in Daraa, Dr. Tayseer Mohammad Al-Zouhby, was arrested for the third time on June 12 for participating in protests, caring for injured protestors, and reporting the dead bodies in the morgue at Daraa. These names should be much more widely known.
The regime also refused to provide ambulances to the people in Raml area of Lattakia on the bogus grounds that they could be used by ‘infiltrators’. The regime’s description of its peaceful internal opponents as ‘infiltrators’ also exhibits a sick irony. A regime which sent 90% of the suicide bombers who murdered tens of thousands of Shi’ite civilians in Iraq is now calling its opponents ‘infiltrators.’ This propanda tool is a great example of calling the kettle black.
One dramatic example of the inter-city coordination effort was the publicly broadcast offer by the people of Salamiyeh to donate blood to the people of Hama on Tuesday, June 21. The people of Salamiyeh also offered to take the Hama residents into their homes in case Hama was invaded by the Syrian army. The people of Salamiyeh saluted the Hama residents as follows: "We give you the best seats in the house while we sit on the side benches in your honour". The people of Salamiyeh have offered an inspiring example of their solidarity as fellow Syrians and human beings with the people of Hama.
The young men of Deir Ezzour sought to encourage army defections on a statement of June 15. They addressed “our brothers in the army” by reassuring the army members of their peaceful intentions. They saluted the courage of those army officers and soldiers who gave their lives for refusing to murder civilians, and they promised that they would not use force even if the army came to kill them. It is also very moving to see young men renouncing violence and adopting the strategy of peaceful resistance even at the cost of their lives.
They note the arrests of activists on a nearly up-to-date fashion as well. For instance, according to one bulletin,”The activist Anas Mohammad, also known as Anas Qatrun, was detained when he was trying to deliver food to the people of Jisr Alshughur.” The moral contrast between an activist who was arrested while trying to deliver food to a besieged city and a regime which deliberately starves and murders women and children is stark and unmistakable.
Activists are also beginning to adopt new tactics of civil disobedience. In the last 24 hours, the residents of Latakia declared that they will protest the siege against their city starting a partial civil disobedience campaign that involves refusal to pay all forms of taxes and a refusal to pay bills for water, electricity, and phone. The people of Lattakia are drawing a clear connection between the regime’s siege against them and their refusal to pay for services which they are currently being denied.
On June 13, people in the Douma suburb of Damascus announced a 4 week civil disobedience campaign. The first week’s campaign entails the same program as Lattakia people announced: non-payment of taxes and utility and phone bills. The second week includes closing accounts in government banks, a dangerous and brave step that could easily lead to arrests. The third step is a 3 day general strike and 4 days of home sit-in. The last stage is the full civil disobedience. These tactics are designed to exert economic pressure on the regime, and hopefully they will help to undermine the regime. On June 16, the people of Douma announced they are escalating their struggle by moving up the timeline. They planned the general strike to start last Saturday, June 18. The outcome and scale of this general strike in Douma is unclear.
The LCCs have performed impressive work in spreading information about the protests throughout Syria in a very timely fashion, emphasizing the peaceful and non-sectarian nature of the uprising, and exposing the regime’s atrocities against physicians, patients, and the Syrian people. They have also shown how protestors are adopting innovative civil disobedience tactics in their uprising. Their highly commendable work is helping the Syrian people to gradually liberate themselves from Assad’s tyranny and prepare a better, more democratic future for a post-Assad future.