Syria Update September 15, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Current death toll: 141 including 86 unarmed civilians.
After meeting with Bashar al-Assad (see below) Lakhdar Brahimi said that the Syrian crisis is deteriorating and poses a threat to the region and the world. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19609358 or
Defections: Youssef al-Assad, presumably of the Assad family is seen here defecting from the Syrian military. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QEqepcnZUk
Bashar al-Assad called for dialogue for Syrians today in the presence of Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League Special Envoy. It is not clear if dialogue is actually what he has in mind as he said “The real problem in Syria is that of combining politics with the work being done on the ground. The political work continues, in particular by calling for dialogue between Syrians based on the aspirations of all Syrians. The success of political action is dependent on putting pressure on the countries that finance and train the terrorists, and which bring weapons into Syria, until they stop doing so.”
Aleppo province: The Syrian military shelled Sakhour, Hanano and al-Salhin using helicopters in the first two mentioned neighborhoods. Clashes between the Syrian military and the opposition took place at the entrances to the Bustan al-Basha neighborhood. A Syrian military helicopter targeted an automobile in the al-Layramoun neighborhood, destroying it.
Despite being in a conflict zone, the Aleppo International Photo Exhibit opened today.
Syrian military forces shelled Darat Izza today killing 4 children and one woman. The Syrian military shelled al-Bab, Qubtan al-Jabal, Turkman Bareh, Darat Izza, Ikhtrin, Anadan, al-Atarib and Ra’el. 1 civilian was killed in Anadan. Overnight aerial bombings hit al-Bab killing 12 and injuring 60.
Damascus province: Many Syrian military troops moved into the al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood from different entry points including the 30th street from Yarmouk camp. Helicopters pounded the neighborhood which had been shelled since the morning, killing 8: 3 civilians, including a woman and a child, and 5 opposition fighters including a Palestinian. The Syrian military carried out raids and arrests in the neighborhood of Nahr `A’isha. The Syrian military bombarded the al-Madniya area of the Qadam neighborhood in al-Qadam. The Syrian military shelled the Asali neighborhood. A protest began in al-Yarmouk camp and the Syrian military fired live rounds at the protesters, seriously wounding a Palestinian protester. Twenty unidentified bodies, including one woman were discovered in the Tadamon neighborhood of Damascus. Six unidentified corpses who had been shot to death were found in al-Jobar neighborhood. Four Syrian troops were killed in an IED explosion. The IED had been placed near the Bur Saeed circle.
Gunfire was reported at midday in the city of Qatana. Two civilians were killed there in a drive-by shooting. Syrian government forces were preent throughout this town. One civilian in Jisreen was killed when a rocket hit his home. One man and his sixteen year old child were killed by the Syrian regime forces who detained them at noon.
Anti-regime protests took place in the city of Harasta. under bombardment.
Dara`a province: Violent clashes took place between rebel fighters and regime forces. The regime forces were attempting to storm the al-Lijah where opposition bases are located. The Syrian military bombarded the towns of al-Kark al-Sharqi and al-Mzeyrib.
Syrian military helicopters shelled Shaykh Maskeen today. Syrian fighter jets shelled Dael today.
Deir Izzor province: The Syrian military shelled the city of Deir az-Zur today, killing a 14 year old child.
The regime forces also shelled neighborhoods of al-Boukamal.
Homs Province: Two civilians, one a child from al-Qseir died of their wounds from the shelling of that city. The Syrian military shelled al-Hula, Qal`at al-Husun and al-Rastan.
Idlib Province: Clashes between the Syrian military and the opposition took place during the day in the city of Idlib, and also at night. The regime forces were firing heavy machine weaponry.
The Syrian military killed 4 civilians, including a woman in shelling on the al-Dana village. The Syrian military shelled the village of Basnqul, killing two including a woman. One person who had been wounded in shelling on the town of Kafrouma died of his wounds today. The Syrian military shelled the village of al-A’uja the town of Sarmin, and the city of Ma`arat al-Nu`man. The Syrian military also shelled the towns of al-Hbeit, Taftanaz and the village of Bsheiriyya in Jusr al-Shughur.
Lebanon: Syrian military forces crossed the border into Lebanon’s Biqa`a Valley and shelled three farms today. Border villages in the north, like Minjez are also being shelled.
International: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Russia was not “clinging to any leader” but also that his country would block any new United Nations’ Security Council efforts to pressure Assad (AFP)
Kofi Annan, former U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria admitted in an interview with Le Monde that the international community had failed in its efforts to deal with the crisis in Syria. http://thelevantpost.com/politics/bid-to-end-crisis-in-syria-has-failed-annan-tells-le-monde-4417/
Armenian President, Sergh Sargsyan discussed the situation of Syrian-Armenians today and called for readiness to assist them. http://www.tert.am/en/news/2012/09/15/serzh-sargsyan-syrian-armenians/
Mahmoud Ghozian, spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood denies that the organization has sent weapons and fighters to Syria to join the Free Syrian Army. Some media reports and rumors have claimed that 20 Egyptians joined the FSA. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/brotherhood-denies-reports-sending-soldiers-weapons-syria
Among Syria’s Creative Figures:
Muhammad al-Maghut, poet, noted for his free verse (1934 -2006) born in Salamiyya to an Isma’ili family.
Nizar al-Qabbani, 1923-1998, born in Damascus. His sister, ten years his senior, committed suicide rather than marry a man she did not love and the theme of women’s oppression entered his work as a poet, whose work sharply criticized Arab society and politics of his time. He was also a diplomat and a publisher.
Zakariyya Tamir, born in 1931 in Damascus, famed for short stories, for adults and children. He supports the Syrian revolution and hopes that Syria will be liberated from “tyranny and horror.” http://freesyriantranslators.net/2012/07/22/a-dialogue-with-zakaria-tamer-2/
Ali Farzat, born in 1951 in Hama, a cartoonist. He was attacked by thugs who broke his hands. He is on Facebook and his cartoons of “Highlander” comment on Syria.
Duraid Lahham born in 1934 in Damascus. A comedian and director known for his character, “Ghawwar al-Toushe.” He was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 and is considered to be a supporter of Bashar al-Assad and not of the opposition.
Farid al-Atrash, 1910 – 1974 was born in Suwayda to a Druze family associated with the independence struggle against the French. He became a composer, master oudist, singer and film star in Egypt, starring in 31 movies and recording more than 500 songs.
Asmahan. (Amal al-Atrash) 1912 (or 1915) – 1944 was born at sea as her family traveled from Turkey to Beirut. Sister of Farid al-Atrash, she became a renowned singer of Arabic compositions and an actress in Egypt and challenged conservative attitudes about women with her artistic life-style. Her musical talent was considered to rival that of Umm Kulthum and she sang the compositions of al-Qasabji, Riyadh al-Sunbati, her brother, Farid al-Atrash and others.
Assala Nasri, born in 1969 in Damascus as the daughter of a Syrian composer, Mostafa Nasri. She has produced 23 albums and many singles including “Ah, law ha-l kursi bye7ki” and has a dramatic and powerful singing style. She supports the Syrian revolution.
Sabah Fakhri, born in 1933 in Aleppo is perhaps the greatest traditional-style singer of the Eastern Arab world, of muwashahhat and qudud Halabiyya. He did not follow the typical musical path of pursuing a singing career in Egypt.
Mayada al-Hinnawi, born in 1957 in Aleppo. A great singer whose popularity peaked in the 1980s. She sang the compositions of Baligh Hamdi, Riyadg Sunbati, Mohammad Sultan, Hilmy Baker and others.
Yasin al-Hajj Saleh, born in 1961, an author jailed when he was in his 20’s in 1980 until 1996. He began writing in prison in 1988. He published With Salvation O’Youth: 16 Years in Syrian Prison (al-Saqi, 2012). http://www.aljadid.com/content/yassin-al-haj-saleh’s-taming-syrian-prison’s-beast
Nihad Sirees, novelist, author of The Silence and the Roar. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7006/writing-revolution-and-change-in-syria_an-intervie
Saadallah Wannous, 1941 – 1997, a playwright born in Hussein al-Bahr near Tartus. His writing career began in the early 1960s. He introduced a “theater of politicization,” helped to found the Arab Festival for Theater Arts and the Higher Institute for Theater Arts (where he taught).
George Wassouf, born in Kafroun, Tartus in 1961, is a popular singer of Arabic music with more than 30 albums releaed. He has supported Bashar al-Assad and has been criticized for praising the Syrian army.
Issa Touma is a photographer, curator and director of Le Pont Organization, who supports the revolution. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/5/25/38262/Arts–Culture/Visual-Art/Art-sees-light-within-the-Syrian-Revolution.aspx
Some of the Syrian visual artists whose works include protest: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/14/152496317/even-under-threat-syrian-artists-paint-in-protest
Basic Facts about Syria:
A brief chronology of events of the last century in Syria – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14703995
Population: 22,530,746 Ethnicities: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Isma`iliyya, Druze) 16%, Christian 10%, Jewish (very small numbers).
Human Rights Situation in Syria 2012: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-syria
GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011) GDP: $64.7 billion GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011)
Unemployment: 8.3% Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 19.1% (female unemployment in that age category is 49.1%
Internet Users: 4.469 million (2009)Exchange Rate: 46.456 Syrian pounds per US dollar
Military Expenditures: 5.9% of GDP (2005)
Population Growth Rate: -0797.% (since the conflict)
Population Age Structure: 0-14 years: 35.2%; 15-64 years: 61%; 65 years and over: 3.8%
Literacy: male 86% female 73.6%
Urban Population: 56% of total (2010)
Syrian Arab Army (prior to the conflict) 220,000 regular and 280,000 reserves. Of the 200,000 career soldiers, 140,000 are Alawi.
Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.