Syria Update, November 3, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Early death toll: 82
Friday’s death toll: More than 200 including 74 unarmed civilians.
On Friday, Syrians in various parts of the country demonstrated and protested against the Bashar al-Assad regime and called for freedom. One protest sign in KafrAnbel read: “It is not a civil war. It’s a genocide. Leave us [to] die, but do not lie”. The Syrian opposition has taken control of an area where the highways from Aleppo to Damascus and Aleppo to Latakia and the Mediterranean coast meet, impacting the Syrian military’s ability to resupply its troops in Aleppo. As the Syrian military retreated from their last position in the Saraqeb area, that means the opposition hold an area of about 15 miles (25 kilometers) around the town. The opposition had first seized Ma`arat al-Nu`man on October 8th.
The U.S. announcements regarding its backing of a new opposition entity and implied or explicit criticisms of the Syrian National Council have caused some confusion. Also (see below) a contingent of the opposition met in Amman ahead of the Doha meeting. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/02/4957906/us-move-to-de-recognize-syrian.html
Aleppo province: The bodies of 26 persons were discovered in the al-Amriyya neighborhood and Jami`at al-Muhandisin yesterday.
The opposition took control of the Aleppo-Latakiyya road (see above).
An Aleppo hospital is overwhelmed by trauma victims. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17258397
Damascus province: A car bomb exploded in Ma`adamiyat ash-Sham.
The opposition has taken three military positions in Duma. Yesterday, the Syrian military shelled Duma killing 4 and injuring many. Also, yesterday, 7 Syrian opposition troops were killed as they attempted to take over a municipality building in Duma. Yesterday, two explosions took place in al-Zahra, apparently car bombs which killed 16 according to state television. This was followed by an invasion of Syrian military forces. The Syrian military began a campaign of arrests in Karam al-Joura. 17 bodies were found in Tadamon.
Dara`a province: The Syrian military shelled Da’el yesterday in the early evening and they shelled the neighborhood of al-Saad in Dara`a.
Deir az-Zur province: The FSA shot down a Syrian warplane near Mouhassan yesterday. The Syrian military killed 8 persons in air bombardments in Gharaneej. The Syrian military shelled Karamish causing casualties and injuries.
Homs province: Yesterday, the Syrian military was engaged in clashes with the opposition and shelling in the neighborhoods of Jobar, al-Sultaniyya, and the towns of Mubarakieh and as-Saan, and Nabl and Nakirah.
Idlib province: An offensive began by the opposition against the Syrian military at the Taftanaz air base. The Syrian military have fiercely responded and sent an armed convoy to help defend the base. The rebels, although they possess limited missiles, are essentially without defense against the regime’s air attacks. This air base can be used only by helicopters and devastating attacks have come from here using barrel bombs on civilian areas. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/11/201211391048764834.html
This video shows the opposition launching missiles against Taftanaz
Clashes broke out today in the town of Frika.
The opposition took over the Hmeisho checkpoint west of Saraqeb, and executed 8 Syrian military, after physically abusing them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_ttA71FTB8&feature=plcp&bpctr=1351954370
In clashes at Qal`at Harem, the Syrian military killed 15 year-old Nour Eddin Habash. At noon on Friday, it was reported that the opposition had seized the Qal`at Harem. On Friday, the Syrian military killed 70 people in Harem in a massacre. The Syrian military has been heavily bombarding Harem by air today. Fighting has ongoing in this border town for days.
International: Twenty-five figures in the Syrian opposition met in Amman ahead of the Doha meeting which is to bring in a new structure to replace the Syrian National Council. The Amman attendees ruled out any dialogue with Damascus prior to Bashar al-Assad and his entourage giving up power, and they also pledged support for the armed revolt being carried out by the Free Syrian Army (and some other groups). Riad Seif and Riad Hijab took part in the meeting.
After Hilary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State spoke on the U.S.’s efforts to create a new opposition entity which will be announced from Doha, the Syrian National Council (and many other supporters of the opposition) complained of U.S. interference and that the U.S. had undermined the SNC. U.S. State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland defended the move saying that the U.S. is trying to ensure that a broader “spectrum” of opposition is included such as Christians, Druze, Kurds, Alawis, other minorities and women. (The current opposition includes Christians, Druze, Alawis, Kurds and women, hence the U.S. reasons for backing a new entity are likely to be Washingtons’ concerns with the political affiliations of the SNC or its inefficacy to date, rather than its composition by sect)
The Syrian National Council called for the opposition fighters (which it does not command) to be held accountable for the execution of Syrian troops shown on video (above). The U.S. and the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also criticized the opposition on Friday, Victoria Nuland, USDoS spokesperson said “there is no justification for that kind of behavior ever.”
An NHS doctor, Shajul Islam will go on trial in June for the kidnapping of a British photographer in Syria. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/nov/02/nhs-doctor-trial-photographer-syriahttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/nov/02/nhs-doctor-trial-photographer-syria
The 310-member Syrian National Council will soon be superseded by, or join in with a new opposition structure (being supported by the Local Coordination Committees) which is intended to represent those involved in the internally-based opposition as well as those outside of the country. The membership and their profiles are accessible here: http://www.syriancouncil.org/en/members.html?start=15
For archival purposes, here is the mission statement of the SNC and its objectives.
SNC Mission Statement
The SNC seeks to represent the Syrian Revolution politically; embody its aspirations in toppling the regime; achieve democratic change; and build a modern, democratic, and civil state.
SNC Political Program
After sustained efforts by the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC) was founded in response to the urgent need for a political framework that represents revolutionary work being done on the ground since March 15, 2011 to overthrow the regime and its operatives. Seven months after the beginning of the revolution, a consensus was reached on establishing the Council, which was officially announced in Istanbul on October 2, 2011.
The SNC is a political institution that represents most political opposition forces, blocs, and groups, as well as revolutionary movement committees. The SNC works as a national, general, and temporary umbrella organization that reflects the will of the people for revolution and change. The goal of the SNC is to build a democratic, pluralistic, and civil state by the following means:
• Breaking down the existing regime, including all of its operatives and symbols.
• Preserving, protecting, and enhancing the peaceful nature of the popular revolution.
• Uniting the efforts by the revolutionary movement and the political opposition.
• Garnering Arab and international support at the individual, public opinion, and official levels.
• Focusing efforts to support the peaceful revolution; continuing and increasing acts of civil disobedience.
• Mobilizing both the Arab and international societies to increase pressure on the regime by all possible means.
• Diversifying the means and methods of the revolutionary movement to include demonstrations, general strikes, and civil disobedience.
• Working to secure international protection for civilians and supporting joint Arab and international means to secure its implementation within international agencies in the shortest amount of time possible.
• Communicating with committees and action groups participating in the revolution to further mobilize the population and extend the reach of the SNC.
• Enhancing communication and encouraging initiatives and activities among professional groups, business community, intellectuals, and others.
• Maintaining a positive and flexible outlook towards all political opposition forces that are not part of the SNC, and working with them towards joining the SNC – if they approve the founding declaration documents – or, at minimum, coordinating efforts and establishing protocols for collaboration.
• Giving the diversity of Syrian society the appropriate focus by providing clear programs, thoughtful analysis, and political activism, while intensifying efforts to communicate among committees, groups, and members and emphasizing the concept that their participation is the best guarantee for their concerns to be addressed.
• Pursuing the official recognition of the SNC by Arab and foreign states.
• The SNC will take responsibility, with the military apparatus, to manage the transitional period and guarantee the security and unity of the country once the regime falls.
• The SNC will form a transitional government to manage the affairs of the state.
• The SNC will call for a national and all-inclusive convention with the theme of “democratic change” to implement a program and outline for the transitional period with representatives from all segments of Syrian society whose hands have not been stained with blood or theft of national wealth from among the regime’s officials.
• The transitional government is responsible for creating the appropriate conditions for organizing political life in the country as well as providing conditions to promote the flourishing of civil society through various institutions, including trade unions.
• Within one year at most, the interim government will organize free elections with Arab and international observers to elect a Constitutional Assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country that is then voted on by the people in a referendum.
• Free parliamentary elections shall be held within six months, in accordance with the new constitution.
• The SNC will continue to implement its founding declaration concerning the preservation of state institutions, especially the military institution, throughout the transitional period. These institutions belonged to the people long before the authoritarian regime encroached upon them and stole them from the people. This does not contradict the need to end all expressions and symbols of totalitarianism.
• Releasing detainees and prisoners; investigating the fate of those who are missing; ensuring the safe return of refugees and those in exile; and compensating the families of fallen heroes, the injured, and all those who were victimized.
• The formation of an independent judicial commission whose task is to receive citizens’ grievances and investigate crimes committed against the people, and punishing those found guilty.
• The formation of a national reconciliation commission in collaboration with civil society organizations, human rights groups, and volunteers to cleanse all residue from the era of corruption and tyranny.
• Criminalizing all forms of oppression, exclusionary policies, and discrimination on the basis of ethnic or religious background, or gender.
The New Syria – General Principles
• The new Syria is a democratic, pluralistic, and civil state; a parliamentary republic with sovereignty of the people based on the principles of equal citizenship with separation of powers, smooth transfer of power, the rule of law, and the protection and guarantee of the rights of minorities.
• The new Syria guarantees for all its citizens what is declared by international laws in terms of human rights and basic freedom of belief, opinion, expression, assembly, the press, and other rights. In addition, all of its inhabitants will enjoy equal rights and duties without any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or gender.
• The government is committed to ambitious plans for economic and human development.
• The new Syria is committed to combating poverty and focusing on developing disadvantaged areas. It regards achieving justice and equal opportunity among all citizens to be a national duty.
• To achieve equity in the distribution of national wealth, since national resources belong to all Syrians in the context of good governance, and directing benefits from development to raising the capabilities and standard of living of all sectors of society and all regions, particularly the most disadvantaged.
• The new Syria is committed to eradicating illiteracy and providing factual information to the general population.
• The new Syria, with its civil and democratic system and constitution, provides the best assurance to all Syrians from all ethnic, religious, and sectarian backgrounds.
• The constitution guarantees national rights for the Kurdish people and a resolution to the Kurdish question in a democratic and fair manner within the framework of the unity of Syrian territory and people, as well as the exercise of rights and responsibilities of equal citizenship among all citizens.
• The constitution guarantees national rights for the Assyrian people and a resolution to the Assyrian Syriac question in a democratic and fair manner within the framework of the unity of Syrian territory and people, as well as the exercise of rights and responsibilities of equal citizenship among all citizens.
• The new Syria guarantees full rights of women, including ensuring their effective participation in political life and all other sectors.
• The new Syrian state will have a positive role and impact on the stability of the Arab and regional system as well as on the international level.
• The new Syria will work to restore its sovereignty in the occupied Golan Heights on the basis of relevant and legitimate international laws and resolutions.
• The new Syria will support the full and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
The new Syria will promote Arab and regional solidarity and cooperation, and will build relations with other states on the basis of mutual respect and national interests.