Syria Update, December 20 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Deathtoll: At least 100
Wednesday’s deathtoll: 170
Dr. Zaidun al-Zoabi (38) a dean of the European College in Syria, and a relative of the Syrian vice-president, his brother Sohaib (22) a student at the University of Damascus, and 5 colleagues who are part of the non-violent opposition movement were arrested in a cafe in Damascus on 15/12/2012. They are being held in the basements of the 215th branch.
Mohammad Shaar, Syria’s Minister of the Interior was injured in a bombing last week on December 12th, and was also wounded in the 12th of July bombing which killed 4 top figures in Assad’s inner circle). State news had claimed he wasn’t badly injured but he was flown to Beirut for treatment today at the American University in Beirut hospital. http://www.voanews.com/content/syrian-minister-al-shaar-in-beirut-hospital-after-damascus-attack/1568860.html
Several rockets were launched onto the Karam al-Terab and al-Arad al-Hamra neighborhoods of Aleppo, killing 1 child. Violent clashes occurred in Hamadaniyya and near the air defense force battalion in al-Zahra’; the opposition launched rockets. The Syrian military shelled the Ansari al-Sharqi neighborhood killing 3 civilians. An explosion was reported in Aziza (held by the opposition) killing more than 33. The regime forces shelled the area after the explosion. Heavy fighting took place in the Old City as the FSA moved into Qasr Baladi and Bab Janin.
The Syrian regime forces retreated away from the defense factories in Safeera area. Before their retreat, they burnt cannons and weapons in the aftermath of clashes with the opposition.
Negotiations are ongoing for the release of imprisoned civilians held in the air intelligence division in exchange for 6 officers now detained in the scientific research division and the air defense battalion in the Shaykh Suleiman.
Free Syrian Army fighters said on Thursday they were preparing to take over the Mennag military airbase in Azaz, near the Turkish border. They thought that 300 to 600 Syrian soldiers might be inside the airbase where government helicopters are believed to be stationed.
3 children were killed by bombardment on the town of A’ndan at dawn.
An attack took place on the pro-regime Popular Defense committees checkpoint in the al-Jazeera al-Thalitha area of Mushru’ Dummar. Clashes took place in Daf al-Shawk, Tadamun and al-Zahira.
Hundreds of people have been returning to Yarmouk after attacks and clashes there had driven them out, and carried out a vocal demonstration against being used as a front line in the war. Other reports simply said that several hundred “were permitted to go back” into the camp Key members of the pro-Assad PFLP-GC defected to the opposition during the fighting yesterday and Ahmad Jibril was said to have fled Yarmouk with his son for Tartus.
The Syrian military shelled `Ain Tarma, Beit Sahm, Daraya, Deir al-A’safeer, Duma, Harasta, Ma’adamiyat al-Sham, Madeera, Yabrud, Yalda and Zamalka. Shelling on Duma killed 1 civilian. Clashes resumed in Daraya and clashes took place between Mukhayam al-Rafidein and Duma.
The Free Syrian Army took control of a border crossing between Syria and Lebanon for the first time, at Rankous (26 miles north of Damascus).
Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
11 civilians were killed in the province: a sniper killed 2 in the city of Dara`a. Regime forces killed 6 civilians including a child at a refugee camp in Dara`a. Regime forces shot at a car on the Busr al-Harir road killing 2 civilians. A man in Mahaja was found dead.
Deir az-Zur province:
Opposition fighters took over the Seyouf roundabout in the city of Deir az-Zur.
In Deir az-Zur, the FSA is increasing its attacks on the military airbase, including shelling it from tanks.
The FSA ambushed a military convoy of 10 vehicles carrying arms from the air defense base near Houl. One report stated that 50 regime troops and shabiha were killed or injured.
Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD
On Tuesday, I reported many gains by the opposition as it seized six towns and numerous checkpoints as the result of its new offensive in Hama province. Today it held those gains, and also took over Bsereen and destroyed a school used by the Syrian army as a base. Clashes took between regime forces, pro-regime shabiha and opposition fighters after the opposition attacked checkpoints near Zughba, Ma’an and other pro-regime villages. The FSA overran the Jisr checkpoint and destroyed an armored vehicle near Mawrak.
2 opposition fighters were killed. A woman was killed in the shelling on Halfaya. Unidentified armed men shot at a bus driving through the Hama countryside and killed a female college student.
Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA
The city of Homs has been besieged by the government for 196 days with many families trapped or unable to leave Old Homs, Deir Ba`lbah and the northern and southern suburbs of the city. Gunmen fired at an automobile killing a woman in the city of Homs.
Some unconfirmed reports say that the FSA has arrested an officer who ordered the massacre on the village of Houla, and that the FSA will put him on trial. Shelling on al-Houla today killed two boys. Shelling on the countryside outside al-Qseir killed two. Near the Lebanese border and the village of Jousiya, the bodies of a man, his wife and daughter were discovered.
Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Clashes took place near the Wadi al-Deif encampment. Shelling took place on different areas in Ma`arat al-Nu`man and artillery targeting of the town of Taman’a.
Latakia province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=U1TRUMyzBYaM0QHtpoHABg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
In Hiffah, Latakia, Syrian government forces punching and cursing female detainees.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin said that his country is more concerned with Syria’s fate than that of Bashar al-Assad and that it wants to avert an endless civil war. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/12/20/256172.html
The UN General Assembly on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to rebuke Syria, Iran and North Korea for alleged human rights abuses.
With Syria’s conflict worsening by the day, a resolution condemning the Syrian government and its allied militias came as a diplomatic blow for President Bashar al-Assad.
The 193-state assembly passed the resolution slamming “grave” and “systematic” abuses with 135 votes in favour, 12 against – including Russia and China – and 36 abstentions. The Assad government has been accused of detaining thousands of opponents, often in secret, torturing many. The government has refused to allow a UN human rights council investigation into the country.
The UN called for an end to all “violations” of human rights and for all sides to end the 21-month old conflict in which activists say more than 44,000 people have died.r
The UN Human Rights Council’s report covering Syria from September 28 to December 16, 2012 highlights sectarian violence and claims that Sunni “rebels” are increasingly fighting minority groups. (The story commenting on the report does not mention the opposition members who are not Sunni.) Foreign fighters in the country include Hizbullah, Iraqis and Iranians. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/2012122015525051365.html
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.
Sadeq Jalal al-Azm, philosopher and scholar was born in Damascus in 1934 and earned a Ph.D. in 1961 from Yale. His 1969 book, Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini in which he criticized the misuse of religion and caused his imprisonment in Lebanon. He wrote at least six books and many articles since, including a critique of ‘Orientalism.’ http://en.qantara.de/wcsite.php?wc_c=15850
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, preferring to remain in Syria.
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.
Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said), a poet, born in 1930 in al-Qassabin, Latakia to a farming family. After being imprisoned for a year, he left Syria in 1956 for Beirut. He has published many collections of poetry in which he experimented with various modernist forms and received numerous awards for his poetry. He lives in Paris. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9297
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).
Hanna Mina, novelist, born in 1924 in Iskenderun and raised in Latakia, he would later be an exile in China. He described his education as the “university of dark poverty.” He wrote 40 novels including the autobiographical, The Swamp. http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/5584
Mohammad Malas, filmmaker, born in 1945 in Quneitra and studied cinema in Moscow. He won awards for his many films including Ahlam al-Madina, al-Layl and Bab al-Maqam.
Selwa al-Neimi, poet and author, was born in Damascus and left for Paris in the mid-70s. She has published three volumes of poetry, a collection of short stories and is best known for her erotic novel, The Proof of Honey.
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).
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
George Wassouf, born in Kafroun, Tartus in 1961, is a popular singer of Arabic music with more than 30 albums released. He has supported Bashar al-Assad and has been criticized for praising the Syrian army.
Samir Zikra, filmmaker, born in Beirut in 1945 and raised in Aleppo. His films include al-Sakran Yanfi (based on a Naguib Mahfouz novel) al-Matar Saba`in, Lan Nansa, al-Shuhud, `Anha, Hadithat al-Nusf Metr, Waqa`ih al-`Amm al-Muqbel. He coauthored a script for Baqaya Suwar (based on a Hanna Mina novel), coauthored the script for Mohammad Malas’ Ahlam al-Madina, and directed Turab al-Ghuraba (about Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi) in 1998 and `Alaqat `Ammah in 2005.
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