#Syria Nov 24/12 Kurds and Arabs …. Syrians gathered together to say no to fighting between brothers …
A plea for unity from Qamishli
#Syria Nov 24/12 Kurds and Arabs …. Syrians gathered together to say no to fighting between brothers …
A plea for unity from Qamishli
August 11, 2012
The political developments within and outside Syria with respect to the Kurds underscores a new Kurdish political reality: a self-governing Kurdish entity is on the making in the north and north-eastern parts of Syria.
For the past 17 months, the Syrian government is struggling to dismantle the strong rebellion that has impaired its credibility to maintain law and order in the country.
Political analysts believe that the Syrian government would not last long and give in whole or parts of the country to the belligerent opposition groups. The opposition groups are already claiming to be in control of parts of Aleppo, the largest Syrian city, and large areas of the countryside in the north.
Kurds are very much part of the burgeoning political developments. Taking the advantage of the power vacuum in the north and north-eastern parts of the country, created by the continuous and fierce fighting between the government troops and opposition fighters, Kurds have asserted power and control in those areas. It is reported that Kurdish political parties and armed forces are currently administering several north and north-eastern border districts, including Afrin, Kobane, Cindires, Derka Hemko and Girke Lege. It is further reported that Kurdistan flag is raised over official government buildings. These political developments are consolidating a self-governing Kurdish entity in the Kurdish majority populated areas of Syria.
These political gains however remain unstable. It is not determined how these developments proceed in the long run. There are several internal and external obstructions that may change the course of the developments.
The internal impediments are primarily created by the Syrian government and/or belligerent opposition groups. These sources however do not pose any serious threat at the moment. The Syrian government is crumbling progressively. Many high ranking government officials and military officers are increasingly defecting. The military’s control over the country has weakened due to the fierce internal fighting. The State’s security apparatus has become inexistent in the periphery of the country where many of the Kurdish towns are located. The prospective fall of the government at the core,www.ekurd.net the Damascus, would therefore effectuate entire removal of government’s remaining forces from the Kurdish areas. Most of these areas, apart from Qamishli, are already abandoned or forced to abandon by the Kurdish armed forces.
The primary internal threat to any Kurdish entity is therefore the future Syrian government which would most probably be the Syrian belligerent opposition groups headed by the Syrian National Council (SNC) and dominated by the radical Sunni Islamists. However, any such considerable threat is dependent on the level of power they may consolidate in the future Syrian political establishment.
Currently, there are reports that the Kurdish armed forces have refused the Syrian opposition groups entering the Kurdish areas. There is no doubt they will keep doing so and confront them militarily should they attempt entering the Kurdish areas. Furthermore, as the Kurdish parties’ sphere of influence widens in the Kurdish areas, the inhabiting people are experiencing a level of freedom they were deprived of for decades. In this circumstance, they will not be ready to give away their freedoms without fierce resistance.
Therefore, any attempt to realign the Syrian sovereignty over the Kurdish areas may only be realised through reconciling the Kurdish aspirations. The Syrian Kurdish parties are pushing for establishing a federal democratic government in the Syrian Kurdistan in the post-Assad era. The Foreign Affairs Office of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has called for support and protection in establishing a self-governing Kurdish region in the Syrian Kurdistan. The SNC leader, Abdulbaset Sieda, himself a Kurd, in his recent visit to Erbil, Kurdistan Regions capital, assured the Syrian Kurds that their rights and identity will be protected under the new Syrian constitution.
In addition to above internal complications, there are also some external impediments that stem primarily from the regional States. At the forefront is Turkey. The Turkish government has shown serious discomfort with the emerging Kurdish entity forfear of a domino effect on its restive Kurdish inhabitant. The Turkish government is apparently concerned with the PKK infiltration into the Syrian Kurdistan through the PYD and consequently opening up another front for its fight against Turkey. It has already bolstered its military build-up along the border signalling a cross border military intervention if PKK presence is continued.
The Turkish government has also accelerated its diplomatic reaction. The Turkish Foreign Minister recently visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The visit was to pressure the Kurdistan Region to retreat from giving any political and military support to the Syrian Kurds.
However, the burgeoning political developments indicate that Turkey has limited influence to debilitate the new emerging Kurdish entity. The Turkish government knows considerably well that any military move into Syria will result in serious internal, regional and international reaction. Syria and Iran have already warned Turkey from any such dangerous move. The US has also signalled its disapproval. The US has further stated that the Syrian people (including the Kurds) are in charge of their future political direction. The Kurdistan Region has also tacitly rejected any Turkish intervention by stating that Syrian people need to decide their future.
The PKK has also changed its fighting tactics for the first time in its 28 years of armed struggle in light of the current political developments in the Syrian Kurdistan. PKK leader Murat Karayilan recently announced that PKK strongholds being beyond the Turkish borders remains talk of past and that from now on the guerrilla forces will position themselves in permanent strongholds within the Turkish territory. He stated that the traditional ‘hit and run’ tactic will give way to a new tactic of‘ attack from many directions, take position in strongholds and protect the area’. According to Karayilan, his guerrillas have already implemented this new tactic in Hakari, Cizreand Zagros regions in Turkey by taking positions in bulwarks located 35 kilometres inside the Turkish border.
It is interesting to note that these areas are located in close proximity to the PYD controlled Kurdish districts in Syria. This indicates that PKK is making strategic moves to protect the emerging political entity in Syrian Kurdistan by establishing strongholds within Turkish borders closer to the Syrian Kurdish areas.
These political developments indicate that the Kurds are up for creating yet another semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The US and European Union have not actively opposed this emerging political development. The regional States are not a position to act unilaterally or collectively to derail this new political entity. What is hoped for is that the political transition takes place without destruction and loss of human life.
Hiwa Zandi, Masters of Laws Student, University of Queensland, Australia. A regular contributing writer for Ekurd.net
QAMISHLI, Syrian Kurdistan,— Salih Muslim, co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), denies reports that his forces have prevented Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Peshmerga troops from entering the liberated areas of Syrian Kurdistan.
Several towns in Kurdish regions of the country saw the peaceful retreat of Syrian regime forces last week, in a dramatic shift in the 17-month revolution against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The liberated cities are now being jointly ruled by the People’s Council of Syrian Kurdistan, a designation of the PYD, and the Kurdish National Council (KNC). The KNC and PYD agreed to share control of Kurdish regions in a deal made in Erbil on July 11, under the supervision of Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani.
Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim, co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Female members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) patrolling a street in the Kurdish city of Qamishli in Syrian Kurdistan (Western Kurdistan)
Speaking to Rudaw, Muslim said a delegation from his party visited the Kurdistan Region to meet with officials but did not discuss the issue of Peshmerga forces being dispatched to Syrian Kurdistan.
“The discussion was about the return of Kurdish soldiers who defected from the Syrian army and are now in the Kurdistan Region,” Muslim said.
He added, “Peshmerga forces are our brothers and relatives and we do not have any problems with them. But Syrian Kurdistan does not need assistance from the Peshmarga forces at this point and if the need arises we will ask for their help.”
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said that defected soldiers were trained in the Kurdistan Region and would be sent to Syria to help with any “security vacuum” that might emerge.
Muslim told Rudaw that if the Supreme Kurdish Body decides the forces trained in the Kurdistan Region are needed,www.ekurd.net they can return to Syrian Kurdistan.
The Supreme Kurdish Body includes the PYD and KNC and is expected to act as an interim administrative body for the Kurdish areas of Syria.
The PYD, which has ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has military control over several Kurdish towns that have been liberated in the recent days, including Kubane, Amude and Efrin.
Kurds have now appointed a new mayor for Kobane, signaling their readiness to run the areas they now control.
Article by: ZEINA KARAM , Associated Press
Updated: April 18, 2012 - 1:46 AM
BEIRUT - Syria’s Kurds, who have long complained of discrimination under President Bashar Assad, would seem a natural fit to join the revolt against his rule. Instead, they are growing increasingly distrustful of an opposition they see as no more likely to grant them their rights.
Kurdish parties angrily pulled out of a recent conference aimed at unifying the opposition ranks after participants ignored their demands for more rights and recognition in a post-Assad Syria.
A few days after the withdrawal, while the rest of the country was protesting against Assad, Kurds in their main cities of Qamishli and Hasakeh protested against the predominantly Sunni Arab opposition, demanding it back a system that would give them greater say over their own affairs. “We want federalism,” some protesters shouted, carrying red, white and green Kurdish flags.
Tens of thousands of Kurds have been joining in weekly protests against Assad’s regime. But suspicion of the opposition has kept many of Syria’s estimated 2.5 million Kurds — more than 10 percent of the population — sitting on the fence amid the country’s turmoil. As a result, they effectively join Christians, Alawites and other key minorities whose fear for the future if Assad’s secular regime collapses has kept them from joining the uprising in force.
Both the Damascus government and the opposition have courted the Kurds but neither have been willing to make full concessions. The Kurds are also hampered by their own divisions among multiple parties and factions, one of which is accused of openly siding with Assad’s regime.
“The Kurds are being used as political pawns in the battle between Assad’s regime and opposition forces,” said Fares Tammo, whose father, Mashaal Tammo, one of the most vocal and charismatic Kurdish opposition figures, was assassinated in October by gunmen who burst into his apartment in northern Syria.
The Kurds’ hesitation also underlines a major problem for the opposition: its overwhelmingly Sunni Arab nature and the perception that it is dominated by Islamic hard-liners who will discriminate against minorities if given a chance at power.
Omar Hossino, a Washington-based Syrian-American researcher, said it is key to the uprising’s success for the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, to integrate the Kurds.
“This in turn could not only reassure other minority groups fearful of Arab Sunni Islamist majoritarianism, but would also guarantee a more pluralist regime in the post-Assad period,” said Ossino.
Still, many in the opposition react to Kurdish demands much like the Assad regime always has. They see the demands as a call to split the country, particularly Kurds’ hope for a federal system that would give them self-rule similar to northern Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan.
The SNC’s chief further angered Kurds with an interview published Monday in which he told Kurds not to cling to the “useless illusion” of federalism.
“It is interpreted as a Kurdish demand for separatism,” Burhan Ghalioun told the Iraqi Kurdish newspaper Rudaw. “The SNC refuses to give the Kurds self-rule because there is no part of Syria where Kurds represent 100 percent of the population … There is no such thing as Syrian Kurdistan.”
He said that if Kurds throw their weight behind the uprising, it would “strengthen their position in the future to demand their rights” and to have a greater role “in Syria in general.”
Mustafa Osso, secretary general of the Azadi Kurdish Party in Syria, said Ghalioun’s comments will “discourage Kurdish parties from joining the SNC.”
“The Kurds have a right to self-determination and one of the options is federalism,” he told The Associated Press. “Federalism is absolutely not the same thing as separatism, which we reject.”
Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, centered in the poor northeastern provinces of Hasakeh and Qamishli, wedged between the borders of Turkey and Iraq. Areas of the capital Damascus and Syria’s largest city of Aleppo also have sizable Kurdish communities. The Kurdish ethnic group stretches into contiguous areas of Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
Syrian Kurds have long complained of neglect and discrimination. Assad’s government for years argued they are not citizens at all.
They rose up in 2004, clashing with security forces in Qamishli, the capital of Syria’s Kurdish heartland, after a brawl between Kurdish and Arab supporters of rival soccer teams. The unrest spread to the nearby cities of Hasaka and Aleppo. At least 25 people were killed, and the clashes gave Damascus a pretext to further crack down on the Kurds.
Now Assad’s regime has sought to assuage the Kurds enough to prevent them from joining the current revolt against his rule, which erupted early last year. Security forces have refrained from using deadly force against protests that have occurred in Kurdish areas.
Early on, Assad ceded ground on a major Kurdish demand: In April last year, he granted citizenship to some 200,000 Kurds who were registered as aliens before. The decree excluded thousands of other Kurds known as “maktoumeen,” who are unregistered and have no identity cards.
“It was an obvious attempt to pacify us,” said Amina Farman, a 37-year-old Kurd who was among those who acquired citizenship. “I would have been happy and grateful to get it had the circumstances been different. Now it just feels like a meaningless buyout,” she said by phone from Qamishli.
Farman, who was born in Syria, can now for the first time vote, work legally and own property. But the regime still bans Kurds from publicly speaking in their own language or teaching it, prevents Kurdish political and cultural public gatherings and treats Kurds as second-class citizens.
Still, Farman is also not convinced by the opposition and is concerned about the growing militarization of the uprising.
“There’s something not quite right,” she said of the opposition’s disregard of Kurdish rights.
“We want to bring democracy to Syria,” she said. “We don’t want to replace tyranny with tyranny.”
Late last month, an opposition conference in Istanbul ignored Kurdish demands it support political decentralization and Kurdish rights in a post-Assad state. In response, the main Kurdish umbrella group, the Kurdish National Council, walked out of the gathering.
A few days later at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul on April 3, SNC head Ghalioun read a national charter for the new Syria that included a pledge to uphold Kurdish rights. But the KNC called the wording too vague.
The Kurds are also suspicious about influence over the SNC by Turkey, which has a history of oppressing its own Kurds and which, they believe, does not want them to gain rights in Syria as well.
Turkey is concerned “that the role played by Kurds in Syria would reflect on Turkey’s Kurds, too,” the Germany-based Kurdish Center for Legal Studies and Consultancy said in an international appeal for support last week.
Fares Tammo, whose Kurdish Future Movement is the only Kurdish party in the SNC, defends his party’s presence in the council.
But, he admits, some of its members “see through chauvinist eyes and try their best to marginalize the Kurdish role.”
Today’s Zaman sources inside Kurdish Syria on Sunday reported that 15 soldiers of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the loosely coordinated network of military defectors who are fighting the Assad regime, were captured by PKK forces near the Syria-Iraqi border over the weekend. The sources, who spoke to Today’s Zaman from the northern city of Qamishli on the condition of anonymity, suggested that the PKK may have handed over the soldiers to the Syrian military, but could not confirm what had happened after their capture. Officials of the FSA declined to comment when contacted by Today’s Zaman.
The incident, if true, would mark a new stage of the Kurdish separatist group’s involvement in a conflict that has pitted a nation-wide protest movement, composed mostly of the country’s majority Sunnis, against the minority Alawite-ruled government of President Bashar al-Assad. Syria’s Kurds, estimated at 10 percent of the country’s population, have aligned themselves in recent months with the country’s opposition movement, and experts say that Damascus may be looking to the PKK, which has not had a significant presence in Syria for 13 years, as a key tool in its crackdown on dissent in the country’s Kurdish northern regions.
“The PKK’s influence in Syria is growing rapidly as the security situation deteriorates, and lately the group has given signs that it may act on behalf of the government in a way similar to the Shabiha,” said Dr. Othman Ali, head of the Turkish-Kurdish Studies Center in Arbil, Iraq, as he likened the group to the shadowy gangs who have aided the government in its crackdown elsewhere in Syria. Speaking to Today’s Zaman on Monday, Dr. Othman said that the group is “moving into towns, observing Kurdish activists and fighting the Free Syrian Army.”
The Syrian government warned in October that it would support the PKK if it perceived that Turkey was supporting the Syrian opposition, with al-Assad stating that “Turkey could fall into a state similar to ours” if it opposed Damascus. Last month sources in northern Syria told Today’s Zaman that the PKK had opened camps in the northern district of Afrin, which contains the second most populous Syrian city of Allepo, and the district of Ra’s al-’Ayn, a border province adjacent to the southeastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa. Rumor has also circulated that the murders of several anti-government Kurdish activists have been the work of the PKK. Last month Syrian Kurdish politician Sherzad Hac Reshid was assassinated near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, leading some local Kurdish politicians to claim that the PKK was attempting to bring into line the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), in which Reshid was an outspoken opponent of the PYD’s conciliatory attitude towards the regime. In October, rights activist Mashaal Tammo was killed at his home in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli. At the time, İbrahim Güçlü, a Turkish-Kurdish politician, suggested the murder may have been orchestrated by the PKK.
The fog of war remains thick in Syria and it is impossible to know the extent of the PKK’s operations there, but, says Turkish-Kurdish Studies Center head Dr. Othman, “If they are looking to intimidate Assad’s opposition and strengthen their own position as master of Syria’s Kurds, then the situation is definitely playing to the advantage of the PKK,” said Dr. Othman.
By Massoud A. Derhally and Nicole Gaouette
Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria has failed to deter the government’s violence against dissidents and should end.
The league sent monitors to Syria two weeks ago to judge whether the regime was adhering to its promises to end assaults by government troops, release political prisoners and follow through on other commitments.
“So far, the regime has not done so,” Clinton said. The top U.S. diplomat added that it was “clear” that the “monitoring mission should not continue indefinitely. We cannot permit President Assad and his regime to have impunity.”
Clinton’s comments came as a top United Nations official said that Syrian security forces have persisted in deadly attacks on protesters throughout the monitors’ two-week observation mission, set to expire on Jan. 19.
About 400 people have been killed since the Arab League team arrived on Dec. 26 to monitor Syria’s implementation of an accord to end the crackdown, UN political chief Lynn Pascoe told the 15-member Security Council yesterday.
Clinton noted that 11 monitors were attacked two days ago. She said President Bashar al-Assad has only made excuses for the violence his troops are perpetrating, particularly in a speech Assad gave yesterday.
‘Only Making Excuses’
“Instead of taking responsibility, what we hear from President Assad in his chillingly cynical speech was only making excuses, blaming foreign countries, conspiracies so vast that now it includes the Syrian opposition, the international community, all international media outlets, the Arab League itself,” Clinton said.
She spoke at the State Department after a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani. The foreign minister said he was glad the Arab League had taken the initiative.
“In the history of the Arab League, this is the first time that we are sending monitors,” al-Thani said. “I could not see up till now a successful mission, frankly speaking.”
The Arab League will produce a report after the mission ends which “will be very important for us to make the right judgment,” he said. “We cannot accept to let the situation as it is in Syria, and the people killed by their own government.”
The Syrian president vowed yesterday to use an “iron first” to resist what he described as foreign-backed efforts to divide his country, in his fourth national address since the uprising began in March. The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have died.
At least 38 people were killed yesterday in Deir al-Zour, Homs, Qamishli, Idlib and in Hama, said the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group with members in Syria. The U.K.- based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also has a network of activists in the country, put the death toll at 27 yesterday.
The observatory said three civilians and one army defector were killed in Hama today, while a strike was under way in Idlib over living conditions. Security forces opened fire on students rallying this morning in a suburb of the capital Damascus, it said.
Assad repeated his argument that the violence is a result of a “foreign conspiracy.” He said his priority is to restore security and that “terrorists” will be met with an “iron fist,” while denying that any orders had been given to security forces to fire on civilians.
Under an agreement with the Arab League, Syria’s government promised to withdraw military and security forces from urban areas, release political prisoners and allow observers into the country to monitor implementation of the accord.
Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi condemned the attack on the monitors as “irresponsible acts and acts of violence” and said the Syrian government is responsible for the protection of its envoys.
Anwar Malek, an Algerian Arab League observer who resigned from his position saying he found himself serving the Syrian government’s interests, told Al Jazeera the Arab League’s monitoring mission wasn’t independent.
“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster,” Al Jazeera cited Malek as saying. “The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people,” he said.
Snipers are widespread and shoot at civilians, while people are being kidnapped and prisoners tortured, Al Jazeera cited Malek as saying. Security forces didn’t withdraw their tanks from the streets as the Syrian government claimed, but hid and then redeployed them after the observers left, he told the Doha- based news channel.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Malek’s observations correspond to reports received by the U.S. “His concerns are absolutely consistent with the reports we’re getting,” she said in a briefing with reporters today.
In a televised speech from Istanbul yesterday, Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of the Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group, called on Arab governments to increase pressure on Assad and urged the Arab League to raise the Syrian situation at the UN.
The Arab League imposed sanctions on Syria on Nov. 27. Russia and China have blocked efforts by the U.S. and the European Union, which also have imposed sanctions, for the UN Security Council to condemn the crackdown.
—Editors: John Walcott, Steven Komarow
To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon at firstname.lastname@example.org; Nicole Gaouette in Washington at email@example.com Flavia Krause-Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com
AMOUDA, AL HASAKH #Syria: Turning off the electricity in Amouda and Qamishli is a regular habit for the Regime these days.
Damascus, #Syria: Dr. Tayseer Radwan Karim , a 32 year old oncologist from Qamishli, has been arrested by the security forces
Demonstrators against syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather in Homs December 13, 2011. Security forces shot dead 17 people in syria on Tuesday and rebels killed seven police in an ambush, activists said, after the U.N. human rights chief put the death toll from nine months of protest against President al-Assad at 5,000. Picture taken December 13, 2011. REUTERS/Handout
BEIRUT: Fadi Aho describes his childhood in northeast Syria in the 1980s as “living in a fortress within a fortress.”
In Qamishle, near the borders of Turkey and Iraq, he was separated not only by the 650 kilometers between him and the political and cultural capital Damascus, but also by the tightly controlled police state, which he said had prevented him from knowing much about either home or abroad.
“There was no real source of news,” he recalls. “No one talked about anything or knew anything.”
This began to change in the 1990s, with the arrival of satellite television. For the first time, many Syrians from remote areas, without reception to Lebanese stations, could follow non-state news. Still, they lacked independent coverage of domestic news.
Then, in 2000, when Syrian President Bashar Assad assumed power following the death of his father, the country experienced a brief period of media freedom, with a select amount of private publications allowed (although still monitored by the state). With the arrival of the internet the same year, new websites also began to appear, but those considered too critical of the government were blocked.
All of this changed drastically following the beginning of the uprising nine months ago, when ordinary people wanted to tell the world – and fellow Syrians – their stories. Inspired by neighboring countries, with the help of mobile phones and many people willing to speak out for the first time, Syrians began a new era of a free media.
Today, it is possible to get live updates of protests, crackdowns and new developments of the uprising. In August, amid the rise of new media, the opposition print weekly newspaper Hurriyat was established, secretly distributing copies to people throughout the country.
Aho, who had left Syria to work with the Syrian satellite station Orient News four months prior to the uprising, says he was sad to be abroad at that time because he wanted to be a part of the new media coverage inside of Syria.
For the first time, through regular Syrians posting videos of demonstrations and human rights violations, many people are finally hearing about topics state media never touched. This has no doubt played a role in keeping up the momentum of the protests as well as the international reaction to the protests.
“It’s critical to shed light on what’s happening in Syria. Otherwise it will be a repeat scenario of 1982 in Hama [in which several thousand protesters were massacred at the hands of government forces],” says Malath Aumran, spokesperson of the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella organization of activist groups. He says that 30 years ago the news of Hama took over a month to reach the international media with much of the details still unclear. This time, he says, “The news of Daraa [the first city in the uprising to experience a government crackdown] spread in five minutes. And then people protested in solidarity with Daraa.”“In the Arab Spring, Syrians are in a unique position. They have to revolt, and they have to cover it,” says Wissam Tarif, Arab world coordinator for Avaaz (voice in Persian), an international non-governmental organization that promotes civic activism and has been instrumental in connecting citizen journalists with the international media in countries with media black-outs, such as Syria.
Throughout the country, in the remotest villages of rural provinces, many people who were once too afraid to speak out against their government are now risking their lives to tell the world their stories.
Yet for some Syrians closely following the news of their home country the amateur videos don’t take the place of traditional media.
“This doesn’t mean that we can replace the mainstream media. We need media outlets to cover incidents to give credible sources to the world and international community of what is happening in Syria,” says Kinda Kanbar, a Syrian freelance journalist based in Washington, DC. She adds that some events she has heard about from friends have not been covered by citizen journalists.
Still, over the past nine months, citizen journalism in Syria, while still lacking in resources, has become much more organized. At the beginning of the uprising, because of a scarcity of mobile phones and a still nascent internal opposition movement, some of the first videos of demonstrations that were filmed were played repetitively on television stations, leading some to speculate that the media was exaggerating coverage of the unrest.
Today, images from Syria, while still mostly from amateur mobile phone footage, have increased in quality and quantity, and news outlets can now be selective about the footage. Tarif says that with the satellite phones and modems Avaaz sends to Syria, all equipped with GPS, it is impossible to fabricate the locations from where the information is sent. He has also seen that citizen journalists are becoming more expert in identifying the times and locations of their footage, for example making sure to film recognizable mosques or showing the front page of a newspaper to verify the date.
In fact, Tarif says that since the uprising began, citizen journalism has been more accurate than state media reports, noting a press conference last month by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, with purported video footage being shown of the Islamic extremists supporting the Syrian opposition in Homs. The men who appeared in the video later told The Daily Star that the video was actually taken in Lebanon in 2008.
In some cases, the amateur quality of reporting from Syria actually gives credibility to the coverage.
Barada TV launched in 2009 with the help of a U.S. NGO. Today, the station operates with a staff of 11, mainly funded by Syrian expatriates.
“We’re badly funded, but we’re doing our best. People like that,” says Malik Abdeh. “If we were well funded, then people would be suspicious. It’s guerrilla broadcasting.”
Despite his personal stance against the government, he says he does his best to engage all sides and all communities. They air a weekly program in Kurdish called Ronahi (meaning light), and they’re also considering starting one for Christians, a group that until now has not participated in large numbers in anti-government demonstrations.
“We try to see both sides,” Abdeh says. “We don’t want to appear one-sided. Just because they haven’t been coming out and protesting doesn’t mean they’re evil.”
After nine months of covering Syria’s uprising, he also knows that it’s not just about broadcasting demonstrations, but also about discussing uncomfortable topics such as the country’s future and the possibility of sectarian tension.
“We can’t just broadcast demonstrations. We need to alleviate fears people have about what’s going to happen next. We don’t want to replace one tyranny with another,” Abdeh says. “Even if Assad is toppled, a lot of people would be unhappy. We need to engage those people.”
Aumran agrees that even though many of Syria’s citizen journalists have honed their skills in reporting the crucial facts on the ground, they still haven’t gotten to the point of telling the human stories of the uprising.
“They’ve gained credibility, and that’s fine,” says Aumran. “But now, 30 dead in Syria in one day is nothing new. We need more personal stories.”