Syrian dissidents have been trying to spread the fires of Tunisia and Egypt to their soil, by using Facebook to organize “Days of Rage” on Friday and Saturday. I say “trying” because Facebook is actually illegal in Syria. The people have to dodge government censors to access it at all.
Some Western media has reported that the Syrian government is “intimidating” protestors. How are they doing this? According to Human Rights Watch, “On February 2, a group of 20 people dressed in civilian clothing beat and dispersed 15 demonstrators who had assembled in Bab Touma in old Damascus to hold a candlelight vigil for Egyptian demonstrators.” The police stood idly and watched the beating. When the woman who organized this demonstration, Suheir Atassi, went to file a complaint with the police, a security official slapped her in the face, threatened to kill her, and called her a “germ” who was an “agent of foreign powers.”
The Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his security forces “are no longer content with simply banning protests; they seem to be encouraging thugs to attack peaceful demonstrators.”
Assad is every bit the dictator Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is, and then some. He’s been in power since 2000, the dynastic successor to 30 years of iron-fisted rule by his father Hafez. Life for the Syrian underclass is pretty harsh, and like Egypt, the economy is riddled with tumors of political corruption. Unlike Egypt, the Syrian government is an active enemy of American interests – they support Palestinian militants and Iraqi insurgents, and are widely thought to have been involved in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon, an event which has led to Syrian’s client terror group Hezbollah taking control of that country.
So, why hasn’t President Obama denounced this dictator and his attempts to squash dissent? Why no calls for an “orderly transition of power” in Syria? Why are there no attempts to fan the flame of democracy there? The Syrian resistance would like to stage camera-friendly protests, but they can’t, because they’ve been ruthlessly and efficiently suppressed. It would be nice if we had a President willing to speak up without needing a few days of breathless CNN coverage from the streets of Damascus. It would also be nice if his enthusiasm for toppling authoritarian regimes didn’t seem to attenuate considerably when the regime in question is not an ally of the United States.
Update: The Al Bawaba news service reports “some 1000 Hezbollah fighters have entered Syria in recent days, to ensure the stability of the regime.” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has promised to “redeploy” up to 5000 thugs “if Assad’s regime needed them for its protection.” America holds its breath and awaits White House condemnation of Syria for importing terrorist scum to crack down on its dissidents.