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Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa

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Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa

By Tim Anderson



"The claim that armed opposition to the government has begun only recently is a complete lie.   The killings of soldiers, police and civilians, often in the most brutal circumstances, have been going on virtually since the beginning.' -- Professor Jeremy Salt, October 2011 (Ankara)


There is no doubt that there was popular agitation in Syria in early 2011, after the events in Egypt and Tunisia. There were anti-government and pro-government demonstrations, and a genuine political reform debate. However the serious violence that erupted in March 2011 has been systematically misreported, in line with yet another US-NATO 'regime change' agenda.


For many months the big powers and the corporate media pretended that armed opposition in Syria did not exist at all. All violence was government forces against "peaceful protestors'. In the words of the US-based Human Rights Watch (strongly linked to the US Council on Foreign Relations), "protestors only used violence against the security forces " in response to killings by the security forces or " as a last resort'. This was a dreadful deceit. Washington and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and some elements in Lebanon) were sponsoring armed attacks within Syria from the very beginning.


With the revelations of foreign Islamist fighters in Syria, engaged in kidnappings, torture and executions, we can see a "revised imperial line'. These "jihadis' or "Al Qaeda' groups are said to be "on the fringes' of the rebel "Free Syrian Army' (FSA), which is said to be led by defectors from the Syrian Arab Army. An alternative line is that the genuine "revolution' is in danger of being "hijacked' by the fundamentalists.


Daraa: the killings begin

In February 2011 some anti-government demonstrations began. They were met in March with even larger pro-government demonstrations. In early March some teenagers in Daraa were arrested for graffiti that had been copied from North Africa "the people want to overthrow the regime'. It was reported that they were abused by local police. Time magazine reported that President Assad intervened, the local governor was sacked and the teenagers were released.


What followed is highly contested. The western media version is that protestors burned and trashed government offices and that "provincial security forces opened fire on marchers, killing several' (Time, 22 March). After that, "protestors' staged demonstrations in front of the al-Omari mosque, but were in turn attacked. The western media exaggerated the demonstrations, claiming crowds of up to 300,000, with 15 anti-government "protesters' killed (AP 23 March). Daraa is a border town with 150,000 inhabitants.

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Tim Anderson is an academic and social activist based in Sydney, Australia
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