The revenge of 10 children with nails removed

The revenge of 10 children with nails removed

Ten children living in the Syrian city of Daraa were inspired by the Arab Spring and wrote an expression of freedom on walls. They were arrested by the intelligence agency. Families of the children applied to the Office of the Governor, but that didn’t help. They went to the intelligence offices, that didn’t help either. Finally, the Office of the Governor was raided and the children were taken back. There was a problem however: Nails of the children had been removed and some of them had been raped. The families went ballistic and their tribes were outraged by the fact. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets, burned down the intelligence headquarters and the phone company belonging to Rami Makhlouf. This is how the fear threshold was passed against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

By revealing this horrific incident, a businessman from Hamali refutes the claims that the uprising in Syria was encouraged by external forces. “Irhal irhal yeskutu nezam” (Go, go. The regime is coming down) was the slogan the children wrote on the walls.

As we were looking for an answer to who is leading the revolt against the Assad regime in Syria, who these opponents are, Syrian dissidents arrived in Istanbul, so we met them. Almost having members of all spectrums of ethnicities in Syria represented at the Grand Cevahir Hotel against the “instigation,” in a way to disprove the scenarios produced by the Alewite minority against the Sunni majority, Kurds against Arabs in the north, Turks against Arabs in Aleppo, the Druze against Circassian at the Golan Heights would have clashes.

Though each ethnic group believes themselves to be the strongest dissidents in Syria, from the Muslim Brothers to leftists, from liberal groups to tribe leaders, everyone has agreed on one thing: No political party or group led the uprising. This is being organized by young people on the Internet. Though tribe leaders warn, “This is not the time; the regime will wipe you out,” the young do not seem to follow it.

Opposition parties and groups are giving support to the young willy-nilly. I was backstage to decipher the codes of the revolt. I asked Ibrahim Adelmelik attending the conference at the hotel on behalf of the Syrian youth, “Who are you? Who is backing you up?” He responded to me in perfect English, “There is no religion, no religious sect and no race. We are the nationalists of Syria. We exist for Syria. The only thing we want is freedom.”

Seems quite political but that doesn’t mean it lacks ideology. This is rather a brotherhood in rebellion, where differences are pushed aside. The spectrum has decided to knock off the regime of cruelty. Views vary on who takes the lead, be it leftists or Islamists. Since all wings of the opposition were eliminated after the Hama massacre following a series of assassinations allegedly by the Muslim Brothers in 1982, it is difficult to say who is in the lead by just looking at the streets of Syria.

According M Selame al-Selan, the leader of the Rula tribe spread throughout in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, “Neither leftists nor the Brotherhood took the lead in the uprising. The grassroots of both are joining demonstrations. But leftists, owing to good connections with the media, come forward in the international community. However, the Baath being ‘Socialist’ has put a distance between the people and the leftists.”

A doctor in exile referring to the Muslim Brothers said, “They have not been around for 30 years, but the spirit of the Brotherhood is on the streets. Under normal circumstances, they would gain 30 percent of the votes.” A leftist Vajdi Mostafa claims the power and role of the Brotherhood is being exaggerated. There are reservations about political discretion of the Muslim Brothers. Since they cooperated with Rifat al-Assad, who is considered to be the architect of the Hama massacre, and since the claims that former Brotherhood members in London have received American aid, doubts have increased about the Muslim Brothers.

An Ihvan member said this “ominous” partnership came to an end in 2007 due to the disturbance felt among the grassroots, “We have returned from a mistake.” The biggest dilemma of the Syrian opponents is the lack of an alternative backbone to stand up to the regime. And the reason is that they have been grouping in exile for the last 30 years. Selan taking over the leadership from his father who was sent to exile together with 600,000 people for resisting against the Baath in 1961 admits he cannot be a politically determinative figure over the tribe members. Selan said, “But if I do have the chance to do politics, I will drag them with me.”

The Syrian opposition is sensitive toward the possibility of clashes between ethnic groups or religious sects. According to a Kurdish representative from Kam??l? Mohammed ?brahim, Kurds want to split from Arabs as Assad announced that 400,000 Kurds would be granted citizenship, but they failed. In 2004, Arab gangs, protected by intelligence agents, plundered stores owned by Kurds and Christians as ethnic encounters were fomented. Arabs living in the Kurdish region were given guns. So, there is the potential of having clashes in the region. Since Kurds are not counted as citizens, they do not have control over the land. Kurdish territories were handed to Arabs who were the aggrieved of the Tabqa Dam. The issue between the two communities is like a landmine.

In order to prevent a civil war, the Syrian opponents target the Assad family in control of the regime, not the “Alewite-majority regime itself.” Three names are being pushed to the forefront: Maher al-Assad, Assad’s brother and commander of the Presidential Guards; Asef Shawqat the chief of the intelligence agency; and Assad’s cousin and “businessman” Makhlouf. Mahir is in charge of the military, Asef of the intelligence and Makhlouf of finance. To keep the reign, the Assad family will cause bloodshed but the military eventually will be broken apart and the game of Assad will be ruined. This is the cold comfort of the Syrian opponents.

?ebbiha: The regime’s mob

The true identity of the “?ebbiha” who opened fire on both troops and demonstrators during the protests remains an enigma for us, but for the Syrians, neither their aims nor their identities constitute a mystery. According to dissidents, the “?ebbiha” is attacking the army to provoke them into using more violence against the people. Its members shave their heads and grow long beards and moustaches. Everyone knows who these people are. The picture that I have managed to piece together based on accounts provided by the dissidents goes like this: “?ebbiha” is an epithet used to describe a mafia-like organization whose purpose is to do the regime’s dirty work. It is a term derived from the word “?ebah,” which means ghost, and has no lexical meaning. ?ebah is also used to refer to a limousine, as in “ghost car.”

In ordinary people’s lexicon, “?ebbiha” means “the men who drive the limousine.” Back in time, there was a gang that carried out the deeds of Haf?z al-Assad, Mahir al-Assad and R?fat. When conflict arose within the trio, R?fat was ousted and fled abroad. R?fat’s men in the gang became defunct. Mahir al-Assad, As?f ?evket and Rami Mahluf restructured the gang. This gang now operates customs and smuggling activities along the shoreline. The bulk of the gang is made up of Alewites. When demonstrations erupted in Syria, this gang was sent into the rebellious cities.