The dissidents added that the Assad government uses cigarettes as a form of payment for the irregular military forces and militias, known as the shabeeha, who have had a central role in its violent crackdown. “Cigarettes are a favorite form of payment for the shabeeha,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident and human-rights activist based in Washington.
About five Alawite clans, all linked through intermarriage and business interests, control the real power bases in Syria — such as the security apparatus and the military — and there have been no notable defections from their ranks, said Ammar Abdulhamid, an exiled opposition member who is on the Syria Working Group at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, a think tank in Washington.
“They control the key decision-making process in tactical terms,” Abdulhamid said of the powerful Alawite dynasties. “The defection shows that the regime has lost control of an old game: the Sunni fig leaf.”
The following is the summary provided at the end of the 6th Episode of First Step, a reportage program produced by the Tharwa Foundation in 2009 to promote the cause of peaceful democratic change in Syria. I conceived the show after reviewing the YouTube videos prepared by our in-country activists showing the daily realities that people in Syria have to content with. the videos justified my faith in the possibility and necessity of the revolution, and that helped ut this summary together. The real heroes, of course, are the activists who risked their freedom and their lives to provide the videos. Continue reading →
No, this is not some fancy conspiracy theory that I am about to outline here, it is the reality we have been facing for many years now under the rule of this reform-minded president and his clique of brothers, cousins and in-laws. The Damascus Community School (DCS), popularly referred to as the American School, is currently being squeezed out of existence, or at least, its Syrian students are, so as to fill the empty seats in the Shoeifat School owned by, who else?, the President cousin, Rami Makhlouf, AKA, the Raminator of Modern Syria. Continue reading →
The story of the Little Tiger, Numair al-Assad, ad his gang of bank robbers illustrates well the kind of family politics that is involved in the Assad clan these days.
Here is a man in his early thirties who was caught red-handed on camera leading his gang of thugs and cut-throats on a little heist where a little less than 1 million USD were stolen, a man who was clearly identified, captured by the authorities in full daylight, in an event that was reported even in Syrian media, a man who, despite his relation to the President (a first cousin and all that) was actually put in prison, a man who, therefore, and no matter how inadvertently, could have cleaned up the ashen image of the President by just staying in prison and getting the royal treatment. Instead, the man escapes from prison, with the duplicity of his jailers of course, and not to some far away country, but to his home-turf in the coastal city of Lattakia where he currently roams free, unmolested by anyone and still leading his gang on various heists. Continue reading →
According to reports coming out of Syria, security forces are currently laying siege to two different villages in the northern parts of the country, in the provinces of Idlib and al-Hassakeh to be specific. The two sieges are separate and have been instigated by two different sets of very local circumstances. In other words, there are no political overtones here.
Still, the two incidents are rather significant and quite ominous on two counts: the incompetence and corruption of the local authorities seem to lie at the heart of both incidents, and, in both cases, local authorities seem to be acting completely on their own, serving the interests of their various local leaders and being given a free hand by the central authorities. Continue reading →