On Feb 3rd, Al Jazeera’s article “Kingdom of Silence” downplayed the likelihood of an uprising in Syria:
Analysts say a popular president, dreaded security forces and religious diversity make a Syrian revolution unlikely…Authoritarian rule, corruption and economic hardship are characteristics Syria share with both Egypt and Tunisia. However, analysts say that in addition to the repressive state apparatus, factors such as a relatively popular president and religious diversity make an uprising in the country unlikely.
“First of all, I’d argue that people in Syria are a lot more afraid of the government and the security forces than they were in Egypt,” Nadim Houry, a Human Rights Watch researcher based in Lebanon, says. “The groups who have mobilised in the past in Syria for any kind of popular protest have paid a very heavy price – Kurds back in 2004 when they had their uprising in Qamishli and Islamists in the early 1980s, notably in Hama.” The so-called Hama massacre, in which the Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in 1982 in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, is believed to have killed about 20,000 people. “I think that in the Syrian psyche, the repression of the regime is taken as a given, that if something [protests] would happen the military and the security forces would both line up together. I think that creates a higher threshold of fear.”
And yesterday (this is from Juan Cole):
Tens of thousands of Syrians challenged the president on “Great Friday”. In numerous cities, from Homs in the north to Izzra in the south, crowds came out and chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime.”
The regime reciprocated by wanting the fall of the people. In numerous cities, security police opened fire with live ammunition on unarmed civilian crowds, i.e. on non-combatants. Dozens of protestes were shot down dead, and dozens more wounded. Some late reports put the death toll for Friday at 90. It is a startling statistic, and bodes very badly for the regime. Future crowds will demand action against the police who opened fire, and against their bosses in the Baath Party.
Al Jazeera’s “Syria’s Deadliest Day”:
And from an April 19th interview with Bassam Haddad:
Well, what we have in the past evening, last night, was a protest of about 10,000 or more people—we don’t have exact numbers—who, actually, for the first time in the recent weeks, have actually taken the Clock Square, which is now being dubbed “Tahrir Square” in Homs, and have just sat in the square and announced that they will not leave until their demands are met. And of course, this was not the case. At about 1:45 a.m. in Syria, the police dispersed the protesters using tear gas and live bullets…
what I have been saying in the past couple of days is basically that we are entering a very decisive week. And I think that the proclamations by the regime and by Bashar Assad might begin to fall on deaf ears, because we might have crossed into the point of no return in terms of what the regime can do politically. So, what I’m saying in terms of movement to one—to elimination of the one-party rule is perhaps the only exit, not out of the entire tense situation, but a way to placate some of the extremist views and to prevent the majority of Syrians to basically join in what might become new Tahrir Square-like gatherings in various Syrian cities. So, it is really a decisive week, and it seems that the regime, by not taking advantage of some of the opportunities it had in the first two speeches, it seems that it is making itself more and more irrelevant, irrespective of what concessions it makes.
Also, a longer audio-only interview here.