Something new as recently characterized the Syrian protests-turned-uprising/insurrection, as the Syrian Army’s repression continues and worsens, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims (a) that he doesn’t know about the violence afflicting his own civilian population and (b) that the military action he is ordering is against a plot by some kind of “Islamic terrorists”.

Assad, from the start [not long before his father’s death] has been a figurehead put forth by a faceless group of powerful people from the ancien regime — a group even broader than the nomenklatura of the Syrian Baath party, but almost certainly including powerful business interests whose only true ideology is making money. It was all the more shocking that this son was named to succeed his father to head a country ruled by a single party [the Syrian Baathists] whose origin and founding grew from an opposition to monarchies which are based on family succession.

Bachar’s appointment, without any particular political credentials, to succeed his father is the single strongest indication that he was and is just a convenient figurehead for a shadowy group of faceless people with powerful interests that are more financial than political, and who succeeded in enriching themselves in recent years at the expense of the Syrian people.

A mini tragedy within this much larger tragedy is that it will be the relatively clueless Bashar and his attractive wife [subject of a fawning feature in Vogue magazine in recent years] who will now be the one to take the fall for the violent suppression of the Syrian people, while Bashar [credibly, in view of the fact that he is a figurehead] says he believes the actions of the shadow regime he is heading are against “Islamist terrorists” and in the interest of his people. For, he could not be aware of the extent of his people’s suffering, over decades, and continue to remain in office, unless he believes he is somehow standing to save them… which is by now purely delusional.

Here are two videos that show the situation in Baba Amr/Homs — which are remarkable not only for their quality, but also because of this public dancing as part of demonstrations, which I have never seen in Palestine, or in even in Tahrir Square, but which seems to boost remarkably crowd energy and solidarity, and which are fascinating to watch on video. They are remarkably well-organized, and show the willingness of a large number of people to participate and willingly cooperate with instructions, in a very convincing display of popular will. They are remarkably effective.

The name of an organization [“global advocacy group”, says The Telegraph] called Ahvaaz, has been mentioned as cooridinating closely with journalists covering the Syrian uprising, and in connection with their arrivals in besieged places like Baba Amr. While the first time I heard the name Ahvaaz was in connection with an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic regime installed in Tehran that the Iranian authorities strongly believe was coordinated with the American CIA + British secret services… The name turned up again from time to time, and then surprisingly last year, in support of the Tahrir Square protests… Now, Ahvaaz is the group that is coordinating journalists’ entry — apparently in coordination with the Free Syria Army — into a country that severely restricts journalists’ entry + movement, and even into Homs, a city that has been smashed by Syrian Army attacks in recent months, and even into the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, which has been targetted by the Syrian Army for the past three weeks, very intensively since last Sunday… This is interesting, and deserves a closer look

UPDATE: On Friday, Al-Jazeera Arabic began showing in the morning a new day of these exuberant and electrifying dancing protests, first livestreaming on the internet from Baba Amr, Homs and from Deir az-Zor, further to the east [Al-Jazeera went to a split screen to show the two similar protests simultaneously]. Then, Idlib was added, north of Homs. Then, Deraa was added, to the south of Syria. All the dancing protests were remarkably similar, and all were livestreamed in a coordinated manner. The dancing protests show people standing side by side in orderly straight lines with equal spacing between lines, then bowing all together from the waist and standing up, several times. Sometimes [as in the memorial to Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, below], the people also sway side-to-side. It looks like a Sufi ritual — and is almost certainly inspired by Sufi performances, which Syria is known for.

{1} The Horror in Homs, Channel 4 TV [Britain] – “The snipers, who have no fear of God, shot him”, a woman mourning her grandson says in this video – featuring footage shot by a French photographer and cameraman, Mani, “who has been to Homs several times, lived through and filmed the beginning of the assault, the effect s on the population, and the response of the Free Syrian Army to the massacre, on the first day, of over 140 people. While the world has become used to grainy shaky and gruesome footage and images from Homs fed through whatever internet connection is available, Mani’s crystal clear and incredible footage gives perhaps the clearest and most frightening account of what Homs has been like for the past three weeks”. This is posted here:

And, {2} A tribute, last night, to Marie Colvin, to the French photographer Remi Ochlik killed with her, and to a Syrian “citizen journalist” internet activist who was killed the day before, is posted here and also on the NYTimes website here.

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