Syrian activists to rebels: Give us our revolution back
Many of the activists who began the uprising in Syria more than a year ago feel their peaceful push for change has been hijacked by the rebel Free Syrian Army. They're meeting in Cairo today.
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"Frankly, we’ve given up" on the international community, an activist in Damascus who identifies himself as Mar says via Skype. “You guys have let us down. The FSA is our only hope for salvation now.”Skip to next paragraph
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Assad's government has characterized the uprising largely as the work of armed gangs and terrorists. The activity of the FSA, which has been accused of human rights violations as it fights the regime, has complicated what began as a revolution in which the masses peacefully but persistently demand political reform as Egyptians did in Tahrir Square.
Some say that the Assad regime views political change, rather than armed insurgency, as the greater threat.
“The regime is more afraid of the nonviolent protesters than it is of the armed Islamists. That’s why most of them have been forced to leave the country or are in prison," says Yara Nseir, who was forced to flee Syria last summer after she had been detained 18 days for distributing leaflets. "They wanted it to become an armed uprising because it allows them to tell the world that they are fighting terrorists.”
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a telling remark at an Istanbul press conference April 13, when he was asked if “the Syrian regime is afraid of their own Tahrir.” He replied, “That is what we have believed from day one.”
'I told them to their face they are criminals'
Alloush, who fled to Lebanon to escape the FSA, was among the first activists to organize anti-regime protests in Homs when the uprising began in March 2011.
“Back then the regime would have armed troublemakers mingle with the protesters to have an excuse to open fire on us. Well, they don’t need to do that anymore: the Free Syrian Army has provided them with the perfect excuse to go on killing people.”
In February, Alloush went back to Homs clandestinely. He made the rounds of the city’s mosques to persuade the imams there to preach against the use of violence. When the FSA found out he was in town he fled to neighboring Lebanon once again.
Another young Syrian activist, who goes by the pseudonym Yusuf Ashamy, has also drawn the ire of the FSA.
Mr. Ashamy was in Tripoli in north Lebanon last month to ask the FSA for help in sending a shipment of medicine to besieged cities in Syria when Human Rights Watch published a report on severe human rights violations by the Syrian rebels.
In an open letter to the leaders of the Syrian opposition, Human Rights Watch cited “increasing evidence of kidnappings, the use of torture, and executions by armed Syrian opposition members.”
"I told them to their face they are criminals if they do such things, and that they know the meaning of the word freedom," says Ashamy.
Ashamy was told he had better not show his face around Tripoli again if he wanted to stay alive.
"They have ruined everything," Ashamy says of the FSA. "In the beginning we were all Syrians. But when I was last in Homs [late last year] I found that people there were not even aware of what is happening elsewhere in the country. They see this as a purely Sunni Muslim insurgency, and I was accused of being a spy because my ancestry is Druze. "