Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Syrian regime’s clearance sale | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Despite the criminal bombardment carried out by the Syrian army against its own people in different cities, particularly in Homs which has transformed into a symbol of the Syrian revolution, with tanks deployed at major intersections both inside and outside the city, residents still maintain their sense of humor.

A new joke has become popular in Homs, and it goes as follows: A lady passes by a tank deployed on the corner of her street every morning and night, and every day she waves to salute the solider standing guard, greeting him with the term “shalom” [a traditional Hebrew greeting]. On the forth day, however, the solider shouts at her “What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep saying shalom to me?” Raising her eyebrow in surprise, the lady replies “Oh, you can speak Arabic. I thought you were the Israeli army that has come to occupy our country.”

The joke tells us of the Syrian people’s stance towards their army, an army that used to be held in such high regard, and long enjoyed a symbolic status in the eyes of the Syrians. However, ever since the al-Assad regime rose to power, the army has repressed its own people by all means possible. The army is now exercising repression in its most brutal form, as we can see in the manner it deals with every individual in every city without exception. The army has become akin to a poisoned dagger driven into the side of the people.

Everyone has distanced themselves from the bloody Syrian regime, whilst Iran and its allies in Iraq and Lebanon continue their fervent support. However, they do not dare to overtly announce their support for the regime, amidst the insane killing and repression. The Iranian President was even forced to warn President al-Assad via the Hezbollah-affiliated “al-Manar” television channel in Lebanon. Even South Africa, a state with a checkered past in terms of “human rights”, cannot defend the al-Assad regime anymore, and India will inevitably follow suit as it toes the same political line. Former British MP George Galloway, an advocate of Arab causes who has praised Syria in the past, has also said that it is the members of the regime, not the rebels, who look more and more like terrorists with every passing day.

Now Jordan is hosting a conference for Syria’s revolutionary youth in the capital Amman, whilst Tunisia is preparing to hold a larger conference in the near future. The Arab League is getting ready to hold an extraordinary session in which the Syrian state of affairs will be discussed, as well as the regime’s practices against its own people. The UN is also preparing to issue an extremely important resolution. However, the Syrian army is changing on the ground, and its soldiers can sense that the regime is coming to an end. Divisions are rapidly intensifying, and soldiers are now confronting their own colleagues who have defected from the army to guard and defend the people. They have witnessed Gaddafi’s humiliating downfall, without anyone to support him except his mercenaries.

As the Syrian soldiers became conscious that it is now their turn [to defect from an ailing regime], they intensified their attacks on houses and shops, and carried out indiscriminate arrests. Suddenly the reason became clear; the soldiers are engineering their own severance pay. There appears to be an unwritten pricing policy whereby the Syrian army will release a youth for 250,000 Syrian Pounds (SYP), a man for 200,000 SYP, a woman for 150,000 SYP, and a child for 100,000 SYP. This can all happen before the patrol car reaches the police station, but of course once it arrives there the price will increase. Even footage released of soldiers shelling houses, torturing, and humiliating detainees is sold to news agencies, political activists, and revolutionary websites. Of course, each incident has its own price. For example, a torture scene may sell for 25,000 SYP, a bombardment scene for 30,000 SYP, and a death scene for 35,000 SYP.

On Tuesday, on a street opposite the Amr mosque in the city of Homs, the relative of an arrested rebel had to pay an officer 250,000 SYP for his brother’s release. When he asked the officer “why do you do this?” he was told “if I have to leave, I will not leave poor.” The following day in Hama, a man and his son went to pick up an elderly relative from a police car, and the officer was overheard saying “I do not want to see you again”. Yet the officer said so whilst counting the 200,000 SYP he had just received as a bribe! The elderly man commented in amazement; “why are you doing so, my son?” The officer answered “They are destroying the country, and I will not leave without a price.” In Daraa and its outskirts, specifically the famous tomato farms, army and police officers are dividing the crops. They receive over 60 percent of harvest revenues, in return for allowing the crops to be transported to the Jordanian border. They also allow trucks carrying medical supplies and foodstuffs to access the country, in return for agreed financial sums.

This is the army that defends the al-Assad regime, an army conscious that its numbers are dwindling, and that public pressure and international anger are intensifying. The army is well aware that the zero hour for Bashar is imminent, that the army’s morale is declining sharply, and that its fighting spirit has been exhausted because all they have done so far has proven fruitless. The security regime’s shop has announced its clearance sale, and soldiers are seeking to collect the spoils by any means possible before the leader departs.