Fall of Tripoli Echoes Loudly in Damascus

Protesters in Syria have cheered on the revolutionaries in Libya, and the fall of Tripoli to a popular uprising last Saturday and Sunday gave new heart to the Syrian reform movement. So far the Syrian demonstrators have been hampered by relative lack of support in the capital of Damascus itself. Damascus is controlled by the ruling Baath Party of Bashar al-Asad.

But early Saturday morning there were calls for demonstrators to converge on the Abbasid Square in Damascus, after an incident sure to inflame religious and sectarian passions.

Syrian troops allegedly surrounded and stormed the al-Rifa’i Mosque in the capital, killing [or wounding] its prayer leader, Usama al-Rifa’i.

There were also significant demonstrations in the Damascus district of Douma and the main square of the suburb of Kafr Soussa. Regime troops attempted to disperse them. Altogether 8 were killed on Friday.

Likewise, Syrian troops surrounded a mosque in the southern, rebellious town of Deraa with tanks and prevented the 2000 worshippers there from coming out after prayers for protests.

Since Syria’s regime is secular and the upper echelons of the government and the military are disproportionately drawn from the Allawite Shiite minority, the storming of the al-Rifa’i mosque and killing of its imam is likely to deeply anger Sunnis across the board. If they respond to the call to gather in the historical squares of Damascus, it could be a tipping point in the Syrian movement.

Aljazeera English has video

Ironically, the Abbasid Square is named for a dynasty that came to power in 750 AD/ CE as a result… of a popular revolution against the ruling Umayyad dynasty.

5 Responses

  1. The Imam of the mosque has been beaten but not killed! Please double check.

  2. Not only was it the site of Abu Muslim’s revolt against the Umayyad’s, but if I am not mistaken, the Umayyad dynasty was based in Damascus and was overthrown due to nepotism and unjust treatment of those outside of their tribal inner circle. May the irony continue to flow…..

    • No, Abu Muslim’s revolt against the Umayyads took place in what is today Turkmenistan, in Merv.

      But it is true that the Umayyads were very similar stylistically to the Saudi royal family today, even down to the ancient equivalent of gold-plated bath-taps (the palace of Qasr Hisham in Jericho), and the fact that many of the caliphs were the sons of one patriarch, Abd al-Malik.

      I once mentioned this last point in a lecture in Damascus. It nearly provoked a diplomatic incident, so shocked were they.

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    They are back. The people who brought you “Iraq, Unexpected Consequences and Financial Disaster” are back with the gripping sequel “All Gas and Gaiters on the Barada”

    link to foreignpolicy.com

    I wrote to you way back in 2004 when this story was doing the rounds with stories of tests being carried out in Sudan. I think it got filed next to the Kuwaiti Incubators file.

    Naturally, poor helpless potential victims are concerned.

    link to haaretz.com

    Thanks be to all the Gods there are are some hard headed realists around to call time on the scam.

    link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

    Next thing you know it will pop up in Governor Perrys campaign, supported by all the congressmen who have had freebies to Tel Aviv this summer.

    Anthony Cordesman thinks Syria is a no no. From Time Magazines reprint og Josh Landis piece “Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies has articulated a “don’t get involved” argument.”

    There are still a few sane people left in the US.

    Admiral Mullen retires at the end of next month. I wonder what General Dempsey thinks of this landing on his plate.

Comments are closed.