One of the great inaccuracies of describing the conflict in Syria is framing it in purely sectarian terms, claiming that the Assad regime has the support of minorities while fighting off Sunni opponents. In fact, Syrians supporters of the government come from all sects – as do detractors.
Social media, especially anonymous posters, can amplify sectarian rhetoric, but it can also break through divisive language and expose deeper complexities. Countless YouTube videos showed rebels reprimanding Sunni members of Assad’s army for fighting on the wrong side. Also this week, in a widely shared video, Syrian army soldiers allegedly beat and tortured three Alawite officers accused of helping rebels.
Pro-Assad Facebook pages applauded the treatment of the officers, who were stripped, stuffed in barrels and repeatedly beaten and spat on. One page from Homs said: “This is the fate of all traitors.”
Videos like these accelerate the polarization of Syrian society. They serve as a reminder of the harsh punishment that awaits Alawites and other minorities who defy the Assad regime.
They also explain the dilemma that many Alawite soldiers face. If they try to defect, they would undoubtedly be treated with suspicion by the predominantly Sunni rebel groups, and if their sympathies are revealed, they would face extreme hardship or death at the hands of their comrades in the pro-Assad Syrian military.
Moving on to even more gruesome images: Beheadings continue in Syria, and both sides are involved. A cleric with Jabhat al-Nusra, the extremist rebel group linked to al-Qaida, has threatened to decapitate Arab tyrants while standing above the headless body of a Syrian officer. One photo circulating from Salamiyeh this week showed the head of a rebel fighter perched on a column in front of the city’s hospital.
Aziz Asaad, a Salamiyeh resident, confirmed the image was genuine and emotionally described the scene.
One social media tool that’s proving largely ineffective is the daily Scud missile alert. Activists living near the source of fire outside Damascus can see the rockets, posting warnings on Facebook, but can’t say for sure where the missile will land. Civilians on the receiving end in northern Syria can only hope that they won’t drop on their neighborhood.
[!]Finally, on a somewhat brighter note, a poster from Kafranbel, the town in Idlib that produced some of the wittiest banners in Syria’s protest movement, made waves across all forms of social media. The banner expressed condolences for the victims of the marathon bombing in Boston. Residents in Boston reciprocated with a message of peace and solidarity for Syrians.
: http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Salamiyeh-beheading.gif : http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Scud-launch-warning.gif : http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/kafranbel-boston.jpg