Hundreds of Syrians were killed last week, and intense battles raged across the country. But that took a backseat to the Turkish police’s crackdown on protests in Istanbul.
Social media pages loyal to Bashar al-Assad’s regime were alight with updates on the protests. (They began as a sit-in by environmentalists opposed to razing one of the few remaining parks in the city to build a mall, and then escalated to nationwide unrest as police used tear gas and high-pressure water hoses.)
Protesters want to “topple the government, and its American agent Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the Turkish Prime Minister),” the Syrian Resistance page reported. Other sites carried similar messages, talking about the millions of Turks who want to bring down Erdogan’s government.
State media outlets covered the protests closely. Schadenfreude was palpable in a statement by Syria’s Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, who said the Turkish people don’t deserve to be violently suppressed by their government, and that Erdogan should resign — echoing the calls made on Assad to step down over the past two years.
This isn’t the first time that the Assad regime and state media have commented on other countries’ protests. When riots broke out in London in August 2011, a similarly gleeful wave flashed across pro-Assad social media sites, culminating in comments by Fawaz Akhras, Assad’s father-in-law, and Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s representative at the United Nations, comparing British and Syrian security moves. Jaafari went so far as to claim Syria was more attuned to human rights.
Meanwhile in Syria, residents of an Aleppo suburb rummaged through the rubble of a residential neighborhood, searching for survivors from a large missile strike.
Facebook has been used in Syria in ways that the site’s founders might never have imagined, from sharing the brutality of war in graphic details, to opposition diplomacy, to now, channeling the dead. Thousands of Syrians who died over the past two years have left behind a virtual presence, alerting friends and family of birthdays and other events.
Omar Abu Al Huda, a media activist from Idlib, was jarred when Facebook reminded him of his dead brother Mouayad’s birthday, who was killed last summer. The Facebook notice prompted Omar to write a public note to Mouayad, alerting him that another brother had died and that he hoped they are both in heaven together.
Omar gave an update on what happened over the past year, telling Mouayad that the opposition’s newest umbrella group, the National Coalition, is just as bad as its predecessor, the Syrian National Council; that fighting groups have proliferated but still haven’t achieved victory over the Assad regime; and that their battle is now against Hezbollah. He also told Mouayad that his young son is talking now, and that his wife and daughters miss him. He ended by saying he wished to join his dead brothers soon.
Finally, as observers focus on the brewing regional sectarian conflict and the Geneva peace talks, which were delayed once again until July, the grim reality of war continues. Below is a tweet from Damascus which captures the horrors of civilian life in the capital city.