Approximately 1500 Tunisian and Syrian men and women crammed onto the landing in front of the iconic municipal theater in the heart of downtown Tunis today to denounce the Assad regime’s bloody crackdown on Syria’s pro-democratic protest movement.
“This demonstration is a demonstration of morality, culture, humanity, and dignity. It is an expression of the power of change – in support of a revolution of freedom,” stated Omar Sheikh Ibrahim, official spokesman of the Syrian Revolution in Tunisia, emphasizing the compatibility of the objectives of the Syrian people with the revolutionary aspirations of Tunisia’s democratic transition.
Yesterday Rached Ghannouchi, the religious leader of Tunisia’s dominant Islamist party, Ennahda, issued a statement on his website, calling upon his supporters to take to the streets in support of the democratic ambitions of the Syrian people. Demonstrators brandished a diverse array of multi-colored flags – indicating their affiliations with Tunisia, Ennahda, Syria, Palestine, and Hizb Ettahrir, an unregistered political party calling for the institution of sharia law.
The bellows of the protestors consisted of indictments of Assad’s regime and calls of solidarity with the Syrian people:
“No God but Allah, and Bashar is the enemy of Allah!”
“The people want the execution of Assad!”
“One! One! One! The Tunisian, Syrian, and Muslim People are one!”
Nearly a year has passed since the onset of Syria’s popular uprising, which, according to the United Nations’ reports, has left over 5,000 Syrians dead in its wake. Though the violence has been met with a degree of international disapproval, an official condemnation from the United Nations has to be achieved.
On February 4th, both Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution – drafted by the United States, Western Europe, and a number of Arab League member-states – to formally condemn the continual escalation of violence in Syria. The decision coincided with an announcement made by the Tunisian interim-government to expel Syria’s ambassador to Tunisia and to remove its ambassadorial staff from Syria, severing all diplomatic recognition of the Assad regime.
“The governments of Russia and China are killers. By supporting Assad’s regime they are participating in the murder of the Syrian people,” stated Ibrahim.
In international circles heated debate has engulfed the crisis in Syria, concerning requisite measures to ensure the removal of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad from power. Ibrahim, on behalf of his organization, emphasized the importance of international assistance, but spoke firmly against any form of foreign military intervention.
“We are against foreign military intervention, from the international community or the Arab League. The Arab League’s observers have failed, and an international intervention would also fail. The international community can help us by providing aid for Syrian refugees, by applying economic and political pressure on the Assad regime, and by arming the Free Syrian Army,” said Ibrahim.
The notion of funneling weapons to Syria’s armed opposition did not find support among all of the protestors. Firas Nasri, a Syrian student studying in Tunis and a member of the Syrian Organization, stated that the provision of weapons to the Free Syrian Army was not the most urgent need of the Syrian people. “The Syrian people are suffering most. We do not want weapons from the international community; what we need are clothes and food,” Nasri explained
While he recognized the challenges that lie ahead for Syria’s democratic opposition, Ibrahim remained confident in the ability of the Free Syrian Army to topple the Syrian regime. “We need to accelerate the process of removing Assad’s regime from power. Dozens of Syrians are becoming martyrs daily. If economic and political pressure is applied to the Syrian regime, if the Free Syrian Army is armed and funded, Assad’s regime will collapse in weeks,” Ibrahim asserted.
“We will not stop until Assad is gone – no matter the price,” stated Ibrahim.