Several pages have been set up on Facebook calling for a “Syrian Anger Day” with demonstrations to be staged in front of the parliament in the capital, Damascus, on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th, and at Syrian embassies across the world. Although Facebook is officially blocked in Syria since November 2007, however, many bypass the hurdle by using proxy servers and, in August last year, there were about 30,000 Facebook users registered in the country.
Last week has seen a lot of Facebook action, with groups, events and even fake accounts popping here and there either calling for demonstrations in Syria or supporting current President Bashar Al Asad. The Facebook group titled: “Syrian Anger Day” has now around 5000 Facebook users and calls upon Syrians to protest to support the Syrians Freedom. The page continues “Do not forget the ‘Hama’ Massacres that got more than 40,000 Civilians Killed in 1982…This is unforgettable and unforgivable”.
The press release published on the above mentioned group declares that the Syrian people will keep demonstrating until canceling the emergency and martial laws (in-place since 1963). The list also contains amendment of the constitution and opening space for political parties’ polarity, forming a national government, conducting fair elections, accounting spoilers in front of law, general amnesty for all prisoners of opinion and lifting the ban on media and internet. “Fair and logical demands which could be implemented”, Sara Zedan comments.
Pages and groups such as “Protesting Inside Syria & Outside” and “Events for the Syrian Anger Day” from one side, and “All honorable Syrians are against treason, against angry day..” from other side just boomed to existence last week. But many Syrians doubted that these calls will really result in any action on the ground. Mirna (fake name), 25, mentioned: “most of these accounts are fake and part of a vague online war”. When questioning how she could tell, Mirna sends this link for one of the Syrian president supporters named: “Dr. Hanan Nora Al Hayek” nicknamed Syriana Girl, who has a very attractive female look on her Facebook profile. Dr. Hanan also has a YouTube channel where the Syriana Girl has more “fleshy” pictures, with the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) logo next to her. Knowing that SSNP is a secular party, it is hard to be convinced that they would use the Islamic term “Assalamu Alaykom” in their speeches, as one of the speeches Syiana girl published . Mirna comments: “Can you see the mix between sex, patriotism and religion?”
Engineer Zaki Najib Facebook account is fake. With only 15 friends, the account gives a very interesting biography: “Director-general of the general company for Tartous port, and candidate to Prime Minister post in the Republic of Syria in the coming changes to happen”. All pictures are lifted from Mr. Najib image search on Google. Rumors have spread into other online mediums with websites mentioning that Syrian security informed “Al Jazeera” and “Arrabiya” channels that any report about events (in case they happen) are not allowed to be broadcasted. Riad Issa from Lebanon confirms the theory stating: “The regime have arrested a lot of its opponents, and Lebanese media is not allowed to enter the boarders including allies such as Assafir and Al-Akhbar papers”. But other fractions of the report mentioning that most TV channels headquarters are within the premises of the Syrian national TV are dismissed. Mirna comments: “It is absurd, each TV has its own headquarters and in even in different areas”.
Another interesting factor is the usage of Facebook advertisement to call for the demonstrations to happen in Syria, something that neither Tunisian nor Egyptian revolutions did not use. Serious negative connotations accompany this matter, it means “that there is someone who is paying for these demonstrations to happen and advertising for them”, Fidele Harfouche observes. Another strange aspect that these advertisement are not only targeting the Syrian population (I was able to print screen one while using an IP address). Add to this, that Syrians in order to access Facebook use proxies, which means they will only get advertisement from the country that their IP after using proxy will indicate (please check the print screen of my Syrian friend’s Facebook profile).
Separate from the online platform, President Al-Assad gave a statement to the Wall Street Journal rejecting the theory that Syria is next in the domino effect. He said that comparison between Syria and Egypt is not logical, with Egyptian regime being aided with the US regime and still the people and hungry, while Syria though under economic siege, still managed to achieve economic growth. Al-Assad added: “When there is divergence between your policy and the people’s beliefs and interests, you will have this vacuum that creates disturbance”, conveying that he is very closely linked to the beliefs of the people.
Whether a demonstration will happen tomorrow after Friday prayers’ or not, it is still early to tell. But what is confirmed that the Syrian regime has “detained political and human rights activists, restricted freedom of expression, repressed its Kurdish minority, and held people incommunicado for lengthy periods, often torturing them, during 2010” as Human Rights Watch report mentioned last week. Whether betting on a democratic regime that will allow the demonstrations to happen or totalitarian that will deny the rights of people to protest, in few hours, you will see if your card number is a lost card!