[Ed.'s Note: Due to the recent crisis in Lebanon, The Syria Monitor took a temporary back seat. Posting will now resume starting with quick round-ups from the last few weeks. Regular posting will then follow.]
8/29 - The Syrian authorities refused to allow dissident Michel Kilo to attend his mother's funeral (Arabic. AKI, 8/29/06). Kilo's lawyer told the press that the practice of allowing prisoners to attend their parents' funerals has been established for decades in Syria, but the authorities did not recognize it for Kilo. Kilo was arrested in May in the wave of arrests that targeted signatories of Beirut-Damascus Declaration, a document initially signed by 274 Syrian and Lebanese activists and intellectuals calling on the Syrian regime to correct its relations with Lebanon, by recognizing its sovereignty and independence and abiding by international resolutions. Kilo is facing charges of "weakening nationalist sentiment," "inciting sectarian and ethnic strife," "disseminating false or exaggerated news that undermine the state," and "defaming the head of state or the judiciary." (Arabic. Elaph, 8/29/06).
8/31 - Kurdish activist Abdel Hakim Bashar, member of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria's politburo (PDK-S/Al-Parti), was forbidden from traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan. (Arabic. Elaph, 8/31/06). This comes in a series of recent travel bans against activists in an attempt to isolate them from the outside world.
9/1 - Three Kurdish parties (Yekiti, Azadi, and the Kurdish Future Current), called for a sit-in on 9/7 in front of the Military Court in Damascus. The sit-in is to protest the prosecution at the Military Court of 49 Kurdish youth arrested last year for their participation in a rally demanding the truth behind the murder of Kurdish cleric, Sheikh Maashouq al-Khaznawi. (Arabic. AKI, 9/1/06). Khaznawi disappeared on May 10, 2005 and was found dead on June 1, 2005. His death is suspected of being the work of the Syrian intelligence services, as Khaznawi was making overtures to the Arab opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood.
9/1 - The Syrian opposition strongly criticized the speech given by Bashar Assad on August 15, where he attacked the ruling Lebanese Parliamentary and cabinet majority, the Lebanese independence movement, moderate Arab leaders, the US and Israel, and expressed support for Hezbollah. A statement by the Damacus Declaration groups criticized Assad's as inciting violence and inflammatory against moderate Arab and international parties. (Arabic. Elaph, 9/1/06). It also called on the regime to cease interfering in Lebanese affairs. Furthermore, it noted the need for radical democratic change in public life in Syria, moving it from authoritarianism and repression to a law-based democratic system with equality, freedom and justice.
Similarly, the leading members of the National Salvation Front, Abdel Halim Khaddam (Arabic. AKI, 8/28/06) and Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni (Arabic. AKI, 9/1/06), both criticized Assad's speech and his reckless policies in back to back appearences on Lebanon's Future TV. Khaddam noted that it was the Assad regime's policy to bleed Israel through proxy war in Lebanon. Bayanouni meanwhile said that the intent to re-dominate Lebanon was "a priority for the regime." Both Khaddam and Bayanouni also expressed certainty that Assad was behind the murder of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Bayanouni also sent messages to Syria's minority Alawites in an attempt to assuage their fears of democratic change in Syria. He said that it was unfair to call the regime "Alawite" as it a family regime, and the Alawites have had their share of injustice and repression like all Syrians. Both Khaddam and Bayanouni stressed their conviction that no civil war would erupt in Syria should the regime be toppled.