The revolution in Syria is moving closer to the centre of power in the country—and the regime is responding with brutality.
Ordinary people, supported by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), took the working class suburbs of the capital Damascus out of president Bashar al-Assad’s control last week.
These districts, just three miles from the centre of the city, are the closest the movement has come to the heart of the regime.
But the government lashed out on Sunday, with the neighbourhoods coming under heavy attack.
Assad sent in 2,000 soldiers in buses and armoured personnel carriers, along with at least 50 tanks and armored vehicles.
Activists reported bodies lying in the streets. Unarmed protesters were shot as they resisted. In some areas they held government forces off but later had to beat a tactical retreat.
Over 50 martyrs’ funerals took place over the weekend. Many turned into protests as thousands filled the streets and defied the repression.
The movement has developed roots in the working class district of Marjeh in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital. This is an important milestone—one that worries Assad.
He is desperate to cling onto power and is wary of the resistance spreading to more areas of Syria, particularly the economically powerful ones.
But he also wants to crush all signs of dissent—which carries the risk of increasing resistance and raising further international concerns about the violence.
Arab League observers have also now left the country due to “critical deterioration of the situation”.
The Syrian uprising is far from being a military battle of a few on each side. The opposition has mobilised millions against the regime.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which organise the revolution on the ground, have played an important role, particularly in Syria’s strike movement.
On the other hand the Syrian National Council, which is close to the West and supports some kind of intervention, is becoming increasingly isolated.
Now the Free Syrian Army, composed of defectors from the government army and others, is also becoming a more significant player.
It is a central element in defending neighbourhoods from the government’s attacks. In some places it works alongside the LCCs.
Some say the resistance is part of a “plot” by the West, or that a victory for the movement will help Western imperialism.
These are dangerous arguments.
The Syrian regime is no friend of the left or of resistance.
The regime strangled the Iraqi resistance after 2003, and has clamped down on other movements.
Western leaders and those resisting Assad do not have the same interests.
The UN Security Council is due to hold a vote on Tuesday of this week. France and other countries are desperate to start implementing sanctions and other measures against Assad’s regime.
But “help” from the West—or its allies—won’t do anything to liberate ordinary Syrians.