SYRIA

Syrian strikers vow, “We will not give in”

 As anti-government demonstrations in Syria drag on for a ninth month, protesters in towns and cities across the country have adopted a new tactic to demonstrate their anger against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime – going on strike.

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Screen grab of shops closed for the general strike in Al Houla, just 20 kilometres northwest of Homs.

 

As anti-government demonstrations in Syria drag on for a ninth month, protesters in towns and cities across the country have adopted a new tactic to demonstrate their anger against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime – going on strike.

 

Anti-government protesters first called for a nation-wide general strike on Friday, December 9, which was immediately heeded by several residents in the flashpoint cities of Homs, Hama, Deraa and Idlib. Small pockets of support for the movement could even be found in and around the capital Damascus, where some witnesses reported seeing soldiers using force in an attempt to make shopkeepers open their businesses.

 

The move to strike appears to demonstrate the determination of anti-government protesters to keep up pressure on Assad’s regime despite a recent UN report, which put the death toll in Syria at 5,000 since unrest began on March 15.

 

General strike in Homs. Video posted on YouTube by homshoms2011.

“The strike represents the last form of peaceful protest that the people of Syria are still capable of”

Ziad, an opponent of the regime, lives in Syria’s central city Homs. He runs the opposition Website Homs’ Free Channel.

 

 

The call to strike was made last Friday under the banner of ‘Friday – the strike of dignity’. It was organised by the youth from the coordination committee with the approval of the Syrian National Council – the official opposition body. Information about the strike has been mostly communicated via e-mail and social networking Websites.

 

This strike represents the last form of peaceful protest that the people of Syria are still capable of, because they have already used all the other methods such as demonstrations and sit-ins.

On top of this, the armed forces have cut off certain neighbourhoods in Homs for the last several months to prevent people from participating in the kind of mass demonstrations we saw at the beginning of the uprising.

 

It’s also important to know that those who leave their homes and go out on to the streets accept that there is a good chance they will be killed. The strike, on the other hand, allows those who are too scared to take to the streets to join in the protest and as such the opposition movement grows.

 

We are prepared to hold out for as long as possible. My family has stocked up enough food to allow us to keep going for around ten days. In the poorer neighbourhoods the supermarkets remain open and offer a minimum supplies and the bakers open part time. The town’s young people are also mobilised. They have hoarded flour, rice and drinking water in a warehouse in the event the strike lasts longer than expected. They’ve also stocked up on first aid equipment to treat the injured.

 

People wonder how we can still have money and supplies despite the state of siege the city has been under and the presence of soldiers on the streets. But it is important to know that many of us have friends and relatives who work in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates who help financially by sending us cash.

 

Obviously this kind of widespread action infuriates the armed forces, who are always present here. They use megaphones to demand people reopen their shops and they threaten to break into the local businesses if their owners do not comply. I know that they have done this in other towns but this will not make us give in.”

 

 

General strike in Al Houla. Video posted on YouTube by nontherful.

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.