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Syria: The chess game

It’s fascinating how the game is getting played out in Syria, one of the most brutal Arab dictatorships. The regime learned from Egypt. But so did the resistance. The regime monitors the networks and periodically shuts/slows them down. But the counter move of smuggling in hundreds of satellite phones had already negated that move. The regime controls where foreign correspondents can go. That leaves the field wide open to self-appointed interlocuters.

As the events unfolded Friday, user names flashed and faded. Twitter flickered with agitprop and trash talk. And Facebook glided past Gmail and Skype as Mr. Nakhle joined a coterie of exiled Syrians fomenting, reporting and, most remarkably, shaping the greatest challenge to four decades of the Assad family’s rule in Syria.

“Can you hear it?” Mr. Nakhle cried, showing a video of chants for the government’s fall. “This is Syria, man! Unbelievable.”

Unlike the revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and even Libya, which were televised to the world, Syria’s revolt is distinguished by the power of a self-styled vanguard abroad to ferry out images and news that are anarchic and illuminating, if incomplete.

For weeks now, the small number of activists, spanning the Middle East, Europe and the United States, have coordinated across almost every time zone and managed to smuggle hundreds of satellite and mobile phones, modems, laptops and cameras into Syria. There, compatriots elude surveillance with e-mailed software and upload videos on dial-up connections.

Their work has ensured what was once impossible.

In 1982, Syria’s government managed to hide, for a time, its massacre of at least 10,000 people in Hama in a brutal crackdown of an Islamist revolt. But Saturday, the world could witness, in almost real time, the chants of anger and cries for the fallen as security forces fired on the funerals for Friday’s dead.

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