“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

After 41 years, Syria begins to imagine a future without an Assad in charge

These are strange times in Damascus – where all appears normal on the surface but dark undercurrents swirl just beneath

guardian.co.uk, Nidaa Hassan in Damascus, Wednesday 6 July 2011

Syrian opposition intellectuals during a meeting held in Damascus to discuss
the situation in their country. Photograph: Khaled Al-Hariri/Reuters

From the crumbling houses and narrow alleyways of Damascus's old city to the sleek cafes and government buildings of Abu Rummaneh and Mezze, posters of President Bashar al-Assad are taped on to windows. Syrian flags flap in the breeze.

In the 41 years since the Assad family seized power in a coup led by Bashar's father, Hafez, it has tried to equate the country with the ruling family: "Syria, al-Assad." Soldiers are told to pledge allegiance to the leader, not the country. Statues of Hafez tower over city centres.

But now, across the country, and right here in the capital, Damascus, this vision is being torn apart: people are beginning to imagine a Syria separate from Assad rule.

"The family has run the country like its personal fiefdom rather than a state that belongs to all the citizens," says a prominent writer in the capital, surrounded by tottering piles of books in a living room where a large, traditional silver coffee pot sits on a table.

It is that new idea of national identity free of oppression now driving the protests that crisscross the country, which were initially calling only for reforms rather than revolution.

But if the uprising has brought the protesters together under this new identity, it has also divided them from the vehement regime supporters, who apparently are fighting to keep the regime intact – and, at least on the surface, nowhere more so than in Damascus.

Some offer genuine support due to their connections to the regime, others through fear. "Do these protesters want to drive us into a war?" asks one middle-aged man.

Though protests in Damascus are growing – they have spilled out in the neighbourhood of Midan and small groups have dared to step out in central Baghdad Street and in the swanky central shopping district of Shaalan – just as visible are the noisy, placard-waving pro-Assad rallies, and banners lauding Russia and China for blocking a UN resolution.

Al-Jazeera logos are stencilled on the city's green dustbins as a sign of disgust for the channel that has helped drive the Arab spring.

The cult of personality has grown during the uprising, and verges on the hysterical. State radio blares out chants lauding Assad. Increasingly aggressive pro-regime protesters shout "Abu Hafez", the Father of Hafez, in reference to Assad's eldest son and his potential ascendency to the presidency.

But most of all, as security forces raid the city of Hama and bloodshed is reported in Homs, both of which lie between Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, it is the apparent normality in the capital that is most noticeable.

More than 1,500 civilians have been killed across Syria since protests broke out in mid-March, according to human rights groups. Thousands more have been injured or arbitrarily arrested and tortured in what Amnesty International says may amount to crimes against humanity.

These are eye-watering figures that an outsider might assume would have a whole country up in arms. But in the capital, cars rattle around, puffing exhaust fumes into the polluted air. People sip coffees in the upmarket cafes or small, sweet glasses of tea in shops and houses. Markets bustle with women weighed down by bags of produce and men crouch over backgammon games in the old city as the sun goes down and the call to prayer rings out.

But the normality belies a city that may not yet have been rocked by the protest movement, but has been torn apart under the surface. The protests and the regime's violent response – which it has blamed on armed gangs of foreigners and extremists – triggered an emotional reaction in the capital that has shifted from denial and confusion to anger and, finally, polarisation.

For the first weeks after the protests began in mid-March, the streets were empty in the evening as people stayed in, glued to the TV. Taxi drivers would anxiously ask the opinion of passengers as to what was going on.

But as the protests rolled into their third and now fourth month, Damascus came back to life. Come the evening, families stroll down the streets of Midan to buy sweets piled in gravity-defying heaps in brightly lit shops.

The divide between regime loyalists and opponents among the capital's estimated 6 million residents – 30% of the population – is becoming starker.

Friends fall out over political differences, often played out for all to see on their Facebook walls. Commentators exchange fire on their blogs. Some adhere tightly to the president. Only a few assert nothing is happening or that armed gangs are running amok, but even they seem less convinced – and they too have glimpsed a vision of a new Syria.

"I've seen different sides of friends and colleagues," says one middle-aged businesswoman. "We have been very suspicious about saying our real thoughts but now they are coming out and it is causing violent differences between people."

While support for the president is manifest across the city, dissenters are there – just below the surface.

Certain cafes have always had their intellectuals. Older men have long gathered in traditional tea shops to talk shop – including in Havana cafe, where Hafez al-Assad plotted his 1970 coup.

Now, they are meeting in bigger groups and conversations that were once reserved for the privacy of the home are being held in public. During a conference in the Semiramis hotel, figures such as the writer Louay Hussein referred to the "tyranny" of rule in the country. Subsequent threats from the regime have not deterred them.

"We have been docile for too long," says one older regime critic who has become ever bolder, hosting meetings of veteran opposition figures in his house.

And a younger, often well-off, generation of activists have joined, and overtaken the traditional opposition, forming into tight-knit independent groups or linking into the local co-ordinating committees, a grassroots grouping centred on Damascus but spanning the country.

In the elite central cafes in Damascus, swirling smoke does little to conceal a tangibly revolutionary atmosphere among those exchanging the latest news. Some tap away on MacBooks, posting videos and information to support the uprising in the rural areas.

"Regardless of what you thought before, what they are doing to people is absurd and reason enough to fight for them to go," says one young woman who is helping to connect activists in different cities.

After protesting in April, she was detained for a week – during which time she was blindfolded and made to strip naked in front of three security men.

Other activists monitor the protests outside the capital from scruffy flats around the city. Facebook has become a vital tool for updates on human right violations, with videos uploaded from towns and villages across the country. Such activists have numerous virtual friends – and often spend more time talking to them than they do with close family and friends.

Some Damascenes slip between the two realities, going to work as normal and interacting with colleagues, then protesting on a Friday. "We're living in two worlds, in a bubble," says one man from a suburb of the city, talking in his office on a weekday. "I have to navigate between the two depending on who I am with."

If polarisation and normality reign, the city has been irrevocably changed. At the beginning of the Arab spring, when some pushed for demonstrations here, the streets were empty other than for the ubiquitous security services, huddled in groups with leather jackets and cigarettes their only identifying uniform.

But protests do now pop up, small in the centre but ever more sustained. Cafes and shops that would nervously flash on al-Jazeera or al-Arabiya for a few minutes now show the channels more defiantly.

People openly use Bashar al-Assad's name, where in the past they would have referred to "him", or left an easily interpretable blank, with accompanying tilt of the head. The older Syrian writer puts it disparagingly, mockingly calling him "the boy".

Snatches of political conversation can now be heard on the streets. People meet and discuss the future as horizons have been widened from the day to day grind of life under the Assads.

But everyone knows the calm in the centre may not last. Stories of detention and torture circulate widely, opening eyes to the brutality of the regime, which under Assad's rule has positioned itself as reformist, with some success, far from the dark days of his father's time in power.

That era was epitomised for many by the 1982 siege on Hama to put down an armed Islamist uprising, which left up to 20,000 dead – an image that is being recalled in whispers as forces appear to move back into Hama this week.

A relatively high standard of living – Damascus does not have the absolute poverty of other Middle Eastern capitals – is deteriorating as the economy suffers from the unrest.

The uprising has been driven by the rural areas, which the Ba'ath party represented when it came to power but neglected as it mingled with the urban elite over time. Official exchange rates are 10% out as the Syrian pound falls in value. Black market traders are quickly clamped down on. Tourism has disappeared.

Meanwhile, the prices of basics such as eggs and sugar have shot up, and long queues form for petrol after the price was dropped, leading to rumoured shortages.

One trader, propped up on a stool in a shady spot in his carpet shop in the old city, says he has made no money this week. "This is hurting the regime's last support base," he says.

Disgruntled Damascenes bemoan the heavy security presence – the mukhabarat are everywhere. A cafe customer happily mocking the president suddenly notices a man watching. A second sits down at the next table, wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap, both imprinted with the president's face. The mocker quickly points to a TV screening a pro-Assad rally and loudly says how amazing – but expected – the huge crowds are, playing to his audience, before quickly leaving.

"This country does not belong to Assad and we need to make that clear," he says outside. "Damascus's day will come because the whole country, including here, has already witnessed a revolution in horizons and aspirations."

Nidaa Hassan is the pseudonym of a journalist in Damascus

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