Why does the staff of the Syrian Embassy hide behind curtains?
On last Friday March 25 2011, a small demo took place in front of the Syrian embassy in Vienna, in support and solidarity with the people of the Diraa, the Syrian city where dozens of civilians, among them women, children, the elderly and youth were killed, shot by the Syrian security forces during the past few days. The protest demo in Vienna was also held in solidarity with the demos against the Syrian regime which were held on Friday in Damascus, Hama, Daraa, Alriqqa, Doma, Hims, and Lattakia, in which several protesters were shot to death by Syrian military while demanding political, economical and social reforms.
Dozens of Austrian demonstrators along with Syrians and Arab Austrians in Daffingerstrasse, in the third district of Vienna, in front of the Syrian Embassy. Metal barriers were placed by the Police to keep on both corners of the street block in order to keep the protesters away from the entrance of the Embassy. Five Austrian policemen were behind the metal barriers, they were generally friendly, except one of them who first did not allow me to take a picture for the demonstrators from next him. I asked him politely for his permission to take picture after the protesters stood close to the barrier. The Policeman answered in an unfriendly way: “No journalists allowed!”
I noted that only a few Syrians joined the demonstration before the embassy. There were a number of academics, doctors and officials from some civil society groups of Syrians, along with a number of Austrian leftists, who were seen in an initiative role and shouting before this demo at all previous demonstrations against the Arab dictatorial regimes, the same Arab regimes which have been supported by the West during the last 50-60 years.
All the persons who chanted during previous marches and protest demos against the Iranian, Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan regimes were seen chanting against the Syrian regime last friday. They were the same group of people, Austrians and Arabs, who chanted in all the previous marches, with the same slogans, carrying the same loudspeakers. At the first demo back in January I thought that these chanters were Tunisians, at the next demo in February I thought that they were Egyptians, but when I noticed the same core of people at the demos before the Libyan and Syrian embassies, I could no longer believe in their chants and cries. Click on the picture to make it bigger.
This is my personal opinion as a journalist, after seeing several demos and reviewing and comparing all what I witnessed. I saw the same scene and the same faces repeated at all the “pro-Arab” marches in Vienna. I wonder if these people who scream and shout paroles are employees of the same organizations.
- Is their mission ONLY to scream and to get out in all the demo marches?
- Do they do so voluntarily and in solidarity with the small number of demonstrators against the dictatorial Arab regimes, or are they are just doing their job of screaming at all the demos, whatever cause these demonstrations are against?
- Are these the so-called “professional agitators” in the employ of shady organizations, whose job it is to lead and defuse whatever protest the civil society would articulate against dictators and their atrocities?
Last Friday I witnessed a scene during the protest demo in front of the Syrian embassy which could be described as unusual, abnormal, ridiculous and suspicious, something which I had never seen during the many demos which I witnessed here in Austria, a democratic country. I saw several employees of the Syrian Embassy looking from the windows while others stood behind the curtains, watching the demonstrators in order to identify them. I suspect that these employees were the security attachés of the embassy, the “mukhabarat” people.
When the protesters began to chant against the Syrian regime, the embassy staff opened the window overlooking the protesters and began to record them with video cameras. I had never seen such an abnormal act during all the protests before embassies in Vienna which I witnessed.
The recording was noticed and made the demonstrators uncomfortable, it even caused some of the participants in the demo to far and behind corners, where nobody from the embassy could see them. This behavior from the embassy explains why the Syrians have not participated widely in the protest demo before their embassy. They all fear the reactions of the Syrian authorities, whose reaction to the protest demo also reflects the ignorance and disregard of employees of the embassy to Austrian laws and customs. Austria is a democratic country which allows its citizens to demonstrate and to express their opinion freely and without suppression, intimidation or threats.
I think that that the Austrian authorities, in particular the ministries of interior and foreign affairs, should give this act by the staff at the Syrian embassy some thought. The recording of this protest demo by the embassy staff could lead to acts of revenge against some participants in the demo or their families from the Syrian regime, and I suspect that many Syrians and are nationalized Austrians. Obviously, the Austrian government should protect its citizens from possible reactions of people who stood behind the curtains trying to identify the participants in the demonstration and determine their identities, at the very least mention this event during conversations with the ambassador.
I have personally met the Syrian ambassador, consuls and other staff of the Syrian embassy at various occasions, among them events at the United Nations. In person they are all nice and friendly people. I can only say that the Ambassador himself is a pleasant person, but the faces of the employees of the Syrian embassy who looked at the demonstrators from the windows were not the people who I know. These were other people I had never seen before, all looking very unfriendly.
It is worth mentioning that one of the personalities of the Syrian opposition living in Egypt, Mohammed Abu Zeid, was shot three times during an assassination attempt against him on 19 March after he took part in a protest demo before the Syrian embassy in Cairo on on 15 March 2011. Read the full story here
Before the Syrian embassy in Vienna the demonstrators chanted against the Syrian regime and the emergency laws in force in Syria. They condemned the dictatorial regime which silences the people and kills civilians with live ammunition. They demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down and leave. One of the new chants which I had not heared before during other demos against Arab regimes, was “traitors, scoundrels, murderers, agents of Israel!”. This chant was repeated several times by one of the protesters, but nobody joined him.
The developments and escalations in Syria comes despite a pledge by President Bashar al-Assad to expand freedoms and improve the standard of living of the Syrians. Syrians Public Information minister Bothaina Shaaban reported that President Assad had not ordered the security forces to open the fire on protesters, and that he will grant freedom to the media and allow the establishment of political movements, and that he has supposedly issued a decree which will study ending the emergency laws.
A person from the local Syrian community commented about the presidential decrees in Syria, saying: “the promises of Assad do not meet the aspirations of the people and the martyrs who were killed in Daraa and elsewhere, shot dead by Syrian security forces. The offers of al-Assad are not credible after his security forces intentionally murdered people at random on the streets”. He added that the new promises are similar to other promises of reform which have been given before in Syria. During the demo, the protesters handed a statement to the Syrian embassy in Vienna through the police officer in charge of detachment at the demo, as they were scared to go themselves into the embassy.
The police officer is seen heading to the embassy and delivering the message to those who were inside.