Protesters in the Syrian city of Kafranbel hold a placard reflecting the focus of their concerns (Source).
The past forty-eight hours has been a tense time in the Middle East and North Africa, following the anti-American violence in Egypt and Libya which resulted in the death of a US Ambassador. However, whilst there have been demonstrations in many countries against the US-produced film deemed blasphemous to Islam by many, these protests have been notably small in number and comparatively peaceful. Widespread regional demonstrations had been anticipated today, following Friday prayers. However at present, despite incidents in Sudan and Lebanon, and clashes in Egypt, protests against the film are failing to rally large numbers of people.
In Syria, the focus is different and the story is different. There, we are seeing large, peaceful and motivated protests against the Assad regime. Indeed, the largest, most widespread, likely the most peaceful, and definitely the most dangerous protests today are in Syria - not elsewhere in the Middle East. While protesters elsewhere are focused on a YouTube video created by an individual in the United States, Syrians are using their own Youtube videos to oppose the Assad regime.
The opposition in Syria knows that regional events this week may hinder Western and international support for their struggle, especially until the region is perceived as being more stable. Today citizens are out in force to try and ensure that their calls for change --- which have been persistent and strong since March 2011 --- are heard loudly by the world.
Each Friday, the Syrian opposition vote on a national protest theme. This weeks places attention on Idlib, which many regard as the birthplace of the revolution. The theme is:
Idlib: The Cemetery of Airplanes and the Symbol of Victories
The theme commemorates victories won by the Free Syrian Army that have left perhaps dozens of military helicopters and jet fighters destroyed in the last several weeks. Below is just a tiny sample of protest videos that we've collected so far today:
Irbeen near Damascus:
Mare in Aleppo Province:
Qudsaya in Damascus Province:
Kafer Awaid in Idlib Province:
Khirbet Gazallah, a town in Daraa province that was viciously attacked by Assad forces in the last week - since this protest, the town has reportedly been shelled:
The El Waer district of Homs:
Latamna, Hama province:
The Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee camp in Damascus:
Harasta, a major suburb of Damascus:
Hobait, Idlib province:
The people of Kafarnabouda have messages for the world (translation by the always helpful Zilal1, a must-follow Twitter account):
"To the Arab and Western world: your silence is better than your words - Kafarnabouda 14/9/2012."
"Kafarnabouda - Friday of "Idlib: the cemetery of airplanes and the symbol of victories"
"Everything but not the Prophet of God" (meaning touch everything except Prophet Mohammad).
This last is an apparent reference to the other protests going on in the Middle East. However, many protesters have also noted that some of Bashar Al Assad's supporters have been painting "there is no God but Bashar" on walls of opposition areas, a response to a popular chant by protesters, "There is no God but Allah," which basically means, "We won't bow down to Assad."