Syrian women block highway, win back captive men, 2011

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Though this case could be considered part of the larger (ongoing as of May 2011) campaign for democracy in Syria, I consider it to be a distinct campaign because it maintained separate, concerted goals inside of the larger campaign or movement.
April 13
2011
to
April 13
2011
Location and Goals
Country: 
Syria
Location City/State/Province: 
Banias
Location Description: 
Highway on the thoroughfare between Syria and Turkey.
Goals: 
The release of men arrested by the Syrian government in the villages of Bayda and Beit Jnad.
 


The uprising against Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad is a part of a larger wave of campaigns in the Arab world in 2011. Known by some as the "Arab Spring," these movements’ targets included dictatorial figures, Western imperialism, sectarian discourse, militarism, economic conditions, and censorship. The conflict in Syria focused on the 40-year dictatorial rule of the Assad family. Bashar Al-Assad inherited the presidency after his father’s death in 2000.

Conflict, both nonviolent and violent, broke out in Syria in mid-March after an immolation mimicking that of the Tunisian campaign for democracy, and a series of student demonstrations. Most of the demonstrations in the early struggle – about 8-9 months -- were nonviolent in their intentions, but violence was often present as well.

Assad responded in April 2011 with increasing arrests and seemingly semi-random killings throughout the country. As the struggle escalated, both protests and military forces spread into increasingly rural areas populated by smaller villages. In early April, protestors in the coastal city of Baniyas held a large protest that featured the chant inherited from Egypt and Tunisia -- “الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام (The people want the overthrow of the regime!)”

As people in the city and the region escalated their demonstrations, the area experienced a crackdown, complete with checkpoints. The regime targeted the village of Bayda, along the coast, because many of its residents had participated in the protest at Baniyas, and, according to some, the residents were planning their own protest.

Syrian security forces entered Bayda, pulling men and women from their houses and beating them in the town square. The police detained around 350 men – most of the men in the village. At least one person died in the repression.

The next day, hundreds of women and children gathered in the center of Bayda, rallied, and marched to the main coastal highway, where they occupied the center of the road, blocking all traffic between Baniyas and Tartous, both civilian and military.

By the time the marchers reached the highway they had grown to 2,000. The women and children held olive branches and Syrian flags, chanting “We want the men of Bayda,” “We will not be humiliated!” and “Peaceful! Peaceful! Muslims and Christians!”

Shortly, the Syrian military arrived with a tank and began to threaten to shoot. A number of children and male teenagers lay in front of the tank to block its way. The remaining marchers refused to disperse.

During the afternoon, in an apparent attempt to placate the marchers, Syrian authorities released over 100 detainees.

Despite cheers of triumph, the women declared that they would not end their occupation until all of their husbands and sons were released. As of the writing of this case, there is no further information available about the outcome in Bayda. Even if the victory turns out to have been only partial, it was significant in the face of almost overwhelming violence.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The Syrian women are part of the larger movement for democracy in Syria, as well as the Arab Spring. (1)

Sources: 
All4OurCountry. "April-13-11 نساء احرار في بانياس يتكلمون عن اوضاعهم." d13 Apr 2011. Online video clip. Youtube. Accessed May 1 2011.

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FREEDOM5506. "مظاهرات سلمية لنساء البيضا 13-4-2011 ج3." d13 Apr 2011. Online video clip. Youtube. Accessed 1 May 2011.

islam1tv. "2011-4-13 بانياس - مواجهة الدبابات بصدور عارية - الاربعاء" d13 Apr 2011. Online video clip. Youtube. Accessed 1 May 2011.

Karam, Zeina. "In New Protest, Syrian Women Block Main Highway." Associated Press 13 Apr 2011, Print.

Mackey, Robert. "Syrian Women Demand Release of Detainees." The Lede. The New York Times, 14 Apr 2011. Web. 7 May 2011. <http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/syrian-women-demand-release-of-detainees/?partner=rss&emc=rss>.

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SHAMSNN. "4-13 شام - المرقب - أم تطالب بإبنها المعاق المعتقل." d13 Apr 2011. Online video clip. Youtube. Accessed 1 May 2011.

Stack, Liam, and Zoepf Katherine. "Syria Presses Crackdown in Two Cities on Coast." New York Times 12 Apr 2011, Print.

"Syrian Protests Spread to Aleppo." AlJazeera. AlJazeera, 13 Apr 2011. Web. 18 Apr 2011. <http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/04/201141315543918716.html>.

"Syrian Women Protest Over Mass Arrests." AlJazeera. AlJazeera, 13 Apr 2011. Web. 18 Apr 2011. <http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/04/201141313548714539.html>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Hanna King, 4/25/11