Today, it was the first time we could actually see the “huge numbers” –those that, according international, being s missing in Damascus make the revolution`s fate very uncertain- finally hitting the capital`s streets.
But, just to be clear: it was not for anti-regime protest. A huge crowd -thousands and thousands- gathered in Mezzeh Sharqyyia -an area of town were Damascus university is situated, alongside with the Iranian Embassy, Saudi Consulate, many companies` offices, upper-scale restaurants etc- to mourn three people that were killed yesterday.
This video which was broadcast live through a mobile shows how the mourners gather very close to the Iranian embassy (one of the first building we can see in the footage, just opposite the telephone company MTN building) and then start marching alongside the Otostrad al Mezzeh (Mezzeh Highway), a wide highway. The crowd should be huge if we are not able to see the highway where they are marching (later on in the video, they will abandon the main route and go inside the tiny alleys of the Mezzeh area).
Still, this is a funeral. People are only chanting religious slogans to mourn the dead, the only reference to the revolution is when they (rarely) chant “Syrian people are one” (a popular revolutionary slogan since the beginning of the uprising). For more than an hour, the only thing we can see is an amazing crowd that marches in huge numbers few kilometers away from the Presidential Palace, while snow starts to come down. It is truly an breathtaking scene.
It is not to diminish its importance that I feel I need to underline that this is mostly a funeral.
It turns openly into an anti-regime protest only towards the end of the video (around 1 hour and 14 minutes) when a smaller group of people starts to shout “May God protect the Free Syrian army!”, a clear signal that it`s an anti-regime crowd. A minute later, another revolutionary slogan follows that chants “the Syrian raises his hand”, then many people start shouting against Abu Hafez (this is how they call Bashar al Assad, in reference to his first son, Hafez).
But it is only when the crowd makes a clear reference to the shabbiha (a pro-regime militia) that the fire is opened (around 1 hour 1minutes) and the crowd is dispersed. Then, they start cursing Abu Hafez and, few minutes afterwards, the broadcast is interrupted.
Reuters reports that 3 people at least were shot dead today after the fire was opened.
Over the Internet and all across social media, this funeral march resonated as the biggest anti-regime protests happening in the capital so far. It was mostly a funeral, true. And, because of it being a funeral, the slogans we could hear were religious more than political, although a part have changed towards the end.
Although we cannot classify it as truly an anti-regime protest (we have seen funerals all across Syria being much more explicit in their political nature) it marks a very important phase in this 11 months-old revolution. People have rehearsed, probably, for a much bigger thing. Cleverly enough, they have not chanted anti-regime slogans in the beginning of the march in order not to be dispersed immediately or killed. But they have proved that they can take, little by little, the streets of the capital. Knowing Damascus, this is a slow process which cannot happen all of a sudden.
But the crowd`s power and energy was palpable today, even under cold snow.