Revolutions start sometimes over items where they are least expected. The entire “Jasmine Revolution” which began in Tunisia was sparked by a vegetable vendor setting himself alight (poor pun there) and becoming a world wide sensation.
In Libya I believe that Gaddafi had the opposition on the ropes and his tanks and heavy weapons were about to take Benghazi when he made the critical error of telegraphing his plans for human rights abuses which I wrote about here.
In Syria, the government just made a horrendous tactical mistake that seems to be a combination of the two items listed above. While protests have rocked Syria, their brutal authorities have taken extreme measures to combat the protestors including sending tanks into cities and stationing snipers on rooftops to limit movement and terrorize the civilian population (I fear that the Arab dictators have seen the power of snipers through the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now turning this against their people).
The government tortured a 13 year old boy to death named Hamza al-Khateeb and then returned his mutilated body to his parents a week later. You can read the details here but they are very gruesome and apparently there is a video of this on the internet as well. It appears that the Syrian government gives back these tortured remains to their parents in order to show how vengeful that they can be and to intimidate the population, the term used in the article was to “advertise their crimes”.
“This is a campaign of mass terrorism and intimidation: Horribly tortured people sent back to communities by a regime not trying to cover up its crimes, but to advertise them.”
People apparently poured out into the streets and this has been picked up around the world. Syria now will have significant issues even attempting to re-integrate with other nations now that these sorts of crimes have been documented; they will likely be poison even among those normally willing to do business with barbarians.
I don’t know if it is related but it might be – the Syrian government has promised to release all political prisoners, which would be a significant move if in fact they follow through on this promise; on an analogous note the ruler of Yemen has been promising to step down for some time now but always finds a reason for delays.
When you really think about it these sorts of regimes are amazing; there are entire armies and paramilitary groups that are focused solely on keeping the ruling dictator in power; they think nothing of torturing, maiming and indiscriminately killing THEIR OWN PEOPLE en masse. Generally for this type of behavior there is some sort of political theory (fascism, communism, socialism, etc…) but for these types of thugs it is just to utilize every lever of the state to stay in control. I would be interested to hear what their rationale is for killing their own people. And at what point, if ever, they’d be willing to stop.
They may have gone too far with torturing and killing this 13 year old boy. This type of behavior emboldens protestors even those facing death. This event may lead to the eventual downfall of Assad. I certainly hope so.