Campaign officially underway as opposition slams “Blood Elections”
The campaigning period for Syria’s presidential elections began Sunday, according to a statement from the Supreme Constitutional Court cited by pro-Assad daily al-Watan. The official notice coincided with reports Saturday from state-run SANA news agency that thousands of Syrians had mobilized in the coastal city of Tartous—which has a mixed Sunni-Alawite population—to show their support “for the pillars of nationalism and the constitutional worthiness of the Republic’s elections.
The Syrian opposition is countering the government narrative with a social media campaign under the slogan “Blood Elections,” which calls itself “the response to the sham elections being carried out by the illegitimate regime in occupied Syria.” The opposition Syrian American Council issued a call on Facebook Thursday for “people of conscience” to share the hashtag “#BloodElections” while urging “public demonstrations to raise awareness of Assad’s plans to hold blood elections.”
Anti-Assad activists on Thursday launched a Facebook group condemning Damascus's "Blood Elections." Photo courtesy of Facebook page Blood Elections. Photo courtesy of Blood Elections.
ISIS surrounds a-Nusra-led rebels in Deir e-Zor, 100,00 flee
The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) scored major advances threatening rebel supply routes into Deir e-Zor Sunday, after issuing a statement Friday aimed at dispelling rumors that ISIS advances would allow the city to fall into regime hands. On Sunday, ISIS seized control of al-Jenina Checkpoint, adjacent to regime-controlled sections of the city, as well as two nearby neighborhoods at the eastern entrance to the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The extremist group simultaneously consolidated control over all of western Deir e-Zor after taking three rebel-held towns, days after seizing a-Nusra bastions in the province’s east.
As clashes between ISIS and rebels, led throughout Deir e-Zor by Jabhat a-Nusra, continue, as many as 100,000 Syrians have fled the violence, according to the Observatory. Since early 2014, ISIS and a-Nusra-led rebels have vied for control of Deir e-Zor province, where government forces retain scattered outposts; both sides seek control of the region’s oil fields, with ISIS using the porous border with Iraq’s Anbar province to move men and weapons.
Activists claim photos show birth defects resulting from CW
The pro-opposition Chemical Weapons Documentation Center began circulating photographs Saturday purporting to show the initial cases of birth defects resulting from chemical attacks in Syria. The photographs, which the CWDC says were taken by doctors in the Bab al-Hawa Hospital in Idlib province along the Syrian-Turkish border, claim to present a four-month-old girl suffering from congenital malformations resulting from maternal exposure to poison gases during gestation.
“The girl’s mother, while two months pregnant, was exposed to a chemical attack targeting Homs,” says the Center, citing a doctor who oversaw the infant’s treatment. “She carried her pregnancy to term, and gave birth to a girl with malformations: the lower part of her left leg was missing…in addition to a lack of function in her left hand” and other complications. The child’s age and the doctor’s assessment of the mother’s gas exposure point to a chemical attack in Homs in June or July of last year; such an attack has not been confirmed, but rebels did allege that the Syrian government attacked two villages in Homs with chemical weapons in the summer of 2013.