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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


March 15, 2012 - 7:08 am

The Syrian National News Agency announced yesterday that Bashar al-Assad had canceled today’s scheduled federal holiday, Teachers Day, so that no one would be tempted to use the time off to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the Syrian Revolution in earnest. Government employees were told, according to the Local Coordination Committees, that planned vacations on that day were canceled, and if they missed work they would be docked 75 percent of their monthly pay. Students were ordered to attend classes.

Unless, of course, you’d like to attend one of the (non-optional) regime-staged rallies, for which officials were setting up podiums, flags and copious photos of Bashar around city centers.

And yet, the opposition demonstrations continue today, like every day, with a death toll so far of 46, massive crowds in Aleppo turning out in support of battered Homs and Idlib, regime forces shelling homes in Homs and Deir Ezzor, random raids and arrests in Daraa, the list goes on. Strikes have been reported in the Damascus area and elsewhere, and demonstrations that the regime has responded to with tanks, shelling and snipers. Turkey reported a record surge of 1,000 Syrian refugees crossing the border in the past 24 hours alone, bringing the total to 14,700, as Ankara accused Assad of planting land mines along the refugees’ border route to kill those trying to flee (with some success). Among those latest refugees is another defecting general, bringing the total to seven.

The estimated death toll from the yearlong bloody crackdown is more than 8,500.

The number of crappy Right Said Fred songs downloaded by Assad in this time? At least one, according to a trove of hacked emails turned over to the Guardian, which also show Bashar listening to Chris Brown and reportedly receiving advice from Iran on how to suppress the pro-democracy movement.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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