Al-Ahram Weekly Online   14 - 20 July 2011
Issue No. 1056
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

"Come on, leave Bashar"

The death of singer Ibrahim Qashush, one of the leaders of the demonstrations in Hama's Al-Assi Square, will only increase protests against the regime

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Ibrahim Qashush

He composed straightforward tunes and sang colloquial lyrics against the Syrian regime, attacking President Bashar Al-Assad, his brother Maher and the ruling Syrian Baath Party. The songs were taken up by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the city of Hama, causing more protesters to take to the streets and making his songs the slogans of anti-regime protesters across the country.

Ibrahim Qashush, the "mocking bird of the Syrian Revolution," as his fans preferred to call him, led the protests in Hama's Al-Assi Square on the "Friday of Departure" at the beginning of July, improvising lyrics that added to the enthusiasm of the protesters. The songs will have appealed particularly to residents of Hama, where there is a tradition of group singing, the protesters being passionate about Qashush's songs and his striking voice.

It was this voice and these songs that apparently so disturbed the Syrian regime that it decided to silence him.

Qashush, a young man in his 30s, was kidnapped on a street in Hama on 3 July as he headed to work. The next day, his body was found in the local river, his throat cut and larynx removed after signs of brutal torture.

City residents and Syrian human rights groups say that security agents tortured and killed Qashush before removing his larynx and dumping his body into the river as an act of revenge for songs that had attacked senior figures in the regime, among them Al-Assad.

Shortly before his death, Qashush sang, "Bashar, you are not one of us; / take Maher and leave us; / your legitimacy is no longer recognised by us; / come on, leave Bashar. / Maher, you coward, / agent of the Americans, / the people of Syria cannot be disrespected; /come on, leave, Bashar. / We want rid of Bashar. / with our powerful might, / Syria wants freedom. / Syria wants freedom."

In response to Qashush's death, protesters dedicated more than 12 Facebook pages, variations on "We are all the Martyr Ibrahim Qashush", or "We will not forget you, Ibrahim", to the singer's memory, and within days they had thousands of followers. The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has also dedicated a page to Qashush focussing on the latter part of his life.

Fans of the singer said that they would continue what Qashush had started by continuing to chant for freedom in Syria's cities, even if they too risked death by doing so. Songs by Qashush were sung during protests on last week's "Friday of No to Dialogue", and demonstrators in several Arab and European cities picketed Syrian embassies this week to protest against his death.

Syrian authorities claim that "unknown assailants" were responsible for Qashush's death, saying that the singer was in fact an informer and that he was killed in order to incite further anti-regime protests.

Before the uprising in Syria began earlier this year, Qashush had been just another ordinary young man. However, the popular protests that have swept the country over recent months led him to be active in leading demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the regime and the ousting of Al-Assad.

According to Hama residents, Qashush was murdered by the regime as a punishment for his song "Come on, leave Bashar."

By Bassel Oudat

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