The woman wearing a blood-red dress stood in the middle of a busy intersection outside Syria’s parliament holding up a red banner: «Stop the killing, we want to build a homeland for all Syrians.» Drivers tooted their horns and supporters clapped.
Rima Dali’s act of defiance last month – which landed the 33-year-old in prison for several days – was a call for the opposition to focus again on peaceful protests to bring down President Bashar Assad. It has inspired other activists who worry that their cause is going astray as more Syrians take up arms in the face of the regime’s withering crackdown.
They say armed resistance costs the opposition the moral high ground and boosts the regime line that it is battling terrorists, not a popular uprising. The spiraling violence has also taken on fearsome sectarian overtones, threatening to push the country into full-blown civil war. Al-Qaida-style suicide bombings have become increasingly common.
«This is what the regime wanted and we fell in the trap,» said Anas, a 28-year-old from the central city of Hama who participated in the first marches against Assad in March 2011.
«People say the regime and the inaction of the international community left us with no choice, but I still think we would have been more effective if it had remained peaceful,» he said, declining to be identified by his full name for fear of retaliation by authorities.