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(en) Britain, Freedom* Octoberr 2011 - SYRIA IN TURMOIL

Date Fri, 09 Dec 2011 23:22:14 +0200

Mainstream media here in the west, especially television news, has been remarkably terse on the political uprising in Syria, given the fact that it has been far more violent and long-term than in Egypt. For instance, clashes between agitating masses and military forces have been going on for six months now, with around 3000 dead – and counting (UN figures put the death toll at 2,200). Thousands have been imprisoned and thousands more are missing. There are also reports of activists being tortured in prison. However, activists continue to take to the streets, loudly and stubbornly. ---- Although five hundred of the army and the police have been killed, the most serious blow yet could be the defections of rank and file soldiers, most of whom are conscripted, some of them joining the protesters and others just disappearing. The government of Bashar al Assad is trying to downplay the significance of this even as it cracks down brutally on the defectors, actively hunting and killing them. The army is said to be targeting everything, from mosques to hospitals.

In a rerun of Libya, the same activists who were against foreign intervention are calling for it now, with human rights observers as a first step. However, there has been no UN resolution on the matter due to opposition from Russia and China. The meagre US sanctions, it is clear, has not done its job. Interestingly, though, it is the Arab League putting (dubious) pressure on Assad to give way to democratic elections in three years time. Former allies Iran (!) and Turkey are prompting Assad to stop the killings. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have also distanced themselves from Assad.

While on the ground there seems to be chaos. Broadly speaking, there are four opposition groupings: mostly youth-led activist groups like Local Co-ordination Committees and the Syrian Revolution General Commission; exiles abroad who have tried to form national councils; “older, established opposition” (Al Jazeera); and the rest – people on the streets. These elements are not necessarily working together, and most protesters are dissatisfied with official channels of opposition.

Whereas according to activists present there are more serious problems amongst the crowd, such as religious bigotry and sectarianism with chants of ‘Allah ho Akbar’ and “Christians to Beirut and Alawis [a minority Arab sect] to the grave” being recorded. Meanwhile the Al Jazeera report cites a complete lack of political culture among the people and individual egotism as the culprits, given that the Assad regime has been in power for 41 years.
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