Feb 132012
Authors: Brooke Lake

What started out as peaceful protesting in March of 2011 for political reform in Syria has now turned into a protest marked by bloodshed and corruption. To set the stage for this bloody opposition against the Syrian regime today, we must go back 44 years.

The state’s corruption stems from its despotic rule, which began in 1968 with Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. Hafez al-Assad, like his son, was a member of the Syrian Alawite minority, a sect of Shi’a Islam. By stacking all positions of power in Syria with representatives of this clan, Hafez al-Assad kept power centralized and failed to represent the 74-percent Sunni majority.

Naturally, rebellion broke out amongst dissatisfied Syrians in 1980, which resulted in the death of over 20,000 people. In continuation with the theme of injustice, Hafez al-Assad responded to the uprising by declaring the government in a state of emergency, which basically meant all constitutional rights were stripped from citizens. Since protesting began in early 2011, the state of emergency has just recently been lifted.

The uprising last March originally began with civil demonstrations of the Syrian people demanding their constitutional rights back, as well as with political reform. Just like his father, Bashar al-Assad responded aggressively towards opposition, using military forces in hopes of crushing the uprising. Today, the death toll has reached 7,000, and it will continue to climb each day.

The situation has gone from bad to worse within the past couple weeks as the city of Homs has become the hot spot for violence between opposition and military forces. Bombings against government buildings, as well as business and residential areas, have become frequent and unpredictable. A cloud of confusion remains as to exactly who is responsible for the attacks.

Bashar al-Assad has reported over Syrian news coverage, as well as formally to international spectators, that the violence against the people of Homs and other cities are the result of terrorist activity — denying his militia having any part of the violence.

Syrian opposition, most participants in the UN as well as the Arab League all recognize that terrorists are not to blame for the recent genocide, but rather the direct, appointed military of Bashar al-Assad.
The Alawite regime is specifically bombing Sunni neighborhoods in Homs. According to activists, the turbulence from the government’s military forces has taken on the face of ethnic cleansing. Thus, the conflict has turned sectarian, causing the Syrian people to splinter, even in regards to a unified opposition.

Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri recently committed to support the opposition’s effort to overthrow Assad. This will give international aid pause as to how they want to lend support, especially to an opposition now unwillingly tied with terrorist efforts.

Since Syria does not allow foreign journalists to enter most of the country, information to the outside world is coming from activists using Youtube videos, Skype calls and satellite phones. Despite a siege of chaos all across Syria, one thing is for certain: The desperation for humanitarian aid is critical.

In a UN Security Council vote that would have condemned the Syrian government, China and Russia vetoed, arguing that any foreign intervention would only increase violence instead of promoting reform. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said the reasons behind China and Russia’s veto were a “…cheap rouse to those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”

The Assad government has repeatedly said that talks of reform with international participants would be considered only if their national sovereignty is upheld. However, promises of reform have been all talk and no action. The international community is scrambling to find a palpable solution to the deteriorating situation in Syria.

In order to force Assad to relay power to a deputy, there must be an installment of an Arab League initiative. On Feb. 10 of this year, Assad claimed he would continue his crackdown on terrorists “with an iron fist.” Which means, until Assad’s power is ousted, we will continue to see genocide against the Syrian people from the real terrorists: the Syrian government.

We can only hope that Bashar al-Assad, once a physician of ophthalmology, can see himself for who he truly is –– a blind executioner.

Brooke Lake is a junior International Studies major.

 Posted by at 3:35 pm

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