Military Operations in Idlib, Daraa Rage as Annan Awaits Clarification from Damascus on Peace Proposals
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UN-Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus on Saturday, March 10 to initiate talks on his “concrete proposals” for a peace plan for the country. The plans reportedly entailed a comprehensive ceasefire, the start of political dialogue, and the distribution of humanitarian aid. Following a weekend of meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian religious leaders, and members of the internal opposition, however, Annan left Damascus empty-handed. Yesterday, the envoy reportedly received a response from Damascus to the proposals – details for which remain unannounced. The conflict remains entirely unabated, however, as government forces intensify operations in Idlib and now Daraa, and reports of alleged massacres of civilians in Homs continue to emerge.
News from Inside Syria
As protests and security crackdowns continued across much of the country this week, two developments in Syria have been the subject of media focus. On Friday, March 10, international media reported that the Syrian government had initiated a new military assault against the northwestern town of Idlib. The assault, which reportedly entailed shelling certain portions of the city in an alleged effort to stamp out terrorist groups, continued throughout the week with staggering daily death tolls. Heavy clashes between security forces and armed members of the opposition were also reported, resulting in considerable casualties among government forces. Given the urban nature of the violence, the death toll among civilians, particularly women and children, has been very high.
At the same time, horrific reports of massacres in the central city of Homs, still the focal point of the revolution, emerged. Reports of who was responsible for the mass killings, why they occurred, and what all sides are doing in response to them, remain widely divergent. Undisputed, however, are the deaths of tens of civilians, nearly all of whom were women and children.
For more reportage from both local and international sources on the events inside Syria over the last week, see the following:
“As Defections in Syria Mount, Rebels Are Said to Reject Talks” – The New York Times – (Mar. 9)
“Syrian Forces Launch Massive Assault on Idlib” – Al-Jazeera – (Mar. 10)
“Syria Expands Assault, Hitting Rebel Enclaves in City in North” – The New York Times – (Mar. 13)
“Syrian Army Recaptures Idlib” – Wall Street Journal – (Mar. 13)
Homs & Hama
“Assault on Homs Happening Before the World’s Eyes” – The National – (Mar. 11)
“Syria and Rebels Trade Accusations Over Brutal Killings” – The New York Times – (Mar. 12)
“Syria: 47 Women and Children Dead in Massacre, Opposition Claim” – The Telegraph – (Mar. 12)
“Syria: Massacre in Homs Leaves Dozens More Dead” – Los Angeles Times – (Mar. 12)
“Syrian Opposition: International Military Intervention ‘Urgent’ Following Homs Killings” – The Washington Post – (Mar. 12)
“Activists: With UN Gone, Syrian Forces Kill Nearly 50 Women, Children” – Christian Science Monitor – (Mar. 12)
“Armed Terrorist Group Blows up Diesel Transfer Pipeline in Homs that Feeds Hama Province” – SANA – (Mar. 13)
“Syrian Human Rights Network Condemn Terrorist Groups’ Execution of 45 People in Karm al-Zaitoun” – SANA – (Mar. 13)
“Minister of Information: Terrorist Groups Committed Atrocious Massacre in Karm al-Zaytoun to Elicit International Stances against Syria” – SANA – (Mar. 13)
“Syrian Government Accused Of Reprisal Attacks” – NPR – (Mar. 13)
“Emboldened Syrian Army Now Moves to Quell Southern City” – The New York Times – (Mar. 14)
“Syria Laying Mines on Routes Used by Civilians Fleeing Violence, Group Says” – MSNBC – (Mar. 13)
Syrian president calls for elections in May
March 13: “President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday issued decree No. 113 for 2012 stipulating for setting May 7,2012 a date for People’s Assembly elections for the first legislative round for 2012. The decree set Monday 7/5/2012 as the date for electing People’s Assembly members…” Source – SANA
“Syria’s Assad Calls May Elections” – The Guardian – (Mar. 13)
“UN Leader Says Assad Must Shift Syria’s Course” – The New York Times – (Mar. 13)
Human Rights & Refugees
AI issues new report on “systematic torture”
March 14: “New report finds systemic and widespread torture and ill-treatment in detention. Amnesty International spoke to former detainees who showed multiple signs of torture…The scale of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria has risen to a level not witnessed for years and is reminiscent of the dark era of the 1970s and 1980s. Released a day before the one-year anniversary of the start of mass protests in Syria, ‘I wanted to die’: Syria’s torture survivors speak out documents 31 methods of torture or other ill-treatment by security forces, army and pro-government armed shabiha gangs, described by witnesses or victims to Amnesty International researchers in Jordan in February 2012.” Source – Amnesty International
To read the full report, “‘I Wanted to Die’ – Syria’s Torture Survivors Speak Out”, click here.
Refugee crisis prompts UNHCR to appoint Syria refugee coordinator
March 13: “The UN refugee agency announced on Tuesday the appointment of a veteran of emergency operations to coordinate its approach to the refugee crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries, which have received some 30,000 Syrian civilians.
As Regional Refugee Coordinator, Panos Moumtzis will be based in Geneva and work closely with the refugee agency’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau and UNHCR representatives in concerned countries…Moumtzis will also work closely with the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Radhouane Nouicer.”
– Around 30,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries over the course of the last year
– UNHCR and the Lebanese government have jointly registered 7,000+ Syrians in north Lebanon. Most have arrived from Homs province.
– An estimated 4,000 Syrians are sheltering in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley while another 1,000 are elsewhere in Lebanon and receiving aid from UNHCR
– 268 of the Syrians who have arrived in Lebanon with war wounds were sent to Lebanese hospitals.
– 5,000 Syrians have registered with UNHCR in Jordan and another 2,000 are awaiting registration.
-Almost 23,000 Syrians have received some form of assistance from the seven refugee camps set up in Turkey’s Hatay province. 13,000 of those are camp residents.
Source – UNHCR
International Politics & Diplomacy
Syria agrees to join UN in ‘limited assessment’ of situation
March 9: “UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Friday the Syrian government had agreed to join U.N. agencies in a ‘limited assessment’ of the situation in the country, where government forces continued a crackdown on rebels, as EU foreign ministers warned that military intervention in Syria could ignite ‘a large-scale fire…'”
“Speaking at a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, Amos said she had asked the Syrian government for unhindered aid access to worst-hit areas, but the Syrian government had requested more time, according to Reuters…”
“EU foreign ministers, meanwhile, warned against the temptation of military intervention in Syria despite the growing weight of human suffering, saying boots on the ground could ignite ‘a large-scale fire.'” Source – Al-Arabiya
UN aid chief “horrified by the destruction” in Homs
March 9: “The top United Nations relief official offered a somber view on Friday of the aid crisis caused by the uprising in Syria, saying she had witnessed horrific destruction during her two-day visit and had encountered resistance by the government to accept her emergency aid proposal, which would give United Nations relief workers unrestricted access to stricken areas.”
“The official, Valerie Amos, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters in Turkey that the government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, was still considering her proposal to allow relief teams from United Nations organizations to help cope with the deprivations from the uprising against him…”
“Her comments at a news conference came two days after Ms. Amos visited Baba Amr, a neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs that was subjected to a withering monthlong siege by government troops. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed there. Ms. Amos, the first international observer permitted by the Syrian government to visit the neighborhood, said Baba Amr was largely deserted when she got there on Wednesday.’I was horrified by the destruction I saw,’ she said in a statement. ‘Almost all the buildings had been destroyed, and there were hardly any people there. I am extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced.'” Source – The New York Times
Syrian opposition divided over Kofi Annan’s call for dialogue
March 9: “Syria’s main opposition groups gave a mixed reaction on Friday to former UN chief Kofi Annan’s call for political dialogue to resolve the country’s year-long crisis. Annan, who has been appointed joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, had said his mission was to start a ‘political process’ to resolve the conflict in the country… “
“The call for dialogue was flatly rejected by Syria’s external opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), while the internal opposition was more receptive to Annan’s plan. Syria’s internal opposition, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB), agreed with Annan on the need for a political solution and said the group were open to his proposals.” Source – Al-Akhbar
Syrian President rules out political solution while alleged terrorists undermine security
March 10: “Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has held talks with Kofi Annan and told him that no political solution was possible in Syria while ‘terrorist’ groups were destabilising the country. Assad said Syria was willing to make ‘any honest effort’ to find a solution but added that diplomatic progress was not possible while armed rebels were ‘operating and spreading chaos’.”
“Annan met Assad in Damascus to press for a political solution to end the bloodshed in Syria. The two men spoke for two hours at the presidential palace as Syrian opposition leaders denounced the talks, claiming that any deal with Assad was unthinkable while civilians were being killed by government forces.” Source – The Guardian
Annan “optimistic” about outcome of talks with President Assad
March 11: “UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan held a second round of talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Sunday in hopes of securing an encouraging response to his high-profile mission: To arrange a national political dialogue between the government and the opposition and gain unfettered access for humanitarian aid agencies…”
“According to a UN official in Damascus who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, Annan ended his talks Sunday with strong hopes he managed to make an advance in solving Syria’s year-long crisis. ‘He ended very candid, positive talks with Assad, and he feels very optimistic that he is making a breakthrough,’ the UN source told CBS News.” Source – CBS
“If Annan Decides to Walk Out on the Syrian Mission, Who Would Care?” – Mideast Views – (Recommended commentary.)
“Al-Assad, Annan Talk Candidly in Damascus Amid Fresh Violence” – CNN – (Mar. 10)
“Annan Ends Syria Visit With No Clear Progress” – Reuters – (Mar. 11)
“UN Envoy Leaves Syria Empty-Handed” – The New York Times – (Mar. 11)
“President al-Assad Meeting Annan: Syria Ready to Make Successful any Sincere Effort to Find Solution to Events” – SANA – (Mar. 12)
“Annan Leaves Syria, Dozens Die as Fighting Rages” – Now Lebanon – (Mar. 12)
“Violence across Syria; UN Awaits Response from Damascus” – Reuters – (Mar. 13)
“No Deal in Damascus” – The Economist – (Mar. 13)
* MARCH 15 update: Annan reportedly received a response to his plan from President Assad today, however, the nature of the response has not yet been made public as the envoy waits for clarifications from Damascus. Source – Reuters
Some US officials charge Syrian president could withstand the revolution
March 9: “Months after the United States sided with rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad, senior U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged Friday that not only could Assad survive the uprising, but also that they couldn’t say with confidence that the opposition represents a majority of the Syrian people.
“While the officials said they believed that the odds were against Assad remaining in power, they don’t expect anything approaching a quick resolution to a conflict that began last year as peaceful protests and have since morphed into a near-civil war. ‘Our sense is right now he’s very much in charge,’ of their military operations, one U.S. official said. Another noted, ‘He (Assad) might survive this.’ The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
“The intelligence assessments run counter to a message voiced with confidence for months by senior administration officials including President Barack Obama, who told a White House news conference on Tuesday that ‘ultimately, this dictator will fall.'” Source – McClatchy
“Syria’s Bashar al-Assad Firmly in Control, US Intelligence Officials Say” – The Washington Post – (Mar. 9)
“Military Points to Risks of a Syrian Intervention” – The New York Times – (Mar. 11)
Russia, Arab League discuss five-point plan to mitigate Syria crisis
March 11: “The Ministerial Council of the Arab League headed by Qatar yesterday convinced Russia of the need to help end violence in Syria with Moscow eventually agreeing to a five-point plan to defuse the Syrian crisis. The meeting was held in Cairo and was attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Later, Lavrov met the Arab League representatives in a separate conclave on the sidelines of the League’s Ministerial Council meeting…”
“The five-point plan, according to Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, includes putting in place a neutral ‘security monitoring’ mechanism in Syria and providing humanitarian aid to all Syrians in need of help. The initiative includes steps to be taken to ensure cessation of violence irrespective of its source (whether by the government or by the opposition). The initiative says a straight ‘no’ to foreign intervention and stresses the need to provide support to Kofi Annan, the Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria to launch a political dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition.” Source – The Peninsula
Nobel laureates call for UN action on Syria
March 12: “Ex-diplomats and Nobel laureates urged the UN Security Council on Monday to stop the violence in Syria, warning ‘paralyzing’ splits in the international community had given the regime a licence to kill. In a letter published in the Financial Times and to be published in Le Figaro in France on Tuesday, they called on Russia in particular to help stop President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on protests.” Source – Yahoo
Full text of the letter, “We Urge UN Security Council to Revoke Assad’s License to Kill”
“Sir, One year after the start of the Syrian uprising, we are saddened to see divisions in the UN Security Council prevent a unified and proactive international response to the crisis. Responsibility for the current bloodshed ultimately rests with those in Syria ordering, permitting, or themselves committing horrific crimes. However, splits among the international community have provided the Assad government with a licence to kill. This licence must be withdrawn.
“The Assad government’s continued use of lethal force against its own people is among the worst cases of deliberate violence against a civilian population that we have seen in recent years. There can be no excuse for such actions under any circumstances. In light of the heavy shelling of civilian areas and increasing casualties among women and children, we reiterate the conclusion of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: that crimes against humanity have been committed and that those responsible must be brought to account.
“We fear that the current impasse in international strategy is leading to an escalation in initiatives, such as arming the regime and the opposition, which could prolong the conflict and the suffering.
“To break the stalemate, we must see Russia working alongside other international partners. We urge the Russian government to join collective efforts to bring a swift end to the conflict and restore peace and stability to Syria and its surrounding region. We warmly commend the appointment of Kofi Annan as the joint UN-Arab League special envoy for Syria. He must receive strong, unanimous backing from across the international community to engage closely with all governments and non-state actors, including Russia and China, to overcome the present paralysing divide. While we understand that there is no easy way out of this crisis, the moral obligation to bridge the current impasse lies with the members of the Security Council. Let there be no mistake, the credibility and international standing of any nation standing idle in the face of the avoidable tragedy unfolding in Syria will be severely damaged.
“We urge members of the Security Council to unite and pass a resolution by consensus:
1. Calling on the Syrian authorities to cease all unlawful attacks against its population immediately, remove abusive military and security forces from cities and inhabited areas, guarantee peaceful protests do not come under attack and release all political prisoners and those held under arbitrary arrest from the beginning of the uprising to the present day. All other actors should also immediately cease all use of violence.
2. Urging the Syrian government to facilitate the delivery of independent and impartial emergency aid, ensure the evacuation of injured people in places of conflict, and call for effective access for humanitarian organisations. Particular attention should be directed to safe access to civil hospitals and adequate delivery of medical care in accordance with international law.
“On the anniversary of Syria’s uprising, we remember the thousands of lives lost in their pursuit of a more just and hopeful future. It is the responsibility of us all to prevent the potential deaths of thousands more men, women and children who so desperately need our help.”
Andreas van Agt, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Author
Lord Paddy Ashdown, Former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Lloyd Axworthy, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
Bertrand Badie, Professor, Sciences-Po Paris
Robert Badinter, Former Minister of Justice, France
Pascal Boniface, Director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS)
Dr Rony Brauman, Former President of Médecins Sans Frontières
Sir Tony Brenton, Former UK Ambassador to Russia (2004-08)
Hans van den Broek, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and European Commissioner for External Relations
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Former President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
LGen the Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire (Retd), Senator, Former Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda
Basil Eastwood, Former UK ambassador to Syria (1996-2000)
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) – Iran
Umberto Eco, Author
Jan Egeland, Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
Ali Fakhro, Chair of the Arab Democracy Foundation
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) – Liberia
Justice Richard Goldstone, Former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda
David Grossman, Author
Jean Claude Guillebaud, Former President, Reporters Sans Frontières
Jürgen Habermas, Philosopher
Stéphane Frédéric Hessel, Former UN Ambassador, Architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Bianca Jagger, Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador
Kamal Jendoubi, President of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
Baroness Glenys Kinnock, Former UK Minister for Africa and the United Nations (2009-10)
F.W. de Klerk, Former President of South Africa
Zaki Laïdi, Professor, Sciences-Po Paris
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Clovis Maksoud, Former Ambassador of the League of Arab States
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) – Guatemala
Dr Pierre Micheletti, Former Président of Médecins du Monde
David Miliband, Former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Marwan Muasher, Former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan
C.S.R. Murthy, Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Ana de Palacio, Former Foreign Minister, Spain
Rt Reverend Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield
Hans-Gert Pöttering, Former President of the European Parliament
Reubens Ricupero, Former Secretary General of UNCTAD; former Minister of Finance of Brazil
Peter Singer, Philosopher
K.C. Singh, Former Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, India
Aleksander Smolar, Chairman Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland
Pär Stenbäck, Former Foreign Minister, Finland
Richard von Weizsäcker, Former President of the Federal Republic of Germany
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) – USA
Mokhtar Yahyaoui, President of Tunisia’s Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary
Source – The Financial Times
Hezbollah against building Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon
March 12: “Hezbollah’s No. 2 Sheikh Naim Qassem rejected Saturday the idea of establishing refugee camps for Syrians fleeing violence in their country, saying these would ultimately pose a threat to Lebanon and its neighbor.
“‘We cannot accept refugee camps for Syrians in Lebanon because any camp … will become a military pocket that will be used as a launchpad against Syria and then against Lebanon,’ the Hezbollah deputy secretary-general said during a political conference in Ghobeiri in the southern suburbs of Beirut.”
“’These sorts of groups pass into continents and countries and have no loyalty to any one country. They move holding several nationalities from one place to the next. What would Lebanon stand to gain by allowing some to turn it into a place to harm Syria and Lebanon at the same time?’ the Hezbollah official asked.”
“Qassem’s comments came a day after Lebanon pledged to prevent any attacks from its territory against its neighbor. Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali has repeatedly demanded that Lebanon tighten security and prevent arms smuggling across the poorly demarcated, porous border.” Source – The Daily Star
Security & Regional Stability
Jordan, United States
International concerns over Syria’s biological, chemical weapons
March 8: “The American and Jordanian militaries are jointly developing plans to secure what is believed to be Syria’s vast stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, said U.S. and Arab officials briefed on the discussions.”
“The groundwork comes amid mounting concerns about Damascus’s arsenal of nerve agents and mustard gas at a time of growing instability in the country. One plan would call for Jordanian Special Operations units, acting as part of any broader Arab League peacekeeping mission, to go into Syria to secure nearly a dozen sites thought to contain weapons, these officials said.” Source – Wall Street Journal
Charges of Iraqis sent to Syria to fight against government forces
March 11: “Iraqi Sunni tribal sheikh admits sending men to fight against Bashar al-Assad in Syria…the sheikh, who agreed to be interviewed by The Daily Telegraph on condition of anonymity, says he has sent hundreds of men and tens of thousands of dollars worth of arms and other aid over the border. Half a dozen of his men have paid with their lives, and are buried where they fell. The effects of their sacrifice appear limited so far…” Source – The Telegraph
“Gangs Eyeing Syrian Antiquities” – Al-Akhbar – By Joanne Bajjaly. Excerpt: “An internal Syrian government memo claims that ‘professional international gangs’ are setting up shop inside Syria to mass loot the country’s antiquities treasures, a scenario eerily reminiscent of Iraq’s fate under US occupation.”
On international intervention
“The Perils of Piecemeal Intervention” – The New York Times – By Jonathan Tepperman. Excerpt: “Syria’s rebels are in retreat, President Bashar al-Assad’s loyalist forces are laying waste to their former strongholds, and the death toll is mounting: the latest United Nations reports put it around 7,500. As the body count has increased, so, too, have calls for outside intervention. It’s time for the West to step in — but only after honestly debating what it will take to stop the carnage.”
“Why Turkey Hasn’t Intervened in Syria” – The New Republic – By Soner Cagaptay. Excerpt: “Turkey’s boldest response to the crisis in Syria came last week, when Prime Minister Erdogan called for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors to help civilians there. But those hoping that Ankara’s aggressive rhetoric will soon be matched by equally assertive action will be sorely disappointed. If Turkey has one priority these days, it’s maintaining its soft power and popularity within the Middle East—and any sort of military intervention involving Turkish boots on the ground in Syria would directly undermine that.”
“Yes, America Can Act in Syria!” – Now Lebanon – By Hussein Ibish. Excerpt: “The United States can and should do more to protect the Syrian people from the crackdown of the regime…First, it [the US] should stop talking about the “inevitable” fall of the Syrian regime and clearly announce that regime change in Damascus is a goal of US policy. Having determined and announced that, a great deal of clarity should follow.
Second, the United States should, like the European Union and others, formally recognize the Syrian National Council as ‘a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.’ Third, the administration should publish a series of benchmarks that the Syrian National Council, or any other opposition group seeking this role, must accomplish in order to gain eventual recognition as, in effect, a government in exile.”
On the diplomatic response to the crisis
“Diplomacy Unlikely to Unseat Assad” – The Financial Times – By Roula Khalaf. Excerpt: “A year into the Syrian revolution, Bashar al-Assad has been abandoned by much of the world as his forces unleash increasing levels of atrocities on a rebellious population. But while his handful of remaining friends remain loyal, one thing he can still take comfort from is that western and Arab powers have yet to figure out how to get rid of him.”
Comparing Syria to Bosnia
“Analysis: Syria Safe havens? They Failed in Bosnia” – CBS News – Excerpt: “With the UN unable to agree how to protect civilians against Bashar Assad’s forces, Western officials are discussing creation of safe corridors to deliver aid to Syrians trapped by the crackdown. Similar measures failed badly during the war in Bosnia two decades ago that killed over 100,000 people and left millions homeless. The lesson of Bosnia is that without all sides honoring the agreement — and without a robust military response in case they don’t — such measures may have little effect and could actually prolong the misery.”
“Islamism and the Syrian Uprising” – Foreign Policy – By Nir Rosen. Lengthy and worth reading. Excerpt: “Syria’s uprising is not a secular one. Most participants are devout Muslims inspired by Islam. By virtue of Syria’s demography most of the opposition is Sunni Muslim and often come from conservative areas. The death of the Arab left means religion has assumed a greater role in daily life throughout the Middle East. A minority is secular and another minority is comprised of ideological Islamists. The majority is made of religious-minded people with little ideology, like most Syrians. They are not fighting to defend secularism (nor is the regime) but they are also not fighting to establish a theocracy. But as the conflict grinds on, Islam is playing an increasing role in the uprising.”
On Syrian Kurds
“Syrian Kurds Flee Into Iraqi Refugee Limbo” – The New York Times – By Jack Healy. Excerpt: “Over the past few months, scores of Kurds have begun fleeing into Iraqi Kurdistan, escaping security forces and the violence that is threatening to sweep Kurds from the sidelines of Syria’s uprising into its main currents. Though the numbers have so far been small, the new arrivals speak to a possible shift in thinking among Syria’s largest ethic minority that could potentially shift the momentum against President Bashar al-Assad just as his military forces have gained an upper hand.”
“The Decisive Minority: The Role of Syria’s Kurds in the Anti-Assad Revolution” – The Henry Jackson Society – By Omar Hossino and Ilhan Tanir. Excerpt: “Almost a year after the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March, the Syrian opposition is still very much fragmented and lacking an inclusive vision which will satisfy various minority groups. One major part of this equation has been the Kurds which make up the largest ethnic minority in Syria, constituting somewhere between 10% and 15% of the population, or about 2 million people. The Kurds have been divided in their response to the uprising…In this report…Omar Hossino and Ilhan Tanir provide details of what this significant group has contributed to the uprising so far and examine how they might influence the future of the fight against Bashar al-Assad.”
On the opposition
“Syria’s Non-violent Activists Were the First to Be Targeted” – The National – By Amal Hanano. Excerpt: “Lately, there has been a debate among Syrians about when the revolution began. Did it start with the “Days of Rage” Facebook page? Or the February 17 protest in Al Hariqa neighbourhood of Damascus? The March 15 protest in the capital for the release of political prisoners? The imprisonment and torture of teenagers in Deraa? All of these events were factors that sparked an uprising that is now one year old. But some seeds of dissent were sown years before.”
“Syrian Citizen Journalists Win Netizen Prize” – Journalism.co – “The media centre of the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria was recognised for working to ‘keep the world abreast of the violence wracking the country.'”
“Network of Activists Spread News About Syria from Cairo” – PRI’s The World – By Matthew Bell. (Audio file.) Excerpt: “Syrian exiles are building a global network of activists to spread the news about what’s happening on the ground in Syria. They want to help inform the debate in the international community about possible intervention. The World’s Matthew Bell visited the Cairo office of the Activists News Association and spoke with the founders of the group.”
“The Intervention Waiting Game: A Window for a New Opposition?” – Today’s Zaman – By Noah Blaser. Excerpt: “As the international community remains hesitant about military intervention and Syria’s largest political opposition group remains divided, the likelihood for a new opposition leadership to develop amidst the country’s strengthening rebels may be growing.”
Photography & Videos
“A Syrian Boy’s Grief on Page 1” – The New York Times – By Kerri MacDonald. Excerpt: “Of the few photographers who’ve managed to make pictures in the midst of Syria’s violent uprising, Rodrigo Abd, who shoots for The Associated Press, has stood out. On Thursday, Mr. Abd filed pictures from the funeral of Abdulaziz Abu Ahmed Khrer, who was killed by a Syrian Army sniper. There was one indelible moment — the victim’s grief-stricken son crouched on the ground with his knees up near his chest, tears flowing down his cheeks. A nearby man reaches out to comfort the boy, Ahmed. Behind them, a second young boy looks on. The image, shot in the northwestern town of Idlib, appeared on the front page of The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on Friday.”
“Syrian Crackdown Continues” – The Washington Post – A huge slideshow of collected images from the revolution.
“Under Fire with the Free Syrian Army” – BBC – (Video.) “Paul Wood reports from the besieged city of Homs on the brutal suppression of the Syrian uprising.”
Human Interest, Humanitarian Concerns
Three worthwhile reads from local magazine Syria Today
“Unravelling Security” – By Muhammad Atef Fares. A lengthy, well-written article cover changes in Syria’s security environment and the manner in which those shifts have impacted the lives of ordinary citizens. Recommended.
“Forging the Way” – By Sarah Abu Assali. “Syrian women have assumed new roles and are reflecting a different image during the uprising.”
“Breaking the Mould” – By Alma Hassoun. Excerpt: “Since the uprising began, Syrian youth have been busy with new, unprecedented activities. A now-typical Damascene day might include twenty-somethings discussing their political activities in a café, while outside, young volunteers distribute copies of the new constitution in advance of an upcoming referendum. Only a year ago, these scenes would have been unimaginable.”
On tending to the wounded
“French Surgeon, 71, Saves Lives in Syria” – The New York Times – Excerpt: “At the age of 71, Dr. Jacques Bérès, a veteran of war zones, left his comfortable Paris life last month to smuggle himself into Homs, the center of the Syrian revolt, to tend to the wounded and the sick.”
References made to articles, individuals, organizations or government bodies in this blog do not necessarily reflect or imply an endorsement by The Syria Report. The Syria News Blog is a news service offered by The Syria Report only for the purpose of recapping foreign reportage on matters pertaining to Syria.
March 8, 2012 – Syria News Blog: A Roundup of Key International Reportage... Commemorating One Year of Upheaval: A Collection of Articles on Syria’s...