Syria is the latest Arab country to feel the heat. Anti-government protests have escalated to such level that the Syrian government is now using military helicopter gunships against protesters.
The Syrians are protesting against President Bashar al-Assad’s 11 years totalitarian rule. Protestors demand that he steps down to bring ahead democracy in Syria. They also protest against the socio-economic problems in Syria. At its declaration of independence from France, Syria had vibrant economy, marked by rapid economic growth. Today Syria’s economy faces serious problems, challenges and impediments to growth, with 30% of its population living under poverty. Human rights situation is one of the worst in the world according to Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.
The protest movement in Syria which started in January was at first small and modest, but gained momentum in March, turned violent in April, descended into armed conflict in May, and grow increasingly bloody now at June. By June 6, rebels have seized an area of northwestern Syria between the towns of Homs, Hama and Latakiya.
At the same day, the Syrian authorities have confirmed that armed protesters have killed 120 troops and security officers and capture the town of Jisr al-Shughour, aided in parts due to mutiny of the commander of 105th Brigade. This is the biggest casualties of Syrian military in peace time.
In response to that, and fearing that his hold power might be challenged like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya, Syria President Bashar Al-Assad has dispatched Brigade 555 from Damascus, and the army’s 85th brigade to stamp out protestors in the Homs-Hama-Restan-Jisr al-Shughour region.
The opposition said 1,168 people had been killed, 3,000 wounded and 11,000 detained since the uprising in Syria began. It also reported 893 forced disappearances. Assad has vowed to retaliate and crush all opposition by force. That was the prelude to the much bloodier 1982 episode in the city of Hama when Assad’s father former president Hafez al-Assad killed thousands and had the whole town destroyed by troops to punish them for daring to rebel against him.
Wael Merza, a Syrian academic and opponent of the Assad administration, said: Bashar is trying to recreate the 2011 version of his fathers Hama massacre in 1982. He is opting for a city-by-city massacre rather than one mass killing that may attract world attention.
Despite the efforts to stay low-profile however, the increasingly bloody crisis engulfing Syria has started to go international.
Assad’s approaching army led to thousands of Syrian fleeing from rebel towns towards Turkish border, who feared a massacre. The majority of residents of Jisr al-Shoghour, a town of about 70,000 people in northwestern Syria, have fled.
Britain and France circulated a revised draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that would condemn the Syrian government for using force against its own civilians. A vote on the resolution was expected in the coming days, diplomats said.
Russia have voiced the strongest opposition to the resolution however, and may use its veto power to block it. China has so far remained neutral. “The world should not stand silent in the face of outrageous acts that are happening,” said Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant.
Earlier, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the draft resolution focused on “condemning the repression and demanding accountability and humanitarian action”.
“If anyone votes against that resolution, or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience,” he added.
The United States has thrown its full support behind the draft resolution. Asked about the division within the council, US Ambassador Susan Rice to UN said it would become clear when there is a vote.
I am most concerned that the United States of America express itself clearly and plainly," said Rice. "We will be on the right side of history as and when this comes to a vote. If others are unable to or unwilling to, then that will be their responsibility to bear.
She said that several members used the example of Libya as an excuse and as a ploy to avoid the real issues involving Syria.
US President Barack Obama have announced sanctions against Syria. His move stopped Americans doing business with President Bashar al-Assad, along with certain relatives and officials, and froze their US assets. Canada and Australia has declared economic sanction against Syria. Meanwhile, the UK and France have also successfully persuaded EU to declare sanction against Syria.
A resident of the rebel-held town told the BBC that he expected the army to arrive in the town very soon. Residents had dug trenches and were carrying sticks to protect themselves, he said.
“We are hoping that the army will side with us eventually, because they told the army that we are armed terrorists groups trying to destabilize the country” he added.
“But the army will come to realise that this is false and that there are no armed groups only civilians wanting to free themselves from totalitarian rule. We hope when the army realises this, they will side with us.”