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DEATH AND DESTRUCTION CONTINUES TO DEVASTATE SYRIA

GOVERNMENT FAILURE EDITION

PICTURE POWER: SYRIAN CHILDREN— KILLED ON STREETS

ANALYZING ONLINE SOURCES WITH DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

EXCLUSIVE!

AN INTERVIEW WITH A SYRIAN PROTESTOR

Nov 2012


DEATH TOLL ESCALATES

TO 40,000 AS CIVIL WAR RAGES

political opponents, even using the secret police to capture and kill those who were opposed to Assad’s regime. The Syrian government controls most of the country’s media outlets, and access to the Internet is permitted only through stateoperated servers. Influenced by Arab Springs in Egypt and Tunisia, substantial anti-government protests took place across Syria in 2011. The people wanted democracy, fair elections, human rights, the release of political prisoners, termination of the Emergency Law and more job opportunities among other things. More than 5,000 demonstrators turned up to protest.

A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria, on October 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

WHAT TRIGGERED

assumed control over the state’s security forces. In 1982, Assad’s forces occupied the city of Hama to brutally suppress a Sunni rebellion, killing thousands of civilians.

The Syrian Arab Republic originated as a secular, socialist state dominated by the Ba’ath party, an Arab nationalist movement. The state has since evolved into an autocracy controlled by a single family and dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect, a branch of Shi’ite Islam.

Following his death, his son, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president due to the fact he ran unopposed. In 2007, Assad was reelected through rigged voting systems.

THE

KILLINGS?

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Ba’ath Party seized power through a successful of coup d’état. Hafez al-Assad, one of the coup leaders, became president of Syria in 1971 and led the country until his death in 2000. Under Assad, Alawites

The Syrian government is one of the world’s most brutal. From 1963 to 2011, the government operated under an “Emergency Law,” which suspended many constitutional protections of civil liberties. The government continues to use arbitrary detention and torture against dissidents, human rights activists and

The government responded with a harsh crackdown, opening fire and killing more than 3,000 people. It is estimated that more than 30,000 people have been killed in Syria's 18-month uprising. Though the protests have brought an end to the Emercengy Law, Assad has refused to resign from his presidency, leading to a fullscale civil war between the Syrian troops and the Free Syrian Army. Also, as a result of the protests, the Syrian troops has bombarded countless Syrian cities, towns and villages with tanks, bombs and explosives in order to eliminate the Free Syrian Army and anyone else who crosses their path. Heavy clashes have broken out in Syria’s towns and cities such as Aleppo, Homs and Damascus, leading to the destruction to many buildings and infrastructure. This has also caused the displacement of over 1.5 people. People are still trapped under the rubble of


these broken buildings and many who are injured cannot receive immediate help. I chose the photo because I thought it was very gripping and emotional. It depicts a Syrian man crying over the body of his son. It shows the cruelty and violence that is happening in Syria and I hope people can feel empathic towards this picture. I think people can agree that this picture shows that the most vulnerable of all the victims are innocent children. This is definitely evidence of government failure as the government is not doing anything to protect their citizens. People, especially children such as in the photo, are dying in the streets and in raids and there is no place for people to take refuge from the attacks. The survivors who have lost their homes and possessions are also affected. Clearly if people are afraid to go out onto the streets, the government isn’t doing a good job to protect them. Syria’s government has yet to implement any safety procedures or even try to peacefully negotiate with the rebels to meet their demands. After all, it is the government’s job to make sure that their people are happy and wellprovided for and this is certainly not the case in Syria. The government needs to listen to the people and instead of endangering lives and using violent forces, they should take peaceful and civilized measures to ensure the happiness of their people.

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY...

The Syrian Revolution Digest is a website created by Ammar Abdulhamid, a liberal Syrian prodemocracy activist, whose antiregime activities led to his exile in September 2005. The purpose of his site is to spread global awareness about the civil war crisis in Syria and the oppressive regime that is being led by Syria’s residing president, Bashar AlAssad. Abdulhamid is actively updating the blog with the daily death tolls and links to videos, articles and news reports about the ongoing war in Syria. It is clear that his site is against the government since supports the protestors. “Bashar Assad and his army used different tactics during the crackdown. They came up with the strategy whereby they keep the killing to an extent, to a minimum, 20 people every day, 30 people, but not too much in order to repel international suspicions and attention,” says Abdulhamid in an interview for the Freedom Collection. “They got away with it for a while. They killed by means of snipers. They

positioned snipers in key locations and around the streets and around the communities that are rebelling, even though the protestors were completely unarmed, but they told the troops that these people are terrorists.” I think that though this secondary source might have a lot of bias, the Syrian Revolution Digest is quite reliable because Abdulhamid was the first Syrian to ever testify in front American Congress and Presidents of the United States against the crimes of Bashar al-Assad and runs a foundation that seeks to improve Syria’s conditions. This signifies that Abdulhamid is someone who can be taken seriously and cares for the Syrian people. I personally don’t think he has any reason to lie about the Syrian government and he must have been very brave to stand up against Assad’s oppresive regime. Being Syrian himself, he would have a first handa account as to what living under the Emergency Law was like. Additionally, his exile proves that the Syrian government was


opposed to freedom of speech, a key demand of the protests.

people, unless it's led by a crazy person.”

The Syrian Revolution Digest was also featured in reputable news organisations such as CNN, and the New York Times so though they may portray the war in Syria in an American perspective, they do have good credibility and can be trusted to a certain extent.

I think the purpose of Assad’s interview with ABC News was to send the message to the American public that he was not a dictator or tyrant. I also think he was trying to get across is the fact that not all the sources coming out of Syria can be validated. In a way this is true because very few of us know what is really going on. We can only deduct conclusions from what we have seen on the news, online and in photos and videos.

In contrast to this, in ABC’s 2011 interview with Bashar Al-Assad himself, the president denied any participation in ordering the bloody crackdown against the protesters. Assad claimed that the American media was negatively portraying Syria’s civil war and most of the people who died the unrest were his supporters and troops. When asked about the violence and torture, Assad told the interviewer that the stories were not true. They could not be confirmed and that though he feels sad for those who have lost their lives, he does not feel guilty because he has not committed the murders himself. In the interview Assad said, “We don't kill our people… no government in the world kills its

This interview is a primary source because it is coming from the President himself. However, it does not really tell the whole truth since a lot of questions was asked but not many were answered. Assad was very vague throughout the interview, never truly going into detail about Syria’s issues. It was clear that he did not want to talk about the stories of violence and torture. He believes that his regime is not oppressive and he has dismissed many of the brutal cases of the crackdowns. I think what we can learn from this interview is that Assad is not going to give up easily. He has not admitted that he has

done any wrong doing and instead is claiming that he will fix the constitution and aspects of his regime. The benefits of an interview is that we can look back at it and see if any progress has been made. It’s been a year after this interview and judging by the events in Syria, I don’t think Assad has kept his word. Neither of these sources are completely objective because they have different aims, however their perspectives are useful in learning more about the war.


A DESIRE FOR CHANGE

Interview with a Protestor

Monica Santa, a senior journalist for TIME visited the city of Homs, Syria and managed to get an exclusive interview with a Syrian protestor. For privacy and protection purposes, his name has been changed. MS: How has the Syrian government failed its people? P: The government has failed its people by using violence and oppression to stay in power. The elections were rigged to keep Assad as president and since then, he has used his presidential status to do things his way, even if it meant killing people, exiling or firing them. Even before Bashar Al-Assad, his father was a cruel, repressive leader. He killed thousands of people in the Hamas region because they were Muslims. The Syrian authorities. like the police, were also very brutal and unfair. They took advantage of the people and did not treat us with respect. They would beat up anyone who was against them or Assad, even innocent people. The Syrian people lived in fear. Even the internet was carefully monitored and if we said anything bad about the government, we would be arrested. MS: How are people reacting to this government failure? P: At first the Syrian people didn’t want to say anything. But after the successful government overthrows in Tunisia and Egypt, the Syrians couldn’t keep it in anymore. We had to fight for our rights. We were being abused by the authorities and we couldn’t stand it any longer. When a group of 10 year old kids were tortured and abused for writing anti-Assad comments on their school gates, it really hit a chord with us Syrians. We thought hey, if the Egyptians could do it [overthrow their dictator], why couldn’t we? Many of us became angry and outraged. We couldn'We needed to protest. MS: What are the aims of the protest? P: The aim of the protest was to pressure the government into changing their constitution. We wanted free and fair elections, a democracy, human rights. We wanted jobs and stability and freedom of speech. Most of all, we wanted Assad to resign because he is the reason so many of us Syrians are miserable. MS: What was the role in social media and how important was it? The protest movement depended a lot in terms of coordinating itself on social networking - on Facebook, on e-mails, on YouTube, on SAT phones and cell phones. In fact, there is actual cyber warfare going on right now. The pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army are trying to disrupt this organizing ability of the protestors on the ground by hijacking their accounts and penetrating the discussion groups and monitoring our internet. They have even hacked into Reuters. The protests were brought together by teh power of social media. That’s why the SEA tried to hack into our network because they knew how important social media was. And even when the internet is down we tried to compensate by having routers smuggled in and we’ll use SAT phones to link to the Internet. We would always find a way to remain connected. Social media and the internet was vital for exchanging information, in and out of Syria.


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Humanities TIME Article  

An article I made for my Humanities assessment on the Syrian uprising.

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