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Special Edition Report

TIME

Inside Syrian Civil War The Biased World

November 2012 Vol 22, no 20


November, 2012 Vol. 202, no 20

International

A World Untouched By Reyhan Anwar International Relations Analyst

Once the fire is ignited, the divergent perspective of 7 billion people came lit.

(Damascus, Syria)

T

he regime of Bashar Al Assad was once predicted to to prevail within the devastation of the Arab Spring revolutions. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Despite significant revolutions happening in Egypt and Libya, critics doesn’t foresee the infectious conflict ravaging Syria. Their reasoning is primarily due to the well known ruling regime among the Syrian people. The Baath Regime has been ruling over Syria since March 1971, where Hafez al-Assad was elected president. The Al Assad regime relied heavily on internal family support and the military power of Syria to keep their reign. It is believed that the Al Assad family is a minority race in Syria, they’re considered as the Alawite Shiite Islam where as the majority of Syria is a Sunni Islam. Such reasoning is key to the purpose of their keenness to stay in power.

Regrettably, the regime is known to use military forces to handle protests over the regime and have inflicted death to civilians. Hafez al-Assad once used the military force to ceasefire a protest over his decision to drop down the constitution of all presidents being a Muslim. The Syrian people feared that al-Assad may be leading an Atheist regime over the Muslim state. Since international coverage was not a feasible means of communication during the 1970s, many of Hafez al-Assad’s uses of violence to suppress his people was not covered nor publicized to the world. The legacy of Hafez al-Assad can be seen in Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad who have steered the country in a civil war for over a year and a half.


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International

On the 17th of July, 2000, Bashar al-Assad, the The escalation of protests took form in several second son of former President Hafez al-Assad, major cities in Syria such as Banias, Al Hasakah, assumed power as President of Syria. Bashar’s H a r a a , D e i r A s - Z o r a n d H a m a . A s s a d ’s first move was primarily to undo some of his government responded with security forces who father’s wrong move. Bashar al-Assad ordered the shot dead a few protesting civilians. The escalation release of 600 political prisoners by November of of the civilian protests of political prisoners has his rise to power. His moves were mostly favoured been deduced to have been caused by the leaks of by the citizens of Syria as his leadership have information from the UN security council saying restored Syria’s relation with the west and also that the political prisoners were beaten, electrically neighboring countries such as Turkey. Bashar aljolted or debilitated. The leakage also stated that Assad managed to there were 27 create diplomatic known torture centre relation with in Syria. Lebanon and for a short period of time with Israel in which Assad’s move to for a quarter of a reduce the tension century was in was to announce conflict with Syria. the reformation of Unfortunately Syria. The Bashar failed to government fired the mend Syria’s Daraa governor on relations with the the bases of United States as corruption. In both countries addition to that the failed to agree on Syrian government the definition of also granted the terrorism, creating p r e v i o u s l y the impression that The Free Syrian Army (FSA) formed on July 2011 by the c o n s i d e r e d S y r i a s u p p o r t e d defected Syrian Army militants. foreigners Syrian terrorism. Kurds, the Syrian Citizenship. The turning point in Bashar al-Assad’s regime President Assad signed a decree to lift the started by a man named Hasan Ali Akleh who Emergency Law that the country was operating in burned himself on the 26th of January 2011. It was since the 1980s. The Emergency Law was said to be a form of protest to the undemocratic originally in place during the reigns of President reign of Assad. The Assad family till today has been Hafez al-Assad where Syria was in huge conflict ruling over Syria for 41 years in total. The protest with several neighboring country, particularly Israel. took the online world but made little impact on the The Emergency Law gave the government power uprising, unlike its significant impact on the to arrest people as political prisoners and deploy Egyptian revolution which toppled down Hosni the Syrian forces to stop any uprising against the Mubarak. The protest escalated in the capital city of government. By Assad signing the decree, he Damascus where 150 men grew into 1500, in hoped that the Syrian people were assured that demand of the release of more political prisoners. Assad won’t take anymore political prisoners Such size of protest has not been seen since the without strong bases nor attacking protesting 1980s where Hafez al-Assad faced a similar type of citizens with force. Moreover Assad made protest. promises of cutting taxes and the release of more political prisoners.


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International

By the end of April, most of what Assad promised didn’t come true, primarily the promised release of more political prisoners. This made a valid reason for many to rise up against the regime which became less trust worthy. It triggered many antigovernment protest across Syria. Sticking to his old self, Assad sent out security forces to restore order. Unfortunately many of the protesters received violence return from the government forces. The violent blows from the government ignited an escalation in the protests. The Syrian government then started to deploy tanks and heavy artilleries to suppress rebels. During the early May, the Syrian government utilize tanks to suppress the uprising in the city of Daraa. They cut of some crucial city features such as water, power and even food supplies. Most of the rebel forces used the mosques as a form of sanctuary. On the 29th of July, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was formed. The members were mostly the defected Syrian Armed Forces and also civilian volunteers. The FSA grew to 20.000 personals by December 2011 and by June 2012, their size have doubled to 40.000. The FSA is primarily backed by the Turkish government in terms of weaponry and also shelter. The Turkish government allowed the FSA to use their southern provinces which borders Syria as a form of “safe zones” for the FSA. These uprisings are growing and still on going with neither side winning.

"We are moving forward, the situation is practically getting better, but the victory needs more time," Assad said, "We're fighting a regional and global battle and must have more time to resolve it.”

Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad addressing his council upon the Syrian Civil War. He stated that the situation has grown into a “Real War”. Many critics stated that the changes of tides or the fall of the Assad regime is unclear and uncertain due to the fact that major cities such as Damascus and Aleppo are still under the regime’s control. Also considering the fact that the rebels have not taken control of any significant regions of Syria. Regions like Aleppo are fully pro-Assad and wished the regime to continue, many major cities act this way as many of Assad’s impact can be felt mostly in the sprawling cities. Critics said that without the full union of the citizens against Assad, the civil war will just keep going with neither side truly winning. It is a stagnant war. The failure of the government to keep the citizen’s level of utility by the means of force have trapped Syria in an 18-month on going stagnant war. The government isn’t doing their job as a governing committee to create harmony and to ensure the welfare of its people. The hunger for power have led the Assad regime to become blind of diplomatic resolutions to the nation’s civil war. The regime can’t get rid of the rebels while the rebels can’t topple the government.


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TIME Gallery

Timeline of the Syrian Civil War

2011 March - Protests in Damascus and the southern city of Deraa, the crowd demands the release of political prisoners. Government responded by sending security forces who shot dead a few of the protesting civilians. This triggered days of violent unrest which soon spread across the nation and turned the uprising into a national scale. 2011 May - The Syrian government sent heavy artilleries such as tanks to enter major cities such as Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus upon the intentions of suppressing the uprising against the regime. 2011 June - President Assad pledges to start a "national dialogue" on reform. 2011 July - President Assad fired the governor of the northern province of Hama due to the fact that the governor failed to control the uprising that happened within the city. The government eventually sent troopers and heavy artilleries to “restore” order, ended with death of another few civilians. 2011 October - Russia and China veto UN resolution condemning Syria. 2011 November - Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and imposes sanctions. 2011 December - Syria agrees to an Arab League initiative allowing Arab observers into the country. Since the year 2008, many social network and public sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even Wikipedia are blocked due to censorship reasons. The international media has little access of knowing what happened within Syria. 2012 February - Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria.

2012 May - UN Security Council strongly disapprove the Syrian government's use of heavy artilleries and weapons to the use of killing more than a hundred civilians. 2 0 1 2 J u n e - A s s a d r e s h u ff l e s h i s government and he stated that Syria now faces "real war". Syria shot down a Turkish plane that enters its territory. The TurkishSyrian conflict was intensified. 2012 July - Free Syria Army blows up three security chiefs in Damascus. A few days later they managed to capture the city of Aleppo. The capture of the major city was countered by the government military o ff e n s i v e , r e t a k i n g t h e c i t y t o t h e government. 2012 August - The Free Syrian Army continues to make offenses on the government on the outskirts of Damascus. A UN General Assembly resolution demands that President Assad resign. 2012 September - The Free Syrian Army claims responsibility for two explosions at the military headquarters in Damascus. The government says four guards were killed in the "suicide attacks", referring the Free Syrian Army as a group of terrorists. 2012 October - Syria-Turkish tension rises when Syrian forces made a mortar fire to a Turkish border town which causes 5 deaths of Turkish citizens. The Syrian government agrees to a four-day UN ceasefire during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha. 2012 November: The Syrian government are reported by the BBC to have been preparing a “Vacuum Bomb” for the cases of pressing matters.


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TIME Gallery

Syrian Civil War in Pictures

The devastation caused by the Syrian Civil War between the Free Syrian Army and the Assad Regime. Many of the Free Syrian Army is armed with missiles and weaponry from Turkey.

The opposition burning a poster with the picture President Bashar al-Assad. Many of the oppositions originated from the rural areas of Syria.

A group of Syrian teens on top of a car, showing their support for President Bashar alAssad. The support for President Bashar alAssad are still seen in urban areas.

The crowd at Aleppo bringing a huge portrait of President Bashar al-Assad. Many of the citizens in major cities like Aleppo are still loyal to the Assad regime.

There’re many devastation on both infrastructure and lives that were caused by the Civil War. It is possible that this war will continue to ravage the country as the regime still poses support from many civilians living in major cities like Damascus and Aleppo.


November, 2012 Vol. 202, no 20

Analysis

A World Untouched: Stagnant War Perspectives By Reyhan Anwar International Relations Analyst There comes a time when the struggle becomes stagnant with neither side winning. Each with their own voice of their action’s defense. The perspective of many are considerably divergent to one another, especially of those who poses power to convey messages. Different news media owns different perspective towards a certain issue, in this case the Syrian Civil War. The Assad regime are still in control of many local newspaper within Syria and are isolating many means of the conflict’s exposure to the international world. As the local media are controlled mostly by the Syrian government, the information put out by the local media to the Syrian citizens are in favour of the government actions and make bad of what the resistance do. On the other hand, international media like the BBC portrays information on the views of the global citizens. Their reporters are not limited to political bias or political relations, the news company tries to portray their news from a citizen perspective. As the BBC portrays most of its news from citizen perspective, their reports are mostly about the perspective of the Syrian citizens on the violence return of the al-Assad regime.

The two sources of Local News and International News contradicts on what they convey, hence creating a form of bias and sometimes confusion on which there’re no confirmation of which is accurate. A perfect example of the perspective bias is the Syrian Local news called the Al-Baath News. The Baath News is a local news based in Syria’s capital city, Damascus. The city of Damascus is currently under control of the Assad regime and hence most of what happens in the city are under the control of the Syrian government. The Al-Baath news is produced exclusively by the Baath Party of Syria, the ruling party. As a background, the Baath Party of Syria is a Pro-Assad party as most of Assad’s cabinet comes from the Baath Party. The Baath Party have been involved during the past events like Syria’s ongoing conflicts with Israel since the time of Hafez al-Assad. Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad, foresees what the daily local news published. As this is the case, Assad has the power to manipulate the news into his favor. This Syrian Local news is not only published to the Syrian people, but also to countries like Lebanon and Palestine.


November, 2012 Vol. 202, no 20 The al-Baath news’ reports mostly refers to the opposition as terrorists who are threatening the stability of the country. The al-Baath news are going as far as stating that the opposition are a f fi l i a t e d w i t h t h e international terrorist group Al-Qaeda. In one of its article which al-Baath published on June 2012 about a car bombing in Damascus, the article stated “The terrorists "Front victory" of the alQaeda have committed a suicide bombing in the midst of Damascus”. The statement clearly intends to show the affiliation of the opposition with the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Bashar al-Assad has been labeling the opposition, especially the Free Syrian Army as a group of terrorists who’re obtaining support from Turkey. Published by the Baath Syrian Party, the alBaath news supports the government regime very much. Its news are aimed to dilute the name of the Free Syrian Army and make glory of the Assad regime. These papers are mostly delivered to major cities like Damascus or Aleppo where many of its citizens are still loyal to Assad. With the power to manipulate news and isolate the country from international interventions, the Baath Party hopes to keep the loyalty of the people in major cities of Syria. On the other hand, people outside Syria, particularly people living in the developed world, has a broader range of resources to look from. Websites and news agents from multinational level come together and criticize the movements of Bashar al-Assad. News companies like the Economist presented its news from the voice of the people and as a news company, the Economist is known to oppose authoritarian governments. As a news who reported from the voice of the people and a news who strongly oppose authoritarian governments, they support the liberty of the Syrian people against the authoritarian rule of the Assad regime. The Economist reported the news in a way that the citizens of Syria seemed to have suffered greatly and that the Assad regime is desperate to defend their reign that they utilize violence.

Analysis Its contradictions to the Syrian local news can clearly be seen, the Economist reports have never referred the Free Syrian Army as a terrorist group or is affiliated to the alQaeda, where as the Syrian local news always refers the Free Syrian Army as terrorist affiliated. This London based international affairs publication company, have been using anonymity towards its article that most of its pieces have no journalist name on it. The Economist’s current editor in chief, John Mickelthwait have been working with several allied news agencies such as the CNN and the BBC. His editorials and columns have mostly resemble those of the BBCs, hence it views the voice of the people. On October, The Economist reported on the eagerness for the western world to intervene with the Syrian conflict. Their words use of Assad’s cruelty and desperation can clearly be seen within the midst of their article. For instance their statement on “Bashar’s War”, they stated, “From the beginning, when his troops fired on peaceful demonstrators, he has used extreme violence. A combination of impunity and desperation has led him to graduate from heavy weapons to aircraft, helicopter gunships and now cluster bombs.”. The word choices of the Economist indicates heavily on the violence and the imagery of Assad’s desperation to maintain rule over the cracking country. They used words like “extreme violence” and “impunity” to describe how bad and bloody the situation was. Unlike the Syrian Local News, these words are intended for the Assad regime. The Economist have viewed Assad’s regime as an authoritarian regime as they have ruled over Syria for more than 40 years. The Economist also sees the regime as violence as both Hafez al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad utilize the means of military power to suppress their people.


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Analysis

The similarities of both news article is that they refer to the United Nations progress on interventions of the western world. The Syrian pro-Assad sees the Americans as an invasion threat and that their purpose of intervention is for the resources and indirect control of Syria. However, the Americans and the western world views Syria as affiliated with the alQaeda and a threat as they poses the means of Chemical/Bio weapon. Both of the contradictions have led many nations, including those in the middle east, to a temptation of war. Countries like Russia and China have been blocking all UN decisions and propositions to intervene with the Syrian Civil War. They have used their Veto rights, which literally means forbid, the propositions of interventions from the UN security council to pass. Russia is known to have supported the Assad regime by shipping weaponry to Syria. The Turks have once shot down a plane, believed to have come from Russia, headed for Syria. Intelligence report have suggested that the plane carries the means of weaponry to support the Assad Regime.

An areal map showing Syria and Turkey. The red hue on the border represents the border tensions between the two countries. The Free Syrian Army took advantage of this to gain support from Turkey and gain a safe zone on its southern provinces.

With the circumstances in hand, the people of Syria is facing an open ended war with neither side winning. Out there, the world is blazing with different perspective upon its stagnant war. The international interventions are currently almost incapable of reaching Syria to aid the Free Syrian Army, as countries like Russia and China used their Veto rights to stop that from happening. From within Syria, President Assad have labeled the Free Syrian Army as a terrorist movement and have taken military means of stopping them. Yet the Free Syrian Army has not obtained any major strategical cities to turn the tides. It is as if the war has been static for the past few months. Reports from BBC have suggested that countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have been eager to intervene in the Syrian Civil war. Till today it is as if the war stood still.

An areal map of Syria with the progress of the civil war indicated. The rebels have captured a few cities like Homs and Hama while still loosing control over some minor cities to the government. They have not been able to capture major cities like Aleppo and Damascus.


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TIME Gallery

The United Nations on Syrian Civil War The United Nations SecGen, Ban ki-Moon on one of the United Nations press conference. The United Nations have not come up with a resolution to the Syrian Civil War as super powers like Russia and China are utilizing their Veto rights to decline any propositions of interventions.

America is interested in re-arranging the region as it sees fit. -Bashar al-Assad Countries like the United States have not gained any approval of their interventions with the Syrian Civil War. Their only hope is not through military, but an alternative method. The United States have placed economic sanctions on Syria, most of the western world did the same. Their plan is to “starve” Assad’s regime that it’ll slowly crumble down.

The United Nations Security Council have once proposed the approval of the interventions of the western countries on the Syrian civill war. Veto rights possessed by Russia and China have been preventing the proposal from passing through the council. As an alternative to military interventions, the western world have placed economic sanctions on Syria. Currently Syria is pretty much isolated from the western world and its support. The Western’s plan is to “starve” the Assad regime that it can no longer sustain its leadership over Syria. The Economic Sanction placed upon Syria will slowly create a downfall upon its economy and will then come to a critical state. Although this process will take some time, it is currently the only action the western world can take upon interventions. Unfortunately Syria still gain support from countries like Russia, meaning even with the sanction, the Syrian government still poses support from the outside world.


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TIME Gallery

Voices of a Distant land The Times insiders have traveled to Jordan, a neighboring country to Syria for an interview with one of the Syrian refugee who fled the country due to the civil war. This is an interview with Abdullah Shaheed (30) about Syria’s government failure:

How has the government failed its people? President Assad has been proven unreliable for the leadership of this nation. He has not only failed to keep his promises, he have also turned against his people. He captured many of us for his political reasons and he shot dead our brothers and sisters. His actions can’t be tolerated. His family has ruled over this land for too long, we need a new leader, a leader who can bring change to this land. We need to be prosperous, not dangerous. How you reacting to this government failure? As you see today in Syria, many of us are protesting against the Assad government. Some of us are also volunteering to join the Free Syrian Army. We are currently working together with countries like Turkey to aid us with ammunition and also save zones. What are the aims of the protest? We want the conflict to be resolved as soon as possible. We want Bashar al-Assad and his government to step back and be open to changes and new leadership. We don’t want the government to control our lives, especially by the threat of life.


November, 2012 Vol. 202, no 20 Do you think international interventions will help the country? I don’t have anything against the interventions of the international world. If it will topple Assad down and grant democracy to this country, I see no reason why they shouldn’t come in. I know they’re in the Free Syrian Army’s side, with that I’m sure it’ll be easier to destroy Assad. I just want the liberty and democracy of the country, if it takes international interventions, so be it. I’m sure it’ll help the country. What do you fear most from the government? We are not afraid of our government, but we are afraid of loosing our people. The government poses chemical and vacuum weapons which can take our loved ones. It’s not the government we fear, its loosing our loved ones. That is why today my brothers in the Free Syrian Army are fighting for the country’s liberty. The government isn’t doing their job, so they should not be feared. Beides they’ve killed 40.000 of our brothers and sisters What’re your hopes for the future Syria? My hopes are as simple as the democracy of Syria with the government who cares about the welfare of its people, not just their own. I want Syria to prosper and not isolated economically like it is now. If our country is isolated, it’s hard to improve our lives, and Assad is not making it any better. As a citizen of Syria, I just want our voice heard and left to live in peace and harmony.

TIME Gallery


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Bibliography

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A World Untouched  

Syrian Civil War