The regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus is now under the most severe pressure, and for good reason. The atrocities it has committed against its own people since March, which according to the UN have resulted in at least 2,000 deaths, can no longer be ignored by the world. Washington has condemned the unrelenting violence in a strong statement issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which called for urgent reform in a country now being torn apart by violence.
A UN human rights team has already condemned the violence in Syria and the brutalities committed by the authorities and proposed that Syria be brought before the International Criminal Court. At a new meeting on the issue, Britain, Germany, France and Portugal have urged the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Syria which could include a freeze of its assets, an arms embargo and a ban on travel by Syrian nationals. It is not only the West that is appalled. Syria’s Arab neighbours, who had remained quiet for far too long as rioting began in March this year, have begun to speak out. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar have already recalled their ambassadors. Tunisia has become the latest country to follow callings its ambassador home for ‘consultations’. Turkey which shares a long border with Syria has called for calm and an end to the killing as has Jordan which believes leadership change is now urgently needed in Syria. The question is how soon this change will come; it has been too long already. It is only now that the world has woken up fully to the situation, and the brutalities committed by the present regime. These have included according to the UN the execution of 26 blindfolded men at a football stadium in Daraa — the southern city where protests have been concentrated since the start of the uprising. The Vatican has expressed concern over the safety of Syria’s sizeable Christian minority. This simply cannot continue and Bashar al-Assad must step aside and allow fresh elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.