The Current Challenges to the Syrian Democratic Revolution
February 9, 2012
On January 26, 2011, a historic moment for the Syrian people occurred. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrians began to publicly demonstrate against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. For the next month and a half, protests were sporadic, until the country’s first mass demonstration took place in Daraa on March 15. From there, the full spirit of the Arab Spring had come to Syria. Soon, protests spread to other major cities and towns, including Hama, Homs, Latakia, Deir Al-Zour, and Jisr Al-Shoughour, among many others.
Realizing that the majority of Syrians no longer neither feared nor respected the regime’s bankrupt ideology, al-Assad and his dwindling circle of supporters increasingly turned to bloodshed in the summer of 2011. Unfortunately, the situation has rapidly escalated inside the country.
As of February 5, 2012, the United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 Syrians have been killed; however, the BBC reports “The UN stopped estimating the death toll in Syria after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm.” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe cited the death toll to be 6,000, while the BBC cited a death toll of 7,000 from unnamed “human rights groups and activists”.
This paper analyzes the egregious violence perpetrated by the Bashar al-Assad regime, examines historical trends in dealing with human rights policy toward the Middle East and North Africa, and makes policy recommendations to decision makers in government.
Reputed human rights group Amnesty International estimates the regime has arbitrarily arrested another 12,000 to 15,000. Testimony from Syrians and YouTube footage has shown a mass grave of 26 bodies from the Daraa uprising. Approximately 9,600 Syrians remain as refugees in Turkey and 6,000 in Lebanon to escape government crackdowns.
In solidarity with Syrian communities around the world, including the United States, the Muslim Public Affairs Council has one overarching goal for the Syrian Spring for Freedom: it seeks to support the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people. In order to achieve this important shared goal, MPAC believes there are three major principles American government policymakers should abide by:
- Create a free and democratic Syria without resorting to war
- Remove impediments to humanitarian relief, human rights observers and independent media organizations
- Bring human rights violators to justice
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