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Published on January 22nd, 2013 | by Louisa Tratalos
Image ©   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] © (Sebastian Wallroth/Wikimedia Commons /Syrian Flag)[/caption]   As Syria enters another year of conflict, the situation appears to be escalating and there is limited hope of a ceasefire on either side. As charities such as the British Red Cross fundraise with their crisis appeal to help with the mass influx of refugees, every day the deterioration of events contributes to a nation’s suffering which is already out of control. On the 6th January, Bashar Al-Assad stood before his international spectators, presenting to the world his staged plan in “restoring the atmosphere of security and stability” in Syria.   612,000 people are currently registered as refugees fleeing Syria; an additional 200,000 are suspected unregistered and another two million are thought to be displaced within its borders. This critical situation has applied pressure on neighbouring countries which are struggling to provide for the victims thus causing tension. Those living in purpose-built camps make up 29% of the refugees; it is snowing in Jordan making life even more difficult for the thousands of families living in tents. The 71% majority however, are living as urban refugees in host cities. With limited resources and lack of capital it is impossible for host families within these mainly poor communities to cope with the needs of those arriving across the border.  The number of Syrians who are seeking shelter, food and warmth is growing by the thousands each day. In order to cope with this figure, which is predicted to reach one million by June, the UN has valued its appeal at $1.5 billion. This period of transition has seen the deaths of 60,000 named victims and the true figure is reportedly much higher. There are endless accounts of horror; interrogation, torture, murder and widespread reports of rapes which often take place in front of the victim’s family. After almost two years of conflict and six months of silence from president Bashar al-Assad, what was his intention in addressing a global audience last week? How must we view this speech which was voiced in front of an applauding audience who were supporting the patriotism which Assad spoke of ‘running through their veins’? Despite many cases of army defections and a handful of resignations from figures of authority, the regime’s core, built upon forty years of the family’s rule, appears as a brutal and determined force which shows no sign of stopping. Was Assad’s speech a reminder of his power and purpose or was it a defence tactic for a vulnerable government which is losing control over its people? Assad’s speech spoke of “revenge against the Syrian people” by a group of ‘terrorists’ “most of whom are non-Syrians”. He is exploiting the US fear of terrorism and warning that the opposition is comprised of those “instilled with al-Qaeda thought”.  Accusing the “fierce outside aggression” of a “fake revolution”, he describes how they dropped  “the masks of a “peaceful revolution” and unveiled the cover of the weapons”. Assad is attempting to manipulate his audience and inflict fear upon those who believe in supporting the opposition. What about the large crowds of unarmed innocent civilians upon whom the regime opened fire earlier last year? There are countless reports of such atrocities and videos scattered across YouTube such as this attack on a demonstration. This video was apparently shot in the Ar Rastan neighborhood of Homs City on March 2, 2012. The images expose the crackdown on civilians who partake in peaceful protest. The footage begins with the crowd, which includes young children, holding up their fingers in the peace symbol, demonstrating their yearn for peace in Syria. A mortar bomb is shot into the protest and a body is shown lying on the floor surrounded by blood, the crowd panics and their peaceful chants for democracy turn to terrified screams. This somehow does not correlate with the “self-defence” Assad speaks of. His words of propaganda and patriotic lies unambiguously propose an internal dialogue between the people of Syria. However this appears to be a facade - he has not shown any sign of actually supporting talks as his army continue to bomb, shoot and massacre their own people. Something important to the revolution (which Assad denies to be happening instead referring to it as mere terrorism) is the protection of those belonging to minority groups. These groups include Alawite Muslims (community of the Assad family) and Amnesty has highlighted their safety as a “top priority”. Sectarian attacks will undoubtedly continue despite the state of the regime and whether it retains its power throughout 2013. As mass displacement, the targeting of health institutions, widespread shelling and the destruction of infrastructure continues, it is clear that Syrians have a tough future ahead of them. 2013 will undoubtedly see a great deal of suffering not only within Syrian borders but throughout the region.

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Assad speaks out as conflict continues to spread across Syria

 

© (Sebastian Wallroth/Wikimedia Commons /Syrian Flag)

 

As Syria enters another year of conflict, the situation appears to be escalating and there is limited hope of a ceasefire on either side. As charities such as the British Red Cross fundraise with their crisis appeal to help with the mass influx of refugees, every day the deterioration of events contributes to a nation’s suffering which is already out of control. On the 6th January, Bashar Al-Assad stood before his international spectators, presenting to the world his staged plan in “restoring the atmosphere of security and stability” in Syria.  

612,000 people are currently registered as refugees fleeing Syria; an additional 200,000 are suspected unregistered and another two million are thought to be displaced within its borders. This critical situation has applied pressure on neighbouring countries which are struggling to provide for the victims thus causing tension. Those living in purpose-built camps make up 29% of the refugees; it is snowing in Jordan making life even more difficult for the thousands of families living in tents. The 71% majority however, are living as urban refugees in host cities. With limited resources and lack of capital it is impossible for host families within these mainly poor communities to cope with the needs of those arriving across the border.  The number of Syrians who are seeking shelter, food and warmth is growing by the thousands each day. In order to cope with this figure, which is predicted to reach one million by June, the UN has valued its appeal at $1.5 billion.

This period of transition has seen the deaths of 60,000 named victims and the true figure is reportedly much higher. There are endless accounts of horror; interrogation, torture, murder and widespread reports of rapes which often take place in front of the victim’s family. After almost two years of conflict and six months of silence from president Bashar al-Assad, what was his intention in addressing a global audience last week? How must we view this speech which was voiced in front of an applauding audience who were supporting the patriotism which Assad spoke of ‘running through their veins’? Despite many cases of army defections and a handful of resignations from figures of authority, the regime’s core, built upon forty years of the family’s rule, appears as a brutal and determined force which shows no sign of stopping. Was Assad’s speech a reminder of his power and purpose or was it a defence tactic for a vulnerable government which is losing control over its people?

Assad’s speech spoke of “revenge against the Syrian people” by a group of ‘terrorists’ “most of whom are non-Syrians”. He is exploiting the US fear of terrorism and warning that the opposition is comprised of those “instilled with al-Qaeda thought”.  Accusing the “fierce outside aggression” of a “fake revolution”, he describes how they dropped  “the masks of a “peaceful revolution” and unveiled the cover of the weapons”. Assad is attempting to manipulate his audience and inflict fear upon those who believe in supporting the opposition. What about the large crowds of unarmed innocent civilians upon whom the regime opened fire earlier last year? There are countless reports of such atrocities and videos scattered across YouTube such as this attack on a demonstration. This video was apparently shot in the Ar Rastan neighborhood of Homs City on March 2, 2012. The images expose the crackdown on civilians who partake in peaceful protest. The footage begins with the crowd, which includes young children, holding up their fingers in the peace symbol, demonstrating their yearn for peace in Syria. A mortar bomb is shot into the protest and a body is shown lying on the floor surrounded by blood, the crowd panics and their peaceful chants for democracy turn to terrified screams. This somehow does not correlate with the “self-defence” Assad speaks of. His words of propaganda and patriotic lies unambiguously propose an internal dialogue between the people of Syria. However this appears to be a facade – he has not shown any sign of actually supporting talks as his army continue to bomb, shoot and massacre their own people.

Something important to the revolution (which Assad denies to be happening instead referring to it as mere terrorism) is the protection of those belonging to minority groups. These groups include Alawite Muslims (community of the Assad family) and Amnesty has highlighted their safety as a “top priority”. Sectarian attacks will undoubtedly continue despite the state of the regime and whether it retains its power throughout 2013. As mass displacement, the targeting of health institutions, widespread shelling and the destruction of infrastructure continues, it is clear that Syrians have a tough future ahead of them. 2013 will undoubtedly see a great deal of suffering not only within Syrian borders but throughout the region.

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About the Author

Louisa Tratalos

Louisa Tratalos graduated in Visual Culture from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her interests lie in human rights and environmental issues, with a specific current focus on the Syrian conflict. She appreciates the importance of online digital content especially as a political tool for young people. She aims to follow a career in documentary film-making and the production of videos which can serve as campaign vehicles.



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