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Syria: from protests to defection

Yusur Al-Bahrani

November 20, 2011

As the regime of Bashar al-Assad continues its crackdown on demonstrators, there is a rift opening up in the armed forces that could bolster the fight against dictatorship. But as in Libya, Western imperialism is threatening to intervene and undermine the genuine movement for democracy.

Al-Assad’s regime continues its brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Syrian cities. The death toll has increased to over 3,000 since protests began in March. The Syrian government claims that around 1,100 security officers have been killed in conflicts.

Apart from attacking protestors, the government has turned hospitals into instruments of repression. Amnesty International reports show that wounded patients in at least four government-run hospitals have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Hospital workers suspected of treating protestors face arrest and torture by the Syrian government.


In response, Army defectors say that they have formed a “Free Syrian Army” that claims to defend civilians and promote further defection. With the available arms, this could mean a move from peaceful protests to an armed challenge to President Al-Assad’s rule. A UN official warned that Syria would be under the threat of civil war.

Shockingly, Al-Assad’s regime is also intimidating activists living outside Syria. According to Amnesty International reports, 30 Syrian activists living in Canada, the US, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and UK have been threatened by Syrian embassy officials.

The United States has withdrawn its envoy, Robert Ford, from Syria. The American government claims that this measure has been taken to protect its diplomat, and Ford would return to Syria shortly. In response, Syria has also withdrawn its ambassador from the United States. Internationally, China and Russia have joined hands to veto UN sanctions on Syria.

While Britain and the US have hinted at possible attacks on Iran, the Western powers are positioning themselves for the possibility of military intervention in Syria. As in Libya, this would be a death knell for any genuine movement of change from below.

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