- Published on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 09:38
By Mousa Alshanteer
A little more than a year ago, Syrian civilians joined other oppressed Arabs and sought to take part in the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests collectively known as the Arab Spring. While the tyrannical rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen were ousted from their despotic empires, civil uprisings are still taking root today in Bahrain and Syria. While the Bahrainis seek equality for the majority among other things, the Syrians seek only one result, and their peaceful uprising against the murderous leader of the Ba'ath Party serves as the means to an end.
Beginning on January 26th of last year, the nonviolent resistance developed into a nationwide uprising in which protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the upheaval of his government, and an end to nearly five decades of Ba'ath Party rule. The worst part of it is that Bashar responds quite similarly to the way his father reacted against those who opposed him.
Hafez al-Assad not only committed the single deadliest act by a government against its own people, but he also authorized the massacres of thousands of Syrian civilians, regardless of their age or gender. After a failed terrorist attack on an Alawite village, Assad dispensed his military into the village of Hama and systematically murdered over 400 randomly chosen males over the age of 14. Afterwards, he ordered the massacre of a thousand prisoners held in the Tadmor prison, submitted orders for his military to shoot dead more than 100 innocent civilians (mostly children) on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, and executed more than 2,000 youth during the Siege of Aleppo. Moreover, he ordered the massacre of over a thousand Palestinian refugees at the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp and executed hundreds of Lebanese soldiers who surrendered during the final moments of the Lebanese Civil War.
What's that expression I'm looking for? Hmmm...Like father like son. That's what it is. The truth of the matter is that Bashar will stop at nothing in order to maintain the tyrannical regime established by his father, even if it means murdering every single man, woman, and child who speaks wrongly of the relentless dictator.
The Syrian government has deployed the army to suppress the uprising and to siege several cities. Based on eye-witness accounts, soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were immediately executed. The United Nations estimates that approximately 7,500 people have been killed, primarily protesters and innocent civilians. Many more have been injured, and tens of thousands of protesters have been imprisoned.
The Arab League, the United States, the European Union, and other countries have condemned the use of violence against the protesters while China and Russia have avoided convicting the administration or applying sanctions, stating that such approaches could escalate into foreign intervention. Europe has taken the right move and has joined in sanctioning the Central Bank of Syria, thus hindering the funds of the regimes' ruthless suppression. Furthermore, the European Union has fully employed its ban on oil purchases from Syria, thus inhibiting nearly a third of the regime's revenues. The Arab League recently suspended Syria's membership and many Arab states have relegated diplomatic relations and suspended their foreign bank accounts as well.
Activists report that at least 47 people were killed in an attack by government militia in Homs last week. One Red Cross volunteer notes that the bodies of 26 children and 21 women were found, some with their throats slit and others bearing stab wounds. Some of the victims were burned alive with heating fuel poured over them while others had their necks and limbs broken. Likewise, women and children were tortured and killed on Sunday night in the neighborhood of Karm el-Zeytoun. The Syrian government remorselessly acknowledged the deaths, but blamed "armed terrorists" rather than their own military.
The Iranian administration on Monday foolishly voiced its support for the embattled Syrian President and blamed the United States and its allies for contributing to volatility in the country by transporting immense amounts of weapons into the hands of the opposition. Along with China and Russia, Iran has naively succumbed to supporting the despotic regime based only on its hatred of the United States.
Many Syrians are living day by day under the military siege, deprived of their basic necessities such as food, clean water and access to proper medical care. Innocent people are imprisoned and tortured while their families are left to fear the worst. The minority Christian and Alawite populations have fled for their native villages, families have left their homes and their families for refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, and women are risking their lives by lying to the administration in order to save their husbands and children. Although we don't realize it, this conflict involves extensive violations of human rights, the mass murder of innocents, and silence imposed upon the debilitated civilian population by the antagonistic regime.
Yes, we worry about Iran. Yes, we are willing to fight for the children being armed by the Lord's Resistance Army. Yes, I want an independent Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel. But frankly, all of that can wait. We have a bigger issue at hand right now. An issue that is capable of threating democracy not only in the Middle East, but worldwide as well.
Mousa Alshanteer is a Palestinian-American teenager who advocates for the Palestinian cause. He is a senior at High Point Central School in High Point, North Carolina and is a bi-weekly columnist for the Palestine News Network.