News / Middle East

Libya’s Lesson to Syria - Stay the Course

Libyan rebels gesture as they change the flag in Abu Salim district in Tripoli, Libya, August 25, 2011
Libyan rebels gesture as they change the flag in Abu Salim district in Tripoli, Libya, August 25, 2011
Cecily Hilleary

Are the countries embroiled in the Arab Spring learning from one another? Or more to the point, has the sudden turn of events in Libya offered clues to Syria’s revolutionaries on how to finally prevail after months of seemingly fruitless and unquestionably bloody protests? Syrian activists say that the dramatic changes this week in Tripoli have given Syrians new hope that the Arab Spring endures and victory may be at hand.

The euphoria of Libyan revolutionaries who overtook Gadhafi’s stronghold of Bab Al-Aziziya, is beginning to have a galvanizing effect on Syrian activists.

Iyas Al Maleh is the son of 80-year-old Haitham Al-Maleh, the reknowned Syrian lawyer and rights activist who was released last March from prison in Syria. Haitham had been jailed for “undermining the national sentiment.”  Father and son are currently living in exile in Egypt.

Al-Maleh believes that the apparent victory in Libya will have an impact on how Syrian protesters continue their efforts to oust Assad. “I think that it will just give them more moral support.  Now, the world can actually focus on Syria, not having to focus on Libya and leaving people to die in the streets on a daily basis in Syria,” he said. 

Now that the Libya crisis appears to be resolving, says Al-Maleh, the international community can focus renewed attention on not just Syria, but Yemen, which Al-Maleh hopes can also be resolved.

Dr. Najib Ghadbian, Professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas and a Syrian activist
Dr. Najib Ghadbian, Professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas and a Syrian activist

Other Syrian activists agree that the victory in Tripoli will have a positive impact on the Syrian protest movement.  “It’s been wonderful news for Syria and Syrians,” said Dr. Najib Ghadbian, Professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas and a Syrian activist.

“I can tell you that over the last three days or so in Syria, we have slogans and demonstrators shouting basically sympathy and support of the Libyan people against Gadhafi, saying something like ‘Gadhafi is gone, it’s your turn, Bashar.’  One more dictator down is definitely a major moral victory for the people of Syria,” he said.

Impact on Syria

Ghadbian points out that Libya, for a time, had a negative impact on the Syrian situation.  Gadhafi’s unwillingness to compromise, “basically forced that movement to shift from a peaceful protest movement into an armed rebellion.”  But Gadhafi’s recalcitrance seems to have backfired as his regime has endured crippling sanctions, international condemnation, NATO airstrikes and now the loss of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Gadhafi is now in hiding.

Which brings up another concern that some analysts have expressed:  Could the Syrians, seeing that their own peaceful protests have so far failed to bring down Assad, look to Libya’s success and decide that they, too should take up arms? Or is civil disobedience the answer?

Ghadbian does admit that there have been a few activists inside Syria who have begun to reconsider their strategy.  “They say to themselves, ‘well, you know, we continue to just go out and be peaceful and be killed.’  We have heard of some individuals arming themselves or using weapons to defend themselves, but these have been minor,” he said.

“It’s not the preferred strategy of the opposition,” said Ghadbian, “inside or outside. I think one of the strengths of the Syrian version of this Arab Spring is its peacefulness.  It’s true that the regime has pushed people to use weapons, but I think so far they’ve understand that if they were to do so, that would give the justification for the Assad regime to carry out mass oppression.”

Outside intervention

Military intervention from the outside is becoming a more attractive option, one that has been resisted by protesters until recently. A source close to several Syrian opposition groups, who asks not to be identified, say that while peaceful protest has been effective, it  doesn’t mean that Syrians wouldn’t support the idea of some kind of outside intervention.

Seeking U.S. intervention is unlikely but an air campaign led by NATO or some kind of ground intervention by the GCC’S Peninsula shield is another matter.  “The demonstrators realize that handguns and rifles can do nothing against the army,” he said. “They would carry arms if they get foreign support or if a few generals defected with dozens of armored units.”

The same Syrian source confirmed reports in Germany’s Zeit magazine that demonstrators this week, for the first time since the beginning of the uprising, are calling for foreign intervention.  Protesters are beginning to hold placards with specific demands. One video from MrAboAsad on YouTube shows demonstrators in the northern Syrian town of Maarat an Numan thanking the U.N. for its efforts so far and requesting a no-fly zone the Syrian Air Force - it isn’t clear exactly who the demonstrators want to impose that embargo.  

Another video from Shams News Network in Syria shows demonstrators in Hama asking for the GCC’s Peninsula Shield Force to intervene in Syria.  “We are getting massacred,” reads the placard.  The signs indicate a new sentiment on the street that was absent before the fall of Tripoli.

A protester crouches near the body of a man lying on the ground in Hama in this still image taken from video posted on a social media website on August 4, 2011 (Reuters cannot independently verify the content of the video)
A protester crouches near the body of a man lying on the ground in Hama in this still image taken from video posted on a social media website on August 4, 2011 (Reuters cannot independently verify the content of the video)

Assad: No interference

Indeed, the arrests and killing of protesters continued this week across Syria, in spite of Assad’s repeated promises of reform.  The United Nations says more than 2,000 have died so far in the crackdown on demonstrators and this week adopted a resolution condemning Syria for human rights violations.  The U.N. is also calling for an international investigation into possible crimes against humanity.

Still, Assad appears to be pursuing a policy of lackluster reform proposals backed by brutal military attacks on his own citizens. Like Gadhafi months ago, Assad appears unwilling to bend. On Sunday, Assad delivered a stern warning against outside interference.  In an interview on Syrian state television, the Syrian president said he might accept advice from outside players, but would not allow “any country to interfere” in Syria’s handling of the uprising.

Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition this week took a crack at forming a national council, modeled on the Transitional National Council in Benghazi. That council gave the international community an alternative political entity to help shape a post-Gadhafi Libya while they used the NATO air campaign to weaken him militarily.

Ghadbian, who was present at earlier meetings of Syrian opposition groups in Istanbul, says he believes the Syria opposition is close to coming to a unified statement which will united the dissidents in a political body.

“The vision, actually, is to have a council that represents both the outside [i.e., independent activists in exile in the U.S. and Europe] and the inside [activists on the ground in Syria]. We are going to help the inside to do their part.  But we’re not going to wait for them.  We feel we have to make that effort collectively and more systematic ally,” he said.

Ghadbian believes that the opposition will be able to make a definitive announcement within the next week. Until that happens, or a more decisive move is adopted by the U.N. Security Council to offer assistance as they did in Libya, Syrians will take to the streets on their own once more.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid