News / Middle East

Syrians Suffer as Government Crackdown Continues

This image from amateur video made available by Shaam News Network purports to show people gathered in Homs, Syria, February 12, 2012.
This image from amateur video made available by Shaam News Network purports to show people gathered in Homs, Syria, February 12, 2012.
Elizabeth Arrott

Syrian security forces have resumed their crackdown on the protest hub of Homs and other cities, a day after authorities in Damascus rejected an Arab League plan calling for U.N. peacekeepers.

Activists said tank fire and artillery shelling hit two rebel-held Sunni Muslim neighborhoods in Homs that have spearheaded the 11-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Opposition groups also reported clashes between government troops and army defectors in the central city of Hama and southern Daraa province.

Syrians Suffer as Government Crackdown Continues
Syrians Suffer as Government Crackdown Continues

Amid the continuing crackdown, Syrians are suffering not only from the violence but an economic free fall that threatens to undermine whoever will rule the country in the coming months or years.

Activists and humanitarian groups have been trying to get desperately needed aid to the hard-hit cities of Homs and Hama, where basics such as food, drinking water, and medicine are in short supply.

Economic situation

But even in areas spared the heaviest of fighting, the economic situation appears grimmer by the day. A Syrian exile in Cairo, Zakaraya Daba, says relatives in his hometown Aleppo face troubles just carrying out their everyday tasks.

Syrian exile Zakaraya Daba, who now lives in Cairo says shortages plague in his hometown Aleppo, Syria, February 12, 2012.
Syrian exile Zakaraya Daba, who now lives in Cairo says shortages plague in his hometown Aleppo, Syria, February 12, 2012.

Daba says there are no jobs, no heating fuel and limited food supplies.  He says the economic situation is deteriorating but that those he calls the “ruling gang” do not care.

Across Syria, prices for basic commodities have skyrocketed - with bread briefly doubling in price, and other foodstuffs holding steady at 50 percent more than before the uprising began nearly a year ago.

Simultaneously, the value of the Syrian currency has plummeted, while international sanctions have disrupted basic economic transactions such as ATM and credit card use.

While some in the international community are considering tougher sanctions, Nadim Shehadi of London-based Chatham House says that may not be the answer.

“Sanctions in a way are always difficult to implement and, especially, neighbors who have long relations with the country always find loopholes to overcome sanctions.  So this is normal and sanctions are not really enough."

Black market

Even visitors to the Syrian capital can get around the restrictions - a black-market business using bankers in Lebanon provides foreign currency. Certainly the government would have no problem countering sanctions on a larger scale.

Those workarounds have been helpful to some in Damascus with even minimum connection to the government. One resident, who asked not to be identified, said Monday that the situation was still holding up, and he was able to find food and gasoline.

He said electricity is sometimes cut, but he blamed that on rebels cutting fuel lines supplying the capital's power grid.

The Syrian government also blames “armed extremists” for attacks interrupting supplies.  The opposition, in turn, blames the government, with both claims difficult to verify.

It is also hard to determine what the economic hardship will mean in the near term;  the troubles appear to reinforce the positions of people on both sides.

Syria Photo Gallery

Infrastructure

But Chatham House analyst Shehadi says one thing is clear: damage to infrastructure hurts everybody, including the opposition.

“One has to think at the same time of the transitional period in the future where whatever damage you do now will have to be repaired, so you are doing damage to yourself, because the regime is going to go eventually."

How long, if ever, that “eventually” takes, poses another problem, Shehadi says: the longer the situation continues, the worse the economy and the violence will get.

Rights activists say hundreds have been killed in Homs since the government began bombarding opposition-dominated areas in the city on February 4.

British reaction

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday the Arab League "could not have sent a clearer message to Syria" when it adopted a resolution calling on member states to provide full support to the Syrian opposition. The European Union also backed the plan and urged the United Nations Security Council to act to stop the violence.

The Arab League asked the Council to authorize a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force to implement a cease-fire in Syria and urged member states to "halt all forms of diplomatic cooperation" with the Syrian government.

Damascus rejected the resolution, saying it reflects the "hysteria" of Arab governments who "failed" to achieve a Security Council resolution authorizing "foreign intervention" in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday his country is studying the Arab League initiative, but that a cease-fire would have to take hold in Syria before foreign peacekeepers could be deployed. He also said Russia expects the Arab League to clarify some portions of the proposal.

Russia and China vetoed a Western- and Arab-backed resolution on Syria earlier this month. It would have endorsed an Arab League plan for Mr. Assad to step aside and a unity government to form leading to democratic elections.

The United Nations said last month that violence linked to the uprising had killed more than 5,400 people. U.N. officials stopped updating the death toll in January, saying it was too difficult to obtain information. Rights groups say hundreds more people have been killed since then.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs