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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears 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 Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
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.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid