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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More