News / Middle East

Syria's Homs Pays Heavy Price in Uprising

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad march through the streets after Friday prayers in Homs, October 7, 2011.
Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad march through the streets after Friday prayers in Homs, October 7, 2011.

Syria's third-largest city of Homs has paid a heavy price as one of the centers of the country's eight-month old opposition uprising.

Syria's Homs Pays Heavy Price in Uprising
Syria's Homs Pays Heavy Price in Uprising

Rights activists say Syrian security forces have killed more than 1,100 civilians in the city and its surrounding province since the uprising began, more than any other part of the country. Experts say the unrest has escalated in Homs because of the region's poverty, its role as a natural home for army defectors and its history of anti-government protest.

History of Homs

Homs has a history of opposition to Syria's ruling Baath party that goes back to the 1960s, when Baathists took power in a coup. Business owners and religious conservatives in Homs organized protests in 1964 against the Baath party's socialist and secular agenda. But Syria's Baath-led government ordered security forces to suppress the uprising, keeping the city quiet for decades.

Steven Heydemann discusses Sunni protesters:

Steven Heydemann, a senior adviser for Middle East initiatives at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says resentment of Baath rule in Homs persists.

"What we're seeing in some respects is the revival of an ethos of protest and resistance to the Baath government that anyone familiar with Homs would recognize from its past, but which is really taking very new forms and reflects very contemporary grievances," he said.

A Look At Syria's Main Opposition Groups

  • Syrian National Council:

    Turkey-based coalition of varying ideologies is Syria's largest opposition grouping. Secular dissident Bourhan Ghalioun announced the council's formation in October and said it rejects foreign intervention. Rejects dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad's government and has been urging him to resign. Has created a general assembly, a general secretariat and an executive committee whose members will chair the council on a rotating basis.

  • National Coordination Committee:

    Primarily based in Syria. Wants the government to enact reforms though dialogue and by building new civilian institutions. Headed by Hassan Abdul-Azim, who has been demanding an end to President Assad's crackdown as a condition for any dialogue between the government and the opposition.

  • Free Syrian Army:

    Comprises thousands of military defectors. Formed initially to protect civilians but has shown an increased willingness to go on the offensive against pro-government forces.

Among the new grievances fueling this year's uprising in Homs are poverty and government corruption, says Mousab Azzawi of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group.

The Britain-based activist says anti-government sentiment is strong in the city's Baba Amr district, which has seen months of peaceful street protests against the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

"Baba Amr, as the oldest and poorest part of Homs, was severely affected," he said. "The people there are very poor and very vulnerable, they feel that this regime put them so badly below the edge of poverty. So they are the real powers that are moving the acts of uprising in Homs."

Hub of defectors

Homs and the surrounding province also have become a hub for thousands of army deserters who have refused orders to attack the protesters. Rights activists say Homs is a natural refuge for the defectors because many of them are from the province, the nation's largest.

Syria's government blames the violence in Homs and other protest hubs on troublemakers. It says religious extremists from the Sunni majority are terrorizing minority Alawites and Christians and attacking security forces.

Homs is about 40 percent Sunni, 30 percent Alawite and 30 percent Christian. Syria's Alawite-dominated leadership says it is trying to protect minorities by cracking down on the extremists.

Anti-government protesters pray next to the bodies of people who were among the Sunni Muslims killed, in Hula near Homs, Syria, November 2, 2011.
Anti-government protesters pray next to the bodies of people who were among the Sunni Muslims killed, in Hula near Homs, Syria, November 2, 2011.

But Heydemann says there is little evidence of Sunni protesters in Homs pursuing an extremist ideology or organizing sectarian attacks. Heydemann sees the Syrian government as exaggerating an Islamist threat to try to divide and weaken the opposition movement.

Exiled Syrian dissidents say the government also is trying to incite sectarian violence in Homs by recruiting Alawite mercenaries.

Ausama Monajed, a London-based member of Syria's main opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council, says community leaders have formed committees to counter the violence.

Ausama Monajed speaks about violence in Homs:

"When the notable people from both sides discuss the issue, they realize neither Sunnis did this, nor the Alawites or the Christians," he said.

Free Syrian Army

Opposition activists in Homs are counting on an important ally - military defectors who formed the Free Syrian Army - to defend civilians.

The Free Syrian Army has fought increasingly deadly battles with pro-Assad troops in and around Homs in recent weeks. Dissidents say the defectors also have formed protective lines around protests and urged demonstrators to remain peaceful.

But Heydemann says army defectors and protest leaders are not yet united.

"There tend to be divisions between them about which tactics are most effective in the long run," he said. "And there are peaceful protesters who are actually disturbed by the increasing use of force by groups opposed to the government."

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

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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