News / Middle East

US: Syria Crackdown on Dissent is 'Abhorrent,' 'Repulsive'

Latakia, Syria after shelling by tanks and naval ships Sunday, August 14, 2011
Latakia, Syria after shelling by tanks and naval ships Sunday, August 14, 2011
David Gollust

The Obama administration said Monday that it is pressing countries to cut financial ties with Syria in the face if what the State Department calls an “abhorrent and repulsive” crackdown on dissent.  The monitoring group Human Rights Watch said it is time for the Arab League to push for an end to the violence.

Officials here say there is little more the United States can do in terms of economic pressure on Syria, and that U.S. diplomacy is focused on pressing countries that still trade with or sell arms to the Damascus government to end those relationships.

The comments came as the focus of the Syrian crackdown moved to the coastal city of Latakia, where residents and human rights groups say government forces shelled southern neighborhoods and a Palestinian refugee camp, forcing thousands of people to flee.

State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said there were “inconsistencies” in reports that Syrian naval vessels had shelled parts of Latakia.  But she said armored vehicles were in the city “firing on innocents” and that it is clear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not responsive to growing calls to end to the violence.

“This is a guy who is not hearing, as the secretary [of state] called it, the increasing chorus of condemnation from the international community, which is why we are working hard now with our partners around the world to increase the pressure - political and economic.  But we share the concern around the world that this is a man who is slaughtering innocents, again and again and again,” Nuland said.

Nuland said that despite five months of violence against demonstrators, there still are countries buying Syrian oil and gas and that have not renounced arms sales to Syria.  She said the United States is working to strengthen curbs on the Damascus government to insure that “the message from the international community has teeth.”

Arab governments have been reluctant to criticize Damascus.  But Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit on Monday called for a quick end to Syrian military operations and urgent, concrete action on political reforms.

In a letter to Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi, Human Rights Watch urged the pan-Arab organization to hold an emergency meeting on Syria and press the Damascus government to admit a U.N.-mandated fact-finding committee, journalists and independent observers.

The New York-based monitoring group said that to remain relevant, the Arab League needs to break from its history as a grouping of “autocrats who support each others crimes,” and support the interests of member countries’ citizens.

Human Rights Watch Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks said the collective voice of the Arab League and its members would be “particularly powerful” in telling President Assad to end the crackdown and rethink his policies, especially those excluding outside monitors.

“It is very concerning that even in the face of a [U.N.] Security Council presidential statement, they’ve continued to escalate the abuse rather than scale it back.  What we really need is to have monitors on the ground who would be able to assess this. The Syrians, of course, keep claiming that some of this is provoked by armed gangs or protestors.  But the fact is that Syria itself has unilaterally blocked all access of anybody who would be able to verify those claims independently,” Hicks said.

Human Rights Watch said that although the Arab League has remained generally silent on Syria, its charter endorses international covenants and affirms the rights to freedom of assembly and expression as well as protection from torture.

The group said the “sustained campaign of repression” in Syria has left an estimated 2,000 people dead, including more than 120 people killed since the beginning of Ramadan a week ago.

 

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

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid