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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs