Syrian Blogger Arrested; 61 Bodies Found in Homs
Razan Ghazzawi, a US-born Syrian who blogs under her own name, was arrested on Sunday while en route to neighboring Jordan to attend a workshop for advocates of press freedoms in Arab countries. The Guardian comments:
If that seems ironic, in her last post – on Thursday – before being detained, Ghazzawi celebrated the release of another Syrian blogger, Hussein Ghrer, who had been held for 37 days, Global Voices (for whom she sometimes writes) points out.
Aware that she could be arrested, Ghazzawi had made arrangements for friends outside of Syria to take over her blog and Facebook, Twitter and email accounts, a “precaution to ensure that her fellow activists would be safe even if she was tortured,” says Zeynep Tufekci, an academic teaching at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The day after Ghazzawi’s arrest, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to sign a peace deal proposed by the Arab League to send observers into the country, but with conditions including that the plan be signed not at the League’s headquarters in Cairo but in Damascus. Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdisi said that “the road has been cleared for the signing” and that Syria is now awaiting the Arab League’s response.
Monday also brought reports that 13 people including a child and a woman had been killed and that 61 bodies had been found in a square in the city of Homs. The bodies, of 34 Sunnis and 27 Alawites, had been dumped there.
For Syria actually to follow the terms of the Arab League’s peace initiative, the authoritarian country will have to
…withdraw all its military forces from towns and villages around the country, release detainees, and allow observers in to ensure the violence really had ended.
That could mean that large parts of the country which have seen constant disturbances might slide out of government control, so the opposition is bound to be deeply sceptical, [BBC] correspondent [Jim Muir] adds.
Indeed, on Monday the Syrian government held war games that involved firing missiles in a “show of force.” Air force and ground troops also staged exercises in “simulated battle conditions.”
Arab League Peace Deal
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen Al Shamayleh said that Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, has corresponded with the Arab League. A source from the League says that, while the letter contains “positive notes to build upon, it stops short of saying that the Syrian response was an outright acceptance.”
The 22-member Arab League had given Syria until Sunday to sign the peace deal and agree to international monitors or face additional sanctions last week: These are to include a travel ban and freezing of assets on senior officials and associates of Assad, as well as halving the number of commercial flights to Syria. These sanctions are meant to particularly affect Syria’s business class, which has so far seemed to support Assad’s regime.
Sanctions had already been issued on November 25 after Syria refused to allow observers in. These economic sanctions involved halting dealings with the Syrian central bank, ending Arab government funding for projects in Syria and freezing Syrian government assets; they have already been taking a toll on Syrians and the country’s economy.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with members of the Syrian opposition in Geneva, Switzerland. Clinton had had met with members of the disparate Syrian opposition in Washington on August 2.
Over 4,000 have died in Syria’s uprising including more than 250 children. Thousands more have been detained and many have reported being tortured. Over 950 died in November, making it the bloodiest month of the uprising so far.
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Image from RamyRaoof