Hundreds Arrested in Syria as Violent Crackdown Escalates

In yet another sign that President Bashar al-Assad is waging a violent crackdown on protesters in Syria, government forces occupied the coastal city of Banias today. Like the southern city of Dara’a, which has been under the control of tanks and troops for several days, Banias had emerged as a center of demonstrations that began six weeks ago in protest against Assad’s tight grip on the country. In the past few days, security forces have stepped up a campaign of intimidation and arrests throughout the country, with more than 500 arrested in Dara’a since Thursday and more than 300 in towns surrounding the capital of Damascus, says the New York Times.

According to Ayham al-Zoghbi, a resident in Dara’a, “Anyone between 18 and 45 they could put their hands on was arrested.” People are simply being taken from their homes and offices in the middle of the day. In Dara’a, the Guardian reports that hundreds, including women, are being held in the city’s stadium, without shelter. Below is a video of the Syrian Republican Guard forcing unarmed civilians to lie on the ground.

Says Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, as quoted in the Associated Press:

“Syrian cities have witnessed in the past few days an insane escalation by authorities who are arresting anyone with the potential to stage protests and demonstrations.”

“The arrests have transformed Syria into a large prison.”

Among those arrested is 39-year-old Diana Jawabra, an outspoken critic of the siege of her hometown, Dara’a. Jawabra resisted when security forces in Damascus sought to arrest her; she was forced into a car at gunpoint, witnesses say. She had been trying to arrange a relief convoy, departing Tuesday, to Dara’a, where shortages of food, water, baby formula and medical supplies have been reported and where electricity and power lines were cut. Says al-Zoghbi:

…the military, led by Maher al-Assad, a brother of the president, had divided the town into four parts, as a way of entrenching its control, and that volleys of gunfire still echoed at all hours. Though the military has fired on marchers seeking to break the siege or relieve the town, he said, some townspeople have managed to smuggle in bread on horseback or by foot along agricultural roads at night.

“The situation in Dara’a is tragic,” he said, “and it gets worse by the minute.”

Amnesty International reports that detainees have been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment:

The group highlighted the case of one man who said he and other men were beaten with sticks and cables, punched and kicked. The detainee said they drank dirty water from a toilet because they were given nothing to drink.

Insan, a Syrian human rights group, says that it has documented 2,843 arrests across Syria since the uprising began when teenagers in Dara’s scrawled anti-government regime graffiti on a building. Insan is still trying to verify the fate of at least 5,000 others.

Assad’s family, who belong to the minority Alawite sect, has been in power for 41 years over the predominantly Sunni population in Syria. Assad has been president since 2000 and has kept close ties with Iran and Islamic militant groups such as Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is currently based in Damascus but relationships with the Palestinian group and Syria have become strained in recent weeks due to the antigovernment protests; Al Hayat, the London-based pan-Arab newspaper, says that the political wing of Hamas is considering a move to Doha, the capital of Qatar, according to the New York Times.

Foreign journalists have been barred from reporting in Syria. The Associated Press also reports that Al-Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz, who landed in Damascus on Friday, and pro-reform writer Omar Koush, who landed Monday, have not been heard of since landing at the airport.

Criticism about Syria’s violent response to the protests is growing in Europe and the Middle East. Germany and Britain have announced that they are seeking the same sanctions against Syria as the US announced last week: The US has imposed sanctions on three top Syrian officials as well as Syria’s intelligence agency and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. France has also announced that it is planning sanctions against Syria. Syria had already been under US sanctions as it has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the State Department. The new sanctions are against individuals, though Assad is not one of them.

More from the Guardian:

Israel, which has relied on Assad and his father to keep their front line quiet for nearly 40 years — despite Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights and Syria’s support for militants opposed to Israel — said Assad was losing his grip.

“I believe Assad is approaching the moment in which he will lose his authority. The growing brutality is pushing him into a corner,” said Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister.

“The more people are killed, the less chance Assad has to come out of it.”

The International Crisis Group NGO said: “The situation in Syria is quickly going beyond the point of no return. By denouncing all forms of protest as sedition, and dealing with them through escalating violence, the regime is closing the door on any possible honourable exit to a deepening national crisis.”

While saying that the US has had real concerns about the “credible reports” of the Syrian military’s activities against civilians in Dara’s, State Department spokesman Mark Toner has still “refused to question Assad’s legitimacy as a leader.”

But how long can the US refrain from speaking out against a regime that is subjecting its own people to cruel and arbitrary violence?

Previous Care2 Coverage

Criticism of NATO After Airstrikes Reportedly Kill Gaddafi’s Son & Grandchildren (VIDEO)

Yemen President Refuses to Sign Deal to Transfer Power

Omari Mosque in Dara’a Seized by Troops: Has the West Been Naive About Syria?

Gaddafi’s Youngest Son Reported Killed in NATO Airstrike

At Least 62 Killed in Syria; UN Condemns Violence (VIDEO)

Syrian Ambassador Not Welcome at Royal Wedding; Daraa Under Siege

 

Screenshot of image from a video of Dara'a by SyrianrRvolution via YouTube.

6 comments

Ahlam Zaid
Ahlam Zaid8 years ago

America: leave us alone ...what you want from us : you don't give a damn f**k for us (people) you only care about the issue of the black gold : Oil ... and to protect Isreal only ...am not with violence in Syria or anywhere but America & Isreal are the roots for all evils in the world ... stop this madness , we've had enough from you both : respect your people first then the rest of the world .

SEND
Adina Rosenthal
Adina Rosenthal8 years ago

Interesting that this article indicates that Assad is a friend of Israel...... never heard that one before! How can Israel be an enemy of Syria, yet a friend of the President? That is a bit far-fetched - don't you think? It seems the Guardian's journalists will come up with anything to demonize Israel......

SEND
Marcheal G.
Marcheal G8 years ago

Maybe if people obeyed their leader they wouldn't be killed.

SEND
David M.
Eva Daniher8 years ago

Even Soviet Block countries didn't act this mindlessly when the fact that their peoples wouldn't acccept the established order was obvious.

SEND
Lynn C.
Past Member 8 years ago

Kind of like American politics. The worse they make it for the people the more likely they will fail. (But don't tell them yet - if we leave them alone they'll be the authors of their own demise.

SEND