Protests Continue in Syria as Violence Escalates

Liz De La Torre

After prevalent revolutionary efforts against the government inspired Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen to take action, Syria now joins these nations in the fight to overthrow its president. In fact, the people of Syria have taken on protests for the past three weeks to indicate the need for political and social reforms.

At Damascus University on April 11, students assembled together to unite with protesters and activists calling for freedom and democracy. Throughout the protest, a student was killed by security troops. Though there has been dispute about how the student was killed, London-based political activist Ausama Monajed maintains the student was beaten to death. Meanwhile, Ammar Qurabi, the head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, says the student was shot by security. Regardless of the student’s cause of death, video recording of the event showed the severity of the violence perpetrated at the university. In the video which was posted online, plainclothes security forces beat protesters and forcefully pulled others away from the march as they expressed unity.

Bashar Al-Assad, who came into power in 1999, comes from a long list of family members who have surmounted opposition and maintained absolute sovereignty for thirty years. With the continuation of authoritarian dictatorship, he is responsible for carrying on the Emergency Law, a law that allows for government officials to arrest people without charge or reason. In addition, he is accused of torturing and killing those who kill and criticized for economic oversight, increase of censorship, and further corruption.

While international attention has called for an end to the violence and emphasis that peace will only arise when demands for reform are met, nations such as France, Germany, and the United States have not been quick to censure President Bashar Assad. Instead, they believe that he has been unlawfully confined by surviving members of his father’s cabinet which has left him with no room for political mobility and thus, stability. Actually, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that Assad is a “different leader” and that many Congress members who have visited Syria “believe he’s a reformer.” Nonetheless, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner has requested the government to rescind limitations on media and “to refrain from any further violence against peaceful protesters.”

As for Assad, he blames armed gangs for the violence. He has proposed getting rid of some of the local government officials and giving Kurds, a minority in Syria that has been excluded for many years, citizenship. He has also ordered 191 detainees who were seized at previous protests to be released. However, none of these moves have been enough to satisfy the demands of the protesters. The struggle for the Syrians to free themselves from President Bashar Al-Assad’s “iron grip” has resulted in a death toll that has, so far, reached more than 170.