by: Blaine Skrainka

December 19, 2011

After years of corruption and cronyism from the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian people have risen up as a part of the Arab Awakening only to face a brutal backlash.
Protesters fight for freedom in Syria

The United Nations’ official estimate of the death toll has now surpassed 5,000, with 400 lives being taken just last month. There are daily accounts of brutal torture, with up to 20,000 political prisoners being held. Despite the absolutely perilous circumstances, hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to demand that their voices be heard. Above all, they simply want liberty and dignity. The people flood the streets crying, “Freedom! Freedom!”

As with many other turbulent political dynamics in the Middle East, Syria faces a sectarian divide. Although three quarters of the country are Sunni, Assad’s regime is of the Alawite faith. The nation is also home to Kurds and Christians.

While the international community has not ignored the situation, they have largely failed to take concrete action to bring the mass murder to an end. For example, after failing to agree to a set of proposals set forth by the Arab League, Syria’s membership in the coalition was suspended. On the other hand, the unprecedented economic sanctions threatened by the Arab League continue to be postponed. While Western governments have tightened their economic sanctions, the UN seems to have its hands tied as Security Council members China and Russia continue to veto resolutions to respond to the violent suppression. This, as well as Syria’s close relationship with Iran, pose the greatest hurdles to taking action such as imposing a no-fly zone as seen recently in Libya.
Dissidents fight for peace in Libya

For a more in depth look into the crisis, check out this absolutely fascinating and frightening account of Ramita Navai, a British-Iranian journalist who snuck in to Syria posing as a tourist to meet with opposition leaders. Inside Damascus, Navai follows the trail of blood of a 14 year old boy who was shot by a sniper. His father could not show his face out of continued fear of his own government. Snipers have even been firing on the funeral processions of protesters. Navai also spends time with dissidents as they sneak through security checkpoints and hide out in safe houses.

This episode of Frontline is one of the most tragic and compelling first hand accounts of the fight for freedom in Syria. Ramita Navai and the Syrian people have showed an unbelievable level of courage to bring this story to light, and we must pay attention. 

Watch Syria Undercover on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.


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