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The siege of Daraa - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The tragic situation in Daraa shows that the Syrian authorities do not want to end the city’s demonstrations; rather they want to set an example, to make other protestors across the republic learn the hard way. All reports confirm this because the situation in this small city is extremely dangerous; streets are littered with corpses, patients are left without medication, and hundreds of youths are being detained in camps. Daraa is deprived of water and suffers electricity blackouts; food and medicine are denied access into the city, whilst shops, groceries and even pharmacies have all been looted by the regime’s thugs.

The Syrian regime is definitely mistaken, for Daraa will indeed be an example, but the Syrian people will “learn the hard way” to fight the regime, rather than fear it. The stories of the Daraa people have incensed the Syrians, pitting them against the authorities and their practices. Such a marginal border city could in fact be the Achilles’ heel for the regime in Damascus, and the crucial weakness that will put an end to a powerful regime, something that all other forces failed to do so in the past 40 years. Daraa triggered protests across Syrian cities, provoking the feelings of Arabs, including those who once sympathized with the regime. The residents’ cries have reached even the most remote countries, and the world has expressed condemnation, calling for intervention and perhaps change. Daraa is the symbol of the world’s protest against the Syrian regime, and everyone cannot believe what is going on there. An independent report described this as similar to acts committed by the Serbs against the residents of Bosnia, when Serbian troops isolated small cities, tortured their residents, and starved them.

The siege of Daraa reminds us of the siege of Tell al-Zaatar camp, where residents were forced to eat cats and dogs in order to survive. The fierce Syrian security apparatus intentionally left corpses to rot in the streets of Daraa, targeted homes to intimidate their inhabitants, looted pharmacies, closed hospitals and pursued doctors. These moves aimed to deter the Daraa residents [from demonstrating], although official statistics say that the protestors in the city are only a small minority. If this is the case, why are all the city’s residents being besieged and murdered?

We are aware that the Syrian authorities are fighting for their destiny, and that they are not dealing with a minor rebel force or a terrorist group. The authorities are facing a mass uprising, which is getting fiercer with every passing Friday, and it will not be quelled by dubious admissions on television screens, nor will the truth be concealed by denying media access to the areas of confrontation and protest. What can the authorities do in the face of such increasing uprisings across the country, and the hundreds of thousands of protestors who are not deterred by the security troops, the army, and thugs?

Every time a horrific, bloody image appears, the authority loses more of its citizens who refuse to support it anymore, and decide to join those seeking change.

If the regime wants to be salvaged from the flood of change, it should loosen its grip on governance, as all other world countries have done. Even the closest groups to Syria have now begun to distance themselves from the regime, including Hamas, which was a staunch supporter for decades. Turkey has also demanded that the regime change before it is toppled. As for the members of the Security Council who tried to veto any international resolution against the Syrian regime, including China, Russia and India, these states will soon abandon it when more stories of the Daraa tragedy and other cities appear.

Damascus is certainly suffering a crisis within its leadership, as officials disagree on how to confront the crisis. President Bashar al-Assad was prepared to announce reformative resolutions following his first address, yet it was rumored that his associates forced him to retreat, giving priority to the security solution. These were the reforms which Bouthaina Shaaban, the Syrian President’s media advisory, had leaked to the Syrian news media. Yet, unfortunately, the regime missed its opportunity, and even if it offered the concessions it had promised, it would now be too late. The leadership must present its scapegoats, announce a wide-ranging reform program, and set a date for parliamentary elections, under international supervision. Only then will the regime be able to repair what it destroyed.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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