Situation in Syria of grave concern

4 August 2011

Over the past week, clashes between the ruling Assad regime and protestors calling for freedom, democracy and change has reached boiling point across many parts of the country.

The Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations, which initially centred on the town of Deraa in Syria’s south, have since spread to many other regions, culminating in a brutal attack on civilians in Hama this week.

Reports from Syria describe scenes of carnage on the streets of the city of 800,000 as military vehicles moved in over five days to target anti-government campaigners.

Human rights groups say scores of people lost their lives as tanks fired on innocent bystanders and buildings, eventually shooting their way through to Hama’s central square. Recent video footage has since shown the full extent of the damage.

Meanwhile, in other areas of the country tens of thousands of people have continued to show their defiance at government-led repression and brutality.

International news agencies reported that some 50,000 people gathered in Deir al-Zour, 20,000 in Duma and a further 40,000 in Homs on Wednesday evening alone. Ramadan, which is currently being observed throughout Syria, is also facilitating the gathering of large groups across the country.

In response, President Bashar Al-Assad, who has long claimed the ongoing unrest is due to the actions of ‘armed criminal gangs’, this week agreed to one of the protesters’ key demands.

In a statement on Syrian television, Mr Assad announced the immediate introduction of a multi-party political system; one of the key reforms activists have sought since their uprising began in March.

However, many Syrians condemned the move as a crude attempt by the ruling Baath party to shift the focus of attention away from the situation in Hama.

Socialist International, which has spoken out strongly on earlier occasions since initial protests began, today repeats its condemnation of the tactics being used by the Syrian government against its own people, saying:

“We again condemn in the strongest possible terms the treatment of ordinary Syrians who are simply struggling for their basic freedoms and rights.

“More than 2000 people are now thought to have been killed in their bid for freedom and democracy. The international community needs to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and to demand unequivocally that the Assad regime stop this criminal violence. The Syrian people’s right to life, freedom and democracy must be guaranteed and respected. ”