17 June 2011
Violence and unrest continue to spread across Syria, more than three months after anti-government protesters first took to the streets to call for an end to President Bashar Al-Assad’s long-standing regime.
Although initial demonstrations – and accompanying outbreaks of violence – took place in the south, in recent days a series of clashes have swept through the north as security forces extend their crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
The north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour has been particularly badly hit. According to local media, more than 8000 people fled the city for neighbouring Turkey in just one week after fighting broke out between security forces and anti-government groups at the beginning of June.
The town of 100,000 has long been a stronghold of Islamic resistance to the regime. Last week it bore the brunt of the Assad regime’s ire during three days of violence, including alleged military-led shelling and gunfire used against unarmed civilians.
The clashes, some of the worst in the 2011 uprisings to date, are reported to have left scores dead, while Damascus claims 120 security personnel were killed in the unrest.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation across the country continues to worsen. In the southern city of Deraa, French media claimed thousands of civilians had been incarcerated in the city’s stadium, without access to food or water.
Across the country too, phone and electricity lines have been cut and people left without access to medical care, communications and basic supplies, news reports say.
In response to the widespread allegations concerning the use of force against unarmed citizens – and claims of more than 1000 deaths and tens of thousands of arrests – the UN has this week issued a damning report into the ongoing Syrian situation.
Although investigators have not been allowed access to the country to verify their findings, the report – compiled from testimonies of people leaving the country and accounts collated by human rights groups – points to alleged breaches of the most fundamental rights.
Damascus, however, remains defiant. In recent days, pro-government supporters have turned out in their thousands to witness the unfurling of a 2km long Syrian flag through a main thoroughfare in the country’s capital.
The Socialist International, which spoke out strongly against the unacceptable targeting of innocent civilians in early May, now again calls for an end to the shocking violations of human rights allegedly taking place up and down Syria. The Syrian people’s demands – for an end to their unjust and brutal treatment and for the urgent reinstatement of their basic freedoms, including the right to democracy and free speech – are wholly legitimate. We continue to stand in solidarity with the ongoing plight of protesters seeking to throw off years of one-party rule and urge a speedy resolution to the unacceptable persecution of anti-government protesters across the country.