16 Mar 2012

Assad advised by London-based father-in-law’

Bashar al-Assad’s London-based father-in-law has been advising him on how to deal with the country’s uprising, according to emails reportedly exchanged between the two.

Fawaz - Getty

Harley Street cardiologist Fawaz Akhras, father of Assad’s wife Asma, reportedly emailed his son-in-law about a film broadcast on Channel 4 in December, Syria’s Torture Machine, linking to an article which he said “might be of some help towards drafting the embassy’s response to the Channel 4 video.”

Dr Akhras described the film, which depicts systematic torture of civilians – including children – by Assad’s security forces during the country’s uprising, as “British propaganda aimed at triggering a Syrian genocide”.

He also spoke to the Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, and compared the revolt to last year’s riots in London.

He told the newspaper: “When the London riots burst out and Mr Cameron said he would get the army out, now would you compare that to Homs?

“What would you do? Just watch them killing you? You have a responsibility to ensure the security of your people.”

When the doctor was informed that there were no deaths at the hands of British authorities during the unrest, Dr Akhras said: “We are not as sophisticated as the Metropolitan Police or Scotland Yard.”

He added that the estimated 7,000 people who have died during Syria’s uprising was “much better” than the death toll in Libya, where a western-supported military intervention and civil war had caused as many as the 50,000 deaths.

Offensive

On Friday, Syrian forces continued their offensive in the northern province of Idlib, driving 1,000 refugees across the Turkish border.

Unverified YouTube amateur footage shows an explosion at a building it says belongs to the ruling Syrian Baath party.

Official media announced government forces had cleared “armed terrorists” from Idlib, suggesting the army was gaining ground against the uprising.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group reported that 45 civilians were killed in the province, including 23 whose bodies were found with their hands tied behind their backs, as well as five army deserters.

Diplomacy

Meanwhile, four members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced the closures of their embassies in Syria in protest against its violent crackdown, according to reports.

Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar are expected to close their embassies, after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the other two GCC members, announced embassy closures earlier this week.

And the diplomatic withdrawal appears to be a two-way process.

Damascus’ ambassador in London, Sami Khiyami, has left the country, and follows the announced departures of Syrian diplomats from other EU countries

Turkey may also withdraw its ambassador to Damascus and is considering setting up a buffer zone along its border with Syria, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.

The UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan is briefing the United Nations Security Council about his talks in Damascus and proposals to end the bloodshed. He is thought to try and push Damascus to allow international monitors in the country.