19 Jan 2012

Break this Syrian deadlock now pleads a resident of Homs

A journalist from the Syrian town of Homs pleads for a peaceful end to the war of attrition in her country.

A journalist from Homs writes movingly of the war of attrition in her home country:

The Arab League mission mandate ends today and bloodshed is far from stopping in my country. The world is arguing about what to do next.

The Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi has warned that Syria risks slipping into civil war.  He insisted that the presence of the observers had reduced the killing but he described the reports he had received from Syria as “alarming.”

Human rights group in Syria documented 764 killed during the Arab mission. My city, Homs, continues to be besieged by tanks.  There are checkpoints and snipers. The city is a battle field, the snipers target anyone walking as the light fades each day.

I talk to my family there almost every day.  They are in a permanent state of anxiety, but they know the revolution has passed the point of no return.

There is a sense that open confrontation between the Free Syrian Army and the security forces could erupt at any moment. It often does.

People are stuck inside their houses listening to the echoing sound of bullets.  “Leave me alone!” my nine-year-old cousin shouts every time shooting breaks out as she runs around the flat.  She hasn’t been to school in more than two months.

Is that what you mean by “alarming,” Mr al-Arabi?  I wonder what you would consider “catastrophic”?

The Arab League mandate, which was intended to stop the violence, has failed.

The London-based al-Hayat newspaper today asks: “What suddenly prompted the idea of sending Arab troops to Syria to stop the bloodshed?”

The answer, the paper says, definitely lies in President Assad’s speech last week, which, it says “starkly increases the possibility if a civil war.  The regime will not hesitate to commit the biggest and the cruellest of massacres to ‘restore order’.”

Personally, I have no doubt that al-Hayat is right. They have never shown any hesitation to kill us. “The bullets were like rain,” said my friend who had attened a protest sit-in in Homs in the early days of the revolt on 19th April.

The authorities opened fire to disperse more than 3,000 civilians who had camped there for the night.  Two-hundred and sixty-five people are still listed missing from that demonstration. It is an exhausting war of attrition.

In Homs, every time you leave your house and say goodbye to your family, you just never know whether you will ever see them again. Our neighbour was shot by a sniper as he walked down the street just two weeks ago.

Defectors from the army set up the Free Syrian Army back in June to defend the protests from the repeated attacks by the security forces. As violence increased, defections did as well, and so did the intensity and number of confrontations between the two.

Two days ago, the Syrian dissident Michel Kilo told the Le Figaro that a few thousand defectors were trying to take on an army of 400,000 troops and he predicted that this would “throw the country into endless chaos. It’s insanity” he said.  Kilo expressed concern that when the rebels win, he certainly doesn’t want to have one army just replace another, running Syria.

I couldn’t agree more, I don’t want to be ruled by military men again. Avaaz, the international pressure group, claims to have documented the arrest of 69,000 people over the past 10 months, 37,000 remain in prison today.  More than 600 are reported to have died under torture.

I support peaceful struggle.  But for Michel Kilo to say that the defectors threaten “endless chaos” is to make the victim equal to the oppressor.  It seems as wrong to me as Nabil al-Arabi’s warning of imminent civil war without his clarifing the crimes of the regime that brought us to this point.

We are all haunted by the thousands of You Tube videos showing mothers wailing over the bodies of their burnt and battered sons and those of their dead children.

We are in deadlock.  The regime has failed to break the will of the protesters. Demonstrations don’t seem to be capable of overthrowing the military tyrant that rules us. Tanks are still in our streets, tensions are rising between Assad’s supporters and opponents.

The stakes are high.  Solving this crisis without slipping into chaos requires the will of the world.

By Leen Zyiad (pseudonym)