Monday 18 March 2013

Syria Awareness Week

It is two years since the first stirrings of resistance to Bashar al-Assad's government began.
The uprising has its roots in protests that erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets. The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Bashar al-Assad's resignation By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets in towns and cities across the country.

Bashar's father Hafez al-Assad had taken over the country in a coup in 1970, with his son taking over the reigns when Hafez died in 2000. They have both ruled with an iron fist, not tolerating any opposition to their control of the state. they have strongly promoted the Alawite minority, a sect with in Islam that covers roughly 10% of the Syrian population. The Assad regime has largely been associated with state violence, corruption and nepotism, but all previous revolts have been mercilessly dealt with, such as the massacre of 25,000 civilians in 1982 around the city of Hama

Yet, propelled by the Arab Spring - this revolt is unstoppable, and the only question on every bodies lips is, how long will Bashar last. He has a lot to lose, as have those who have benefited from his families dynasty. The Baathist army is well disciplined and well armed, and has been happy to employ vicious attacks on civilian populations. This regime will not fall easily.

Around 80,000 people have died so far, nearly a million people are displaced, and millions more are struggling to find fuel, food and water to survive each day.

During 'Syria Awareness Week' in Sunderland University, we aim to let the Syrian Students here tell the story in their own words, and on Tuesday at noon, we will chalk around 80 bodies, one for each 1000 people killed so far. On Wednesday at 3pm in the Library, Syrian Students will tell their own harrowing stories. There are no easy solutions. Some Syrians I speak to call for the U.S. and others to arm the Syrian rebels, some call for peace talks, some call for non-violent resistance.

Whatever the solution, it is clear that Assad's legitimacy is completely destroyed, and nations such as Russia should desist in arming and supporting his regime. This week we will highlight the plight of ordinary Syrians, and call for solidarity with all who are seeking a just and swift end to the conflict.

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