BEIRUT

Editorial

Abetting brutality

In this Sunday, March 4, 2012 photo provided by Saudi Press Agency, foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Saudi Press Agency)

As the uprising in Syria nears its first year anniversary, it has become clear that the regime is simply picking and choosing from any international recommendations it likes the sound of, in a bid to procrastinate and bide its time.

This has been the case since the first Arab League moves against the government of President Bashar Assad, and the subsequent increase in international pressure on Damascus.

Tuesday brought yet more depressing news from Syria, with the Red Cross still being prevented from accessing Baba Amr, the Homs area devastated after a month-long offensive by government forces.

The United Nations also confirmed that footage aired by Britain’s Channel 4, showing injured people being tortured while in hospital by security forces dressed as doctors, was “unfortunately very much in accordance with evidence” accumulated by their own fact-finding mission.

As more and more refugees flee the horrific violence at home, crossing into Lebanon, the stories of agony and suffering are increasing also. It seems that this cycle of violence against the people is continuing at full speed, and showing no signs of abating.

Nor is it confined to Baba Amr, whose citizens have perhaps suffered the most thus far. Similar government offensives are being reported in Deraa and other areas, where shelling is causing mounting casualties.

But, as ever, the total clampdown on media is preventing the full picture from coming out, with government channels continuing to insist that only small pockets of violence remain. The U.N. is now reporting that 7,500 people have been killed so far in Syria, but activists maintain the real total is far higher.

And still, those in Damascus refuse to bow to international demands to hold negotiations with the opposition, withdraw emergency laws, release political detainees and stop the violence.

Assured of a continued Western reliance on diplomacy, why would they stop attacks on protesters and introduce reforms? They seem to have faith that this dire security situation can go on, unchecked, without retribution from the international community: Condemnations alone do not seem to be deterring them.

A new U.N. Security Council draft resolution on Syria is currently being written, the first two vetoed by Beijing and Moscow, but while some observers had hoped that the shake-up of Russian politics would rob Syria of its key ally, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow has confirmed that when it comes to support for Assad, “We are deeply convinced that we are right.”

Even if this third draft were to pass, the current security situation has been ongoing for months. What more can words do now?

If we are to believe but a percentage of what refugees have been reporting about the situation in Homs, then a “smell of death” pervades. If the Syrian regime is to get away with this year of destruction, the shame will have to fall on the international community, who have stayed silent for far too long.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 07, 2012, on page 7.

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