Syria lurches towards an endgame?

In Syria, unrest nears crescendo

Michael Fitzgerald By Michael Fitzgerald

Is Syria roiling towards the end of the Assad regime? You sure get that sense when, like us, you review press from around the world on what’s happening in this hotbed.

Plenty to see here, as anti-regime protestors near Homs surround cars carrying Arab League observers. (Credit: Reuters)

Leaders of Syria’s neighbors Lebanon and Israel are openly proclaiming the last days of Bashar Assad. But Assad still holds power and retains support, as one Syrian American noted in a piece about the failure of Aleppo to rise against him.

The actress Fadwa Suleiman, in hiding in Homs, is interviewed via Skype. (Credit: Reuters/Ali Jarekji)

Not that there isn’t protest, and violence. A prominent Syrian citizen journalist died when government soldiers fired on protesters, one of hundreds of Syrians killed since Arab League observers arrived in December. This Storify feed includes disturbing images of some of those deaths. The BBC interviewed wounded Syrian protestors smuggled out of the country for care in Lebanon, most of whom would not show their faces. They fear retribution from the Syrian government against their families. One Syrian radio journalist in Damascus died after he was shot, allegedly by pro-regime gunmen.

Fear of retribution has spread beyond Syria’s borders. A Syrian-American claims his parents were beaten after he performed at an anti-government rally in the US. In Germany, a Syrian-German local politician was attacked, reputedly by Syrian agents.

At least some of the violence involves sectarian disputes between the Alawite Shi’as who dominate Syrian politics and Syria’s majority Sunni Muslim population. The Syrian actress Fadwa Suleiman, an Alawite who nonetheless has become one of the faces of the protests against Assad, has appealed to Alawites in Homs not to fight with Sunnis. And there are other calls for continued non-violence.

The Arab League observers provide a constant source of controversy. While the US calls for more openness in Syria, Syria complained about US pressure on the monitors. The head of the observers, a Sudanese general, has sparked a cacophony of criticism, like this piece from a London-based, Saudi-owned newspaper that challenged his integrity.

 

 

 

Voices like this one in the UK’s The Guardian argue that Western nations should intervene more forcefully, while a Thai online paper argued against the ‘narrative of death’ being pursued in the region.

Despite the drama and the dying, things apparently could be worse:  Filipino papers reported that the tens of thousands of Filipino workers living in Syria would rather stay there than go back.