The civil resistance and unrest in Syria continues to rage on this week, following the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. President Barack Obama has commented on his grisly death as a, “strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free.”
The Syrian National Council, in Turkey earlier this month, has reported to have said that his death means that there is now “more confidence than ever that their struggle will lead to the results that they are expecting.” However, it is now clear that his death has not been overlooked by President Bashar al-Assad. A number of towns and cities, particularly suburbs of Dasmascus, have seen security markedly stepped up the day after Gaddafi’s death. Reuters has interviewed an activist in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, who claims that “there is an unprecedented security presence today with snipers on rooftops and roadblocks inside suburbs.”
In the wake of Gaddafi’s death, the U.N Human Rights Commission has reported that the death toll in Syria has now reached over 3,000, following a week of intensification of the military crackdown. Despite Assad claiming that his nation is “immune to the type of protests” that were experienced in Egypt, earlier this year, the opposition continues to protest. The armed wings of the opposition show no signs of ending the conflict.
The U.S President’s comments came at a time when a delegation of the Arab League met with President Bashar-al Assad. The delegation has arrived with the intent of setting up a forum for a dialogue between the authorities and their opponents. It hopes that the “violence will end, a dialogue will start and reform will be achieved.” The head of the delegation, the Qatari Emir Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, later said of the meeting on Wednesday that it was “cordial and frank” and intends to meet the President once again on the 30th October.
The President did hold an organised rally in central Damascus on Wednesday to support his name and regime, in an effort to impress the delegation and prove that the “situation was under control.”
However, the delegation met the President at a particularly embarrassing time for the authorities, with a general strike held in the north-western city of Homs. Reuters has reported that this is the “first time that general employees have participated.” They pointed out that there were a number of streets with shuttered shops and that many people stayed at home. It was claimed that nine soldiers and 11 civilians had been killed across the country.
There were a number of other hotspots of opposition on Wednesday. It was reported that businesses closed and streets were abandoned in the southern province of Deraa. Hama is a traditional opponent to the Ba’ath regime and continued its protests. Perhaps an element of revenge plays a part, due to its scarred memories of the 1981 and 1982 Hama Massacres.
President Bashar al-Assad has tried to convince others that he desires political change.
However, the Syrian National Council is dismissive of his efforts. The continued use of snipers and tanks in assaults against protestors are cited as their evidence. They also continue to refuse negotiations on the basis that torture and assasinations are on the increase.
Economic turmoil seems to be the meal of the day. On Sunday, EU leaders threatened to “impose further and more comprehensive measures if the regime continues to repress its civilian population.” The EU introduced an embargo on crude oil imports from Syria in September.
The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, was reported to have said on French radio, “there is the risk of civil war and that it will almost certainly fall under the pressure of sanctions and protests”, but it would take time. In this context, the chances of the conflict deepening in the coming weeks and months seems higher than ever.