Noted Articles on the Conflict in Syria


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As the situation in Syria has evolved with few international reporters on the ground, staying informed has been a challenge. For this reason, we have collected a series of articles that we think are exceptional in mapping out the most important events, issues, and arguments surrounding the ongoing civil conflict. Below you will find brief excerpts, followed by a link to each original article in its entirety.



Torture Centers Revealed

A report by Human Rights Watch July 3, 2012 Former detainees and defectors have identified the locations, agencies responsible, torture methods used, and, in many cases, the commanders in charge of 27 detention facilities run by Syrian intelligence agencies, Human Rights Watch said in a multimedia report released [on July 3, 2012]. The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity. Click here to read the report.

No to Interventions, No to Illusions

Phyllis Bennis at Znet June 28, 2011 The one crucial outside approach that could help resolve at least the immediate conflict—serious negotiations in which both sides are represented—for the moment remains out of reach. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the joint UN and Arab League envoy in Syria, has proposed at a new diplomatic initiative that would include the Syrian regime’s supporters, Iran and Russia, as well as the U.S.-allied western countries and those Arab and regional governments backing the armed opposition. So far the U.S. has rejected the proposal, at least regarding Iran, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that Tehran is part of the problem in Syria and thus can’t be part of the solution. The current UN secretary-general, Ban ki-moon, who frequently reflects Washington’s interests, further undercut the potential of his own envoy’s proposal, saying that Assad has "lost all legitimacy"—diplomatic code for "we don’t have to talk to him." Click here to read the entire article.

Don't get your sources in Syria killed

Eva Galperin on the Committee to Protect Journalists blog May 21, 2012 Because foreign journalists have been virtually banned from Syria during the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime, news coverage has relied heavily on citizen journalists and international reporters working with sources inside the country. Syrians who communicate with foreign news media run the risk of being threatened, detained, tortured, or even killed. This month, a Syrian court sentenced citizen journalist Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri to death for the crime of "high treason and contacts with foreign parties." He was arrested in April immediately after giving an interview with Al-Jazeera about conditions in his hometown of Daraa, in the southern part of the country. According to a report by the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, al-Hariri was tortured after his arrest. In the wake of the verdict and sentencing, he was transferred to Saidnaya military prison north of Damascus. Click here to read the entire article.

Quickly Going beyond the Point of No Return

A report by the International Crisis Group May 3, 2012 For a time, the regime acknowledged the existence of legitimate grievances. But it has now reverted to its initial characterisation of the protests as a global conspiracy, lumping together the U.S., Israel, Syria’s Arab enemies in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular, former regime officials and home-grown fundamentalists. Official media tell a tale in which the security apparatus features as sole victim, persecuted by armed groups, innocent of any misdeed and striving to uphold national unity. The regime blames all casualties on its foes -- agents provocateurs and, more recently, jihadis. Gruesome pictures of dead (and sometimes mutilated) bodies of security officials lie at the core of this narrative. The regime once paid tribute to civilian casualties as well. Ominously, no more. Although one cannot exclude possible foreign involvement in the ongoing crisis, credible evidence points to abundant instances of excessive and indiscriminate state violence, including arbitrary arrests, torture and firing into peaceful crowds. At its core, this is a spontaneous, peaceful, popular uprising, fuelled far more by the regime’s own actions than by any putative outside interference. There are plausible reports of security forces being ambushed by unidentified armed groups, as well as of protesters firing back when attacked. But for those on the ground, there can be no doubt that the vast majority of casualties are the result of regime brutality. The regime is also fanning the flames of sectarianism, spreading rumours of impending attacks targeting specific groups. Sectarian tendencies no doubt exist in parts of the country. But the authorities’ tactics betray a determined and cynical attempt to exploit and exacerbate them. Click here to read the report.

Unarmed resistance still Syria's best hope

Stephen Zunes at the National Catholic Reporter January 26, 2012 Despite enormous provocations, the uprising—which has brought millions of people out into the streets in scores of towns and cities across the country—has been overwhelmingly nonviolent. Hundreds of soldiers have been executed for refusing orders to fire on unarmed demonstrators. Thousands more have defected from the armed forces, forming the "Free Syrian Army," which has engaged in a series of firefights with forces still loyal to the regime, leading to fears that the country could descend into a civil war. This would likely harm the pro-democracy movement. Recent history has shown that armed struggles are far less likely to be successful than nonviolent struggles, even against dictatorships, since it lessens the likelihood of defections by security forces and government officials, reduces the numbers of active participants in the movement, alienates potential supporters, and gives the regime the excuse to crack down even harder by portraying the opposition as "terrorists." Click here to read the entire article.