Sanctions in Syria

In a mostly symbolic move, the United States has drawn up new sanctions against the government of Syria. It is an attempt to condemn the rash of violence and mass arrests sweeping the country without having to actually call for Bashar al Assad to step down from his post as “President.”
Six Syrian officials, two Iranian officials, and the President himself are targeted in this new round of economic pressure. David Cohen of the Treasury Department believes that despite Syria having very few financial holdings in the U.S., these measures send an unequivocal message to the regime that the U.S. will not tolerate their harsh crackdowns.


Naturally the Syrian regime has responded to this by dragging its usual trope of The Evil West into the public foyer. “American administrations against the Syrian people, as part of its regional plans, whose priority is to serve the Israeli interest…” was broadcast on the State television service, although it is unlikely that your average Syrian citizen regards such proclamations with any level of credibility.

Although, the method of invoking the name of Israel certainly comes at an opportune time. Certain sources within the country have remarked recently on the level of attention that the recent Nakba skirmishes along the boarder received. While hostility and newscasts would most certainly touch on the two deaths and numerous injuries during clashes in Golan Heights (a disputed region between Syria and Israel), there has been what’s described as gratuitous levels of governmental pushing, as if to draw attention away from the recently discovered mass graves, football stadiums full of prisoners, and talks of abuse and torture snaking their way out of the Syrian detention centers.

Dorothy Parvaz, an Al Jazeera reporter who holds American, Canadian, and Iranian citizenship and was arrested upon her arrival in Syria, has also been released. She gave an interview to her station Al Jazeera where she described what her life was like inside the Syrian prison system. She tells of her experience of being moved constantly around to different rooms that were full of young women, many who she doubted were even involved in the protests and weren’t allowed to so much as call their parents to tell them where they were. She noted that one young woman had been wearing stiletto heels when she was arrested, noting that most protesters aren’t going to take to the streets in four inch heels. This drew her to the conclusion that the government was essentially sweeping the streets for youth and arbitrarily arresting them regardless of their participation.

Parvaz also discussed hearing brutal beatings heard almost around the clock. This coincides with a number of videos that have been coming out of Syria, showing prisoners who have been released from the mass arrests made across Homs, Daraa, Baniyas, and numerous other towns. In some of these videos, there is evidence of electrocution, missing fingernails, and numerous other human rights violations. (Warning: a video of such things can be found here but deals with corpses and is extremely graphic, so click at your own risk).

Protests have been continuing throughout the country, with the notable exception of Damascus. While there has certainly been activity within the city and especially in the suburbs, the amount of force sent to quell any uprisings happens with swift efficacy, oftentimes with security officials arriving in thousands to ensure they outnumber the protesters. Blockades have also been set up in the suburbs outside of Damascus to keep large streams of civilians from flowing into the city center. There was a call for a nationwide strike that recently saw mixed results. While the financial hub of Syria, Damascus, barely participated, there were widespread strikes within other hotbeds of activity around the nation, including Homs, Baniyas, and Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the refugee flood is still continuing, as it seems entire villages are arriving in Lebanon. The history between Syria and Lebanon is shaky and tenuous in the best of times, so this is definitely causing increased tension, with Syria starting to make allegations of Lebanese interest in the area. Considering Syrian intelligence has been often cited when discussing the bombing assassination of Lebanon’s former President Hariri in 2005, the last thing the region needs is revolution to meet armed conflict between two countries.

On the Jordanian boarder, refugees are oftentimes met by aid workers who have stationed themselves just outside of Syria in hopes of bringing food, water, and relief to the Syrian people, many of whom are still living in the vestiges of shelled apartment buildings and demolished streets. The demonstrations are expected to continue as the death total for the country inches towards the one thousand mark, which will put it just behind Libya in terms of bloody conflicts related to the Arab Spring. Many believe that this uprising cannot be stuffed back in the box now that it has spread throughout the country. However, to be victorious against such a vicious regime will require Damascus, the capital, to rise up alongside the rest of the country. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen.

By Olivia Marudan

Cad. Boondoggler. Swindler. Ass. Plagiarist. Hutcher. A movable feast in the subtle culinary art of shit talking.

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