Trapped Syrians: World is failing us

2012-02-25 16:34

Beirut - The Syrian military took its bombardment of the rebel-held Baba Amro district of Homs into a fourth week on Saturday as the Red Cross tried to evacuate more distressed civilians from the city.

At least 18 people were killed in Homs and elsewhere in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Deploring the outcome of an international "Friends of Syria" conference, opposition activists said the world had abandoned them to be killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

"They [world leaders] are still giving opportunities to this man who is killing us and has already killed thousands of people," said Nadir Husseini, an activist in Baba Amro.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had resumed negotiations with the Syrian authorities and the opposition to enable more civilians to be brought to safety.

Husseini said people in Baba Amro were suspicious of the ICRC's local partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and did not want to work with a group "under the control of the regime".

The ICRC denied this, saying the Syrian Red Crescent was an independent organisation. "Their volunteers are risking their lives on a daily basis to help everyone with no exceptions," ICRC spokesperson Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

The ICRC said the Syrian Red Crescent had evacuated 27 people from Baba Amro on Friday.

Activists in Homs described Friday's Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia as a failure that had brought them no relief.

"I don't really care about the Tunis conference. All I care about is getting help for my family in the besieged areas," said Waleed Fares, contacted from Beirut. "The political calculations are not the same as the calculations for us revolutionaries."

A video uploaded by activists in Homs' Khalidiya district showed crowds at a funeral, shouting "We swear to God we will not be silent about our martyrs." In the background, clouds of smoke were rising from buildings that activists said had been hit by shell fire.

Civilians are enduring desperate conditions in Baba Amro.

"We have hundreds of wounded people crammed into houses," the activist Husseini said. "People are dying from lack of blood because we just don't have the capability of treating everyone."

Diplomacy is hamstrung because Russia and China oppose Security Council action and there is little appetite for military intervention in Syria.

Incongruous vote

Despite the bloodshed, Assad is staging a referendum on Sunday on a new constitution which he says will pave the way for a multi-party parliamentary election within three months.

The opposition has called for a boycott of the vote, deriding Assad's reform pledges and demanding he step down.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu questioned how the vote could take place in the midst of so much violence.

"On one hand you say you are holding a referendum and on the other you are attacking with tank fire on civilian areas. You still think the people will go to a referendum the next day in the same city?" he asked, at a news conference in Istanbul.

Davutoglu, whose country has turned strongly against its former friend since the Syrian revolt began in March, said Syria should accept an Arab League plan that calls on Assad to quit.

In Baba Amro, activist Husseini said he had "lost faith in everyone but God", but the uprising would go on regardless.

"The shelling is just like it was yesterday ([Friday]. We have had 22 days of this. The women and children are all hiding in basements," he said, his words tumbling out in anger.

"No one would dare try to flee the neighbourhood, that is instant death. You'd have to get past snipers and soldiers.

"Then there is a trench that surrounds our neighbourhood and a few others. Then you have to go past more troops."

Read more on:    bashar al-assad  |  russia  |  china  |  syria  |  turkey  |  uprisings  |  syria conflict

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