Thursday, 29 December 2011

Arab League's Syria delegation a bit disappointing

We've gotten used to seeing Bashar al Assad's nerdy little rat face on TV denouncing as "terrorists" thousands of protesters in Syria demanding change of the regime Assad inherited from his father 11 years ago. A total lack of credible elections, a lack of viable opposition parties, and a dirty electoral process has caused Syrians - like their brothers in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia - to finally voice their opposition to the Assad regime. Authorites have reacted with lethal force.

The situation on the ground was supposed to come under scrutiny as a delegation of observers from the Arab League entered the country. Syria has banned foreign media from entering the country. Syria also protested loudly against Arab League calls for a cessation of hostilities. The Arab League has threatened to take the cause to the UN. Syria backed down. But what sort of delegation have we got?

It's early days yet. Initial reactions from overseas observers are not encouraging. The delegation is headed by a staunch military man from Sudan, Mustafa al Dabi, who was involved in human rights violations in that country's western Darfur province. So far he has not voiced the type of reaction that many have been hoping for, as the Guardian reports:
A video distributed by activists in Homs showed Arab League monitors in a battle-scarred area of the city on Wednesday/, taking cover when heavy fire rang out. Another showed the body of a little boy, purportedly killed in this week's fighting in Homs, being laid on the bonnet of an Arab League monitors' vehicle.
"I felt they didn't really acknowledge what they'd seen – maybe they had orders not to show sympathy. But they didn't seem enthusiastic about hearing people tell their stories," Omar, a Baba Amr resident and activist, told Reuters.
"We felt like we were shouting into a void. We placed our hopes in the entire Arab League. But these monitors don't seem to understand how the regime works, they don't seem interested in the suffering and death people have faced."
Similar reports are available at the New York Times website:
The continuing violence — and comments by an Arab League official praising Syrian cooperation — have fueled concerns by the Syrian opposition that the Arab League mission is a farce and a distraction from the ongoing killings.
"This mission has absolutely no mandate, no authority, no teeth," said Ausama Monajed, a member of the Syrian National Council, the country's main opposition group. "The regime does not feel obliged to even bring down the number of casualties a day," he told The Associated Press.
Initial reports say that al Dabi was "reassurred" by what the delegation saw in the western city of Homs, which has a population of around 800,000 people. Homs has been a centre of protest and is where a large number of Assad-generated casualties have occurred. Arab League delegates were supposed to go to Homs to see how the government is mistreating its people, who have legitimate grievances and who have used legitimate methods in expressing them. This has not happened yet. Al Dabi will be very sensitive to the feelings of the Assad regime, especially since violence erupted in Syria when the delegation was announced. The world waits to see if the Arab League is honest or if it is just present to give the Assad regime a clean bill of health. All eyes are on Homs and on the delegates as they continue their inspections.

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