Syria: Arab League Monitors and Fact-Finding Mission

The arrival of the Arab League monitors was intended to bring a relative calm to the growing civil war in Syria, but opposition forces have described worsening conditions in cities and towns amid an intensifying government offensive aimed at repressing all evidence of dissent.

The Arab League Fact-Finding Mission has Been Declared Pointless

The arrival of Arab League monitors comes at a time in which security forces and allied militia fighters are supposed to be withdrawing in order to end the violence involving more than 9 months of protest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Instead, more than 20 demonstrators were injured and 10 killed in the Grand Mosque area of Douma, another 6 were shot in the central city of Hama.  Selected by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby, the monitors have worked in the opposition epicenter of Homs, arrived in the cities of Daraa, Idlib, Hama, and have visited the general Damascus area.  The monitors are intended to serve as fact-finders, reporting on the Arab League initiative that calls for President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces to withdraw from cities, release detainees ad end violence. Evidently, the intensification of government violence indicates that al-Assad has taken an alternative approach, hoping o distill all violence through quick and decisive military action.

“The people of Homs and the youth activists have no faith in the Arab League mission.  It is clear now they are just another ploy by the Syrian regime to buy time.  They are ineffective and have no resource to change the situation. But we are doing are part and showing them what is happening in Homs, submitting evidence of killing and arbitrary arrest, and showing them what is happening.” – Khaled Abo Saleh, opposition activist in Homs

Arab monitors move to Syrian towns including Hama and Daraa today after a delegations to Homs was met with mass rallies of about 70,000 protesters in the city.  In front of the monitors, loyalist forces of al-Assad fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the crowd in Homs.  Reports suggest that close to 25 people die every day in the city of Homs alone, though now reduced due to international personnel presence.  Nonetheless, the Sudanese Lieutenant in charge of the fact-finding mission, Mohamed Dabi, stated that nothing was amiss in the city of Homs.  Opposition activists have repeatedly criticized the selection of the Sudanese military commander.  The activists report that the commander had a key position in the government atrocities committed in Sudan’s embattled Darfur region.  The head of the monitoring group has ignored many evident depiction of violence and death, often announcing relative calm or not announcing any information at all.

“All I see now is the head of the mission barely announcing any information while dozens have died in the first two days of the mission.  I would not have allowed people dying under the umbrella of the monitors mission and face the guilt on my consciousness or under the responsibility of our association.” – Ibrahim Zafarani, founding member of Arab Doctors Association

With dozens of people having died in the first two days of the fact-finding mission, the Arab League mission has so far been pointless.  Ibrahim Zafarani, a founding member of the Arab Doctors Association, withdrew from the Arab League fact-finding mission because he disagreed with the mission’s methods.  The United Nations has released reports that estimated around 5,000 people have been killed since March in violence linked to Syria’s unrest.  The Arab League currently has 75 monitors in Syria, with more expected to arrive in the coming days.  A permanent group will remain in Homs, which has been under a military siege for days.  The mission is aimed to establish an ambiance of transparency, allowing Syrian activists to be vocal in their grievances.

“Generally, we have 25 to 30 killed in Homs every day, now maybe the death toll is 9 to 10.  But martyrs cannot be counted in number they must be counted in the loss to their family and the devastation to their people.  I told al-Dabi that 15 people were killed in a protest the day the mission arrived in Homs. I showed him the body of a toddler killed by Syrian security forces.  I took him to see the destroyed neighborhoods and the parts of Homs completely cut off from food, water and electricity.” – Khaled Abo Saleh, opposition activist in Homs.

In retrospect, the presence of international monitors has pressured al-Assad to release detainees and meet other demands by the activists and the international community.  Nevertheless, al-Assad has stepped up military presence, trying to use the time allotted to him by the fact-fining mission, to arrest and suppress all vocal dissenters.   So saying, such as tactic of attrition will not calm nor eradicate the growing animosity of the people against the corrupt and cruel dictator that has left the country awash in the blood of its people.

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