Syria crushed by war two years into revolt

11 March 2013

SCRIPT

More than 70,000 dead and a land in ruin. Two years of conflict has devastated Syria.

The world discovers the revolt against Assad via amateur videos in March 2011.

Peaceful demonstrations soon turn into armed conflict.

In July 2012 the violence reaches Aleppo, Syria’s second city.

The international community is paralyzed by division. Russia continues to support its ally while western countries call for Assad to leave.

SOUNDBITE 1: Bashar al-Assad (man), Syrian President (English, 9 seconds):

"I'm not a puppet. I wasn't paid, I wasn't made by the West to go to the West or to any another country. I am Syrian and I'm made in Syria and I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.”

After months of fighting, part of the country’s north and east is declared a liberated zone.

But the opposition struggles to unite.

In August 2012, international mediator Kofi Annan quits.

SOUNDBITE 2: Kofi Annan (man), UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria (English, 24 sec):

"Without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone to compel the Syrian government in the first place and the opposition to take the steps necessary to begin a political process."

Western countries hesitate to offer military support, for fear weapons will fall in the hands of fanatics.

Fears rise of sectarian partition in Syria.

SOUNDBITE 3: Hilal Kachan, Political Studies Department Director at the American University of Beirut : (English, 22 seconds):

"The Syrian regime was determined from the beginning to militarise the uprising. He wanted it to become militant. He wanted the insurgents to resort to arms to tell the world that he was sdealing with an insurgency and with Islamic terrorists groups."

Fighting continues and pushes those who can to leave the country.

The UN logs a million Syrian refugees two years after the start of the conflict.

SHOTLIST:

MAARET NOMAN, SYRIA. NOVEMBER 17, 18, 2012. SOURCE: AFPTV/JAMES FOLEY

-Shot of a rebel kissing the forehead of a dead comrade

DEIR EZZOR, SYRIA. FEBRUARY 16, 2013. SOURCE : AFPTV/JOSE RODRIGUEZ

-VAR of destruction in the city of Deir Ezzor

ALEPPO, SYRIA. AUGUST 10, 2012. SOURCE : AFPTV/JAMES FOLEY

-VAR of a wounded man at a clinic

KAFR NABEL, SYRIA. May 6, 2011. SOURCE: ANONYMOUS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSFxOv7OWE8

ATTENTION : This images are from YouTube. We have been able to verify that they were recently filmed in Kafr Nabel. Posting on YouTube indicates that they were shot on May 6, 2011. THIRD PARTY IMAGES. AFP TRANSMISSION SERVICE,

*NO RESALE, FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY*

-VAR of a demonstration

HAMA, SYRIA. MAY 13, 2011. SOURCE: ANONYMOUS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqmCDqy0TyA

ATTENTION : This images are from YouTube. We have been able to verify that they were recently filmed in Hama. Posting on YouTube indicates that they were shot on May 13, 2011. THIRD PARTY IMAGES. AFP TRANSMISSION SERVICE,

*NO RESALE, FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY*

-VAR of people tearing a portrait of Bashar Al-Assad on a building said to be the municipality

HOMS. JANUAY 20, 2012. SOURCE : AFPTV/Mazhar Tayyara

-Demonstration in the al-Khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs, at the feet of a clocktower built by demonstrators to resemble the clocktower in the center of Homs.

CAIRO, NOVEMBER 13, 2012. SOURCE: AFPTV/MOSTAFA ABULEZZ

-VAR of the EU-Arab League reunion

DAMASCUS. NOVEMBER 8, 2012. SOURCE : RUSSIA TODAY

-SOUNDBITE 1

ALEPPO, SYRIA, AUGUST 12, 2012. SOURCE: AFPTV NINO BLINAC

-VAR of fighters streets in the Salaheddine neighbourhood

-VAR of fighters in the street

AZAAZ, SYRIA. NOVEMBER 13, 2012. SOURCE : AFPTV/STELLA MIKELLIS

-Rebels at the border post of Killis

-Shot of Syrian revolution flag

DAMASCUS, MARCH 10, 2012. SOURCE : SYRIAN TV POOL

-VAR of Kofi Annan with Bashar Al-Assad

GENEVA. AUGUST 2, 2012. SOURCE : UNTV

-SOUNDBITE 2

MARAKESH, MOROCCO. DECEMBER 12, 2012. SOURCE: AFPTV

-VAR of “Friends of Syria” meeting

DEIR EZZOR, SYRIA. FEBRUARY 25, 2013. SOURCE : AFPTV/JOSE RODRIGUEZ

-VAR of a demonstration by the Islamist brigade Hamza ibn Abdel Mottaleb in Deir Ezzor

-SOUNDBITE 3

MAARET NOMAN, SYRIA. NOVEMBER 17, 18, 2012. SOURCE: AFPTV/JAMES FOLEY

-Shot of a rebel fighter attempting to shoot down an army plane

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, JORDAN. AUGUST 15, 2012. SOURCE: AFPTV

-VAR of refugees in camp

///

--------------------------------------------

AFP TEXT STORY:

Syria-conflict-anniversary,ADVANCER

Syria crushed by war two years into revolt

by Rita Daou

=(VIDEO+FILE PICTURE)=

BEIRUT, March 10, 2013 (AFP) - As the Arab Spring blossomed two years ago, a heady breeze brought hopes of democracy, human rights and a better life to countries across the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria.

But while dictatorships fell in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, President Bashar al-Assad clung to power in Damascus, unleashing a brutal crackdown on what began as a peaceful pro-reform movement.

The response on the street was no surprise. As many Syrians clung to the belief that peaceful tactics could change things, an ever-growing number took up arms.

Two years on, Syria is mired in a devastating civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people, forced a million to flee with millions more displaced at home or missing, and an economic and humanitarian disaster.

Rebels have seized large swathes of territory, but growing tensions between liberals and moderate Muslims on the one hand, and powerful Islamists on the other, have raised fears Syria could collapse in a new sectarian bloodbath.

The United Nations said bluntly this week that "Syria is spiralling towards full-scale disaster."

Paris-Sud professor of international relations Khattar Abou Diab told AFP: "Syria is collapsing. World powers will act only when they realise that the country is becoming a new Somalia."

That was a chilling reference to the fragmented Horn of Africa country where a weak central government and Islamists have battled unsuccessfully for years.

For now, both the rebels and Assad are intransigent, with neither a military nor a political end in sight.

It began on March 15, 2011, when youths in the southern city of Daraa scrawled on school walls the main chant of the Arab Spring: "The people want the fall of the regime."

Activists say they were jailed and tortured, helping to spark the uprising.

In power for 40 years, the Assad clan believed it could quell the revolt, just as Bashar's father and predecessor Hafez did in 1982, when he crushed a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama, killing between 10,000 and 40,000 people.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the army turned its back on the top echelons of power, but Syria's army, led by officers from Assad's Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has remained loyal.

Defections from regime ranks have multiplied but still failed to strike the core.

And while defectors once formed the kernel of the rebel Free Syrian Army, insurgent ranks now include disparate groups including jihadist fighters from abroad.

The military has formidable firepower, and clashes with poorly armed rebels have reduced many cities to rubble, and in Libya, where demands for reform also turned to civil war, dictator Moamer Kadhafi also had a powerful war machine.

But the diplomatic climate there was different, and Western powers quickly imposed a no-fly zone and provided insurgents with weapons and training.

The world is divided over Syria, where unflinching support from long-time Damascus ally Russia and China has prevented the United Nations from adopting a unified posture.

Even countries such as the United States, Britain and France that have demanded Assad's departure are not providing the heavy weaponry that the rebels need to prevail.

They fear such weapons could fall into the hands of Muslim extremists, so have limited themselves to providing non-lethal support to rebels and sanctioning the inflexible regime.

Experts and diplomats say Islamist groups are financed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Mainstream insurgents say they are poorly equipped and have made repeated calls for more international arms backing, but as they run short of arms, jihadists such as the previously unknown jihadist Al-Nusra Front have taken centre stage.

A security vacuum has given rise to spiralling crime and, worryingly, kidnappings and killings driven by sectarian hatred between Sunni Muslims and Alawites.

The exiled opposition, also fragmented, has frequently condemned the world's "silence." When its leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib proposed a dialogue with regime figures, this only further split the dissident ranks.

Damascus says it is ready to talk, but its rhetoric remains unchanged. Assad believes the war is against "terrorists" and Syria faces a "global conspiracy."

While the regime focuses on Damascus and the route to the Alawite region on the coast, fears mount of sectarian partition.

"The worst result would be a division of power along sectarian lines, similar to Lebanon. This would lead to long-term war," Abou Diab said.

rd/ram/ser/al/srm

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