Seven months and more than 3,000 deaths after the people of the southern city of Deraa rose against the Syrian dictatorship, the struggle continues.
The amazing bravery of the Syrian people has been fuelled by contempt for the incompetent, stupid, lying regime and a strong desire for freedom.
The opposition has now constituted itself into a more coherent front, the Syrian National Council (SNC), which was announced in Turkey on 3 October. The SNC is similar to the Libyan TNC and includes democrats from the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change and the Local Coordination Committees, as well as Kurds and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The SNC says it stands for, “judicial independence, press freedom, democracy and political pluralism”.
The SNC has received formal backing from the new Libyan government and encouraging words from the EU.
The largely peaceful protesters have begun to use weapons to defend themselves. A number of areas in Homs are now being patrolled by local militias.
An increasing number of army defectors have joined the opposition to Assad and have begun to fight. At the start of October 250 deserters fought a vicious battle with regular soldiers in Rastan. As the army took back control many buildings were destroyed in the town of 40,000. Apparently 3,000 residents have been arrested.
The sense that Syrians will need to fight the regime rather than petition it while waiting for change seems to be growing. Syria may be slipping towards much more violence.
Syria is increasingly isolated internationally. Although Russia and China have protected Syria from harsher sanctions by using their ability to obstruct in the United Nations, they have become increasingly, openly critical. Last week China publicly called on Assad to “reform”.
The violence in Syria also seems set to be raised in the Arab League.
The Arab League is an ineffective organisation, but the significance of this move is that Saudi Arabia is set to use the Syrian issue to make propaganda against Iran, Syria’s close ally and the Saudis’ main worry in the region.