Entries in Assad (4)


Russia Walking Back Syria Assessment

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russia’s Foreign Ministry Friday walked back an assessment on Thursday by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who suggested that the Syrian rebels might win as President Assad loses his grip on power.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that Russia “will never” change its position on Syria, where it favors a diplomatic solution and opposes any international intervention, including backing the rebels. The ministry also pointed out that Bogdanov’s comments included plenty of qualifiers, including a note that Russia doesn’t think a protracted, bloody conflict is worth it to oust Syria's President Assad.
On Thursday Bogdanov made headlines when he reportedly said, according to Russian media: “We have to face up to reality, the trend is that the Syrian authorities, the Syrian government is increasingly losing control, losing more and more territory. Sadly, a victory by the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled out.”
Responding to comments by the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Thursday that Russia has finally woken up to the reality in Syria, the Russian spokesman said today: “We never slept.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


In Northern Syria, 'Staggering' Devastation Amid Ghost Towns


Scott Peterson/Getty ImagesREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK By Alex Marquardt and Enjoli Francis

(ALLEPO, Syria) -- As the sun came over the horizon, word came that the border was clear.

We raced up the hill, hiding from a nearby Turkish military post, and crossed through a gaping hole in the border fence.

The Syrian Army is increasingly scarce in this part of northern Syria. The free Syrian flag waved in the first village in which we arrived.

But the army's presence is felt everywhere. Like in the town of Atareb, just 15 miles from Aleppo, which was shelled heavily by tanks and rockets.

The devastation here is absolutely staggering. There is hardly a building that hasn't been damaged in some fashion. And it's essentially a ghost town. Everyone has fled. We were told that there are villages and towns like this all across the region.

Two who remained: Kayes Mahmoud, a farmer, and his 2-year-old niece, Amina.

"We couldn't leave the house," he said of the fighting. "How could we go out while rockets are falling all the time?"

Mahmoud said regime forces had executed his brother and burned down his house.

"In several years, when this is hopefully all over, how will you explain to your baby niece what happened here?" I asked.

"I will tell her exactly what happened," he said. "That the army did this to us."

We drove south into Idlib Province, which has seen some of the worst fighting.

In a small village, we met Adbellatif al-Hamoud and his wife, Sabriya. They are parents of 15 children. Three of their sons have been killed fighting with the rebels.

"When the revolution started, I provided my sons," Hamoud said. "Three were killed. I still have six. And I pray to God for the others to be martyrs like their brothers."

"What your sons were fighting for, the end of [President Bashar al-Assad's] regime. Is it worth the price that you've paid in your sons' death?" I asked.

"Each of my sons was the whole world to me," his wife said. "I told them to leave the village. ... But they all went to fight."

Everyone, it seems, has a story of heartbreak. But rather than weaken them, the stories have only strengthened their resolve to rid Syria of Assad.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US State Dept. Concerned About Massacre in Syria's Commercial Capital

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Syrian government forces preparing for what looks like a large attack on Aleppo, the country's commercial capital, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Thursday that the U.S. is concerned that there could be a massacre in that city.  

“This is the concern, that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that's what the regime appears to be lining up for,” Nuland said, adding that the U.S. hopes to prevent a potential attack in Aleppo by increasing pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and calling them out on the matter.
Nuland explained that she chose to use the word "massacre" out of concern about, “the columns of tanks outside the city, that they seem to be massing for an attack ... the fact that you now have not only helicopter gunships but fixed-wing aircraft, which is a serious escalation in this conflict, the kind of artillery, et cetera, that we're seeing.”
But what can the U.S. do outside of the United Nations to prevent a massacre? Nuland spoke vaguely about the U.S., “working with the opposition to try to strengthen them.”

“This is a horrific situation,” she said. “This is abhorrent, what this regime is willing to do against its own people. We have to call it out. We have to do what we can to strengthen the opposition for the day after.”    

The "day after" is the new language that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been using for a political transition in a post-Assad Syria.

Likewise, Nuland repeated Clinton’s cautions from earlier this week to the Syrian opposition that they not carry out a policy of retribution once Assad’s gone.
But ultimately, she said the Assad regime, “will stop at nothing to hold on to power, and it is an extremely dangerous situation."  Nuland said the regime has ignored opportunities to stop the violence and “turn the page.”

"Instead, they've responded with bombardments and fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery in the city and now this massing outside of one of the most historic and beautiful cities in that part of the world,” said Nuland.
“It is a desperate situation, and we are continuing to do all we can in the international community to put the pressure on,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syria Has 27 Torture Centers: Report

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Syrian government has subjected tens of thousands of detained protesters, including women and children, to electroshock, sexual assault, mock executions and other forms of torture in 27 different torture centers across Syria, according to a human rights group.

In a report published Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the torture was widespread and systematic, with consistent methods used by four different security and intelligence agencies.

"The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity," HRW said. According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 Syrians have died since mass protests against the Assad regime began in March 2011.

The report includes a map that pinpoints the 27 torture centers, which are often prisons and police stations and are clustered around major cities like Damascus and Homs where protests have been most intense. HRW also provides sketches of alleged torture methods based on detailed accounts gathered from more than 200 interviews conducted since March 2011 with both former detainees and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence forces who served at the torture centers.

"They forced me to undress. Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest, and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke," said a 31-year-old man who was detained in Idlib in June. "They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days.”

Other torture methods described in the report include hanging detainees from the ceiling and beating them with cables, whips and pipes and pulling out fingernails with pliers.

Former detainees who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported witnessing the death of other detainees while in custody, though the rights group has not been able to confirm independently the numbers of fatalities in detainment.

While the majority of those interviewed were men between the ages of 18 and 35, Nadim Houry, the deputy director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, told ABC News the group also interviewed women, children and the elderly.

"I interviewed a child as young as 11 years old and a man over 70 who had been detained and tortured when security forces couldn't find his sons," said Houry.

Houry also said that activists from across Syria's religious communities, including the ruling Alawite minority, had reported being detained.

Anti-government protests have been raging across the country for over a year and have become increasingly violent over recent months. The Syrian authorities have maintained that they are battling foreign-funded terrorists while activists contend that they are fighting for freedom and democracy. The United Nations puts the death toll at over 10,000.

In its recommendations, the group calls on the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, but in remarks to the press Monday, France's ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said there was still no agreement on such a referral.

"[I]t is very clear that we are very much in favor of referring Syria to the ICC. The problem is that it will have to be part of a global agreement of the Council and for the moment we have not yet reached this point," said Araud.

Russia, which has military and economic interests in Syria, has joined China in consistently blocking Security Council resolutions on Syria that call for robust action, preferring instead to back a ceasefire and political mediation led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that has yet to deliver lasting results.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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