This account from an activist in Deraa about the first days of the observer mission in that city is telling. Following an initial burst of optimism from the opposition, it soon became clear that the Arab League observers would do nothing — could do nothing – to halt the violence:
On the first day the team met with the mayor, so we couldn’t do anything. The second day, we invited them to a protest at a martyr’s funeral. They said, “We don’t have cars for transportation.” We asked, “How could the team of observers not have cars?” So we postponed the protest. The third day, we asked them to come and observe the protest, but the regime took them somewhere else. Their work is not even at 1 percent. Nothing is happening. They aren’t gathering testimonies from the families. They are witnessing the snipers and the army on the streets. They see this with their own eyes. A stranger walking in the streets would know.
One Algerian monitor has already quit in disgust, saying, “I resigned from the monitoring mission when it reached a dead end and I became certain that I was serving the Syrian regime, [which] was exploiting us for propaganda,” he said. The head of the observer mission, General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, who has close ties to accused war criminal President Omar al-Bashir, says that the monitor never left his hotel room and fell ill. He accused the Algerian of seeking media attention.
But another monitor, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the Algerian’s account that other members of the observer team were also thinking seriously of resigning in protest. “The mission does not serve the citizens,” he said. “It doesn’t serve anything.” Another monitor told Reuters, ”Those who want to leave are leaving on a personal level, not due to the will of the state. There are some people who are concerned about their safety … Some, from a professional perspective, feel they are not achieving anything… The delegation needs expertise… It needs will and good intentions from the authorities.”
Meanwhile, the carefully constructed anti-Syrian coalition of Arab states within the League who originally backed the tough sanctions imposed on Assad’s regime and also supported Syria’s expulsion appears to be coming apart over the failure of the observer mission. One Arab League official said, “This is not a problem with the Arab League. This is a problem with the international system. Who is willing to send in troops? Who is willing to send in a fighting force?”
A few Arab League members have called for a “rapid reaction force” to respond to Assad’s brutality, but that idea is going nowhere — not with Iraq and Lebanon unalterably opposed. Other states like Algeria are looking nervously at Syria and wondering if they would be next. The fact is, most Arab governments are made up of authoritarian regimes or dictatorships almost as bad as Syria. They worry about setting precedents that could someday be used against them. Also, some of the Gulf states are fearful of Syria’s close ally, Iran, and what it may do if collective action results in a threat to Assad’s continuation in power.
All of this confusion and weakness has not slaked the ambition of the opposition to topple Assad peacefully. On Friday, December 30, more than 250,000 protestors took to the streets in Idlib and Hama with many thousands more participating in demonstrations across the country. In response, Assad appears to have added some wrinkles to his tactics in trying to crush the rebellion.”The regime added tear gas, water cannons, and nail bombs to its arsenal of mass arrests, torture, live ammunition, and sniper fire used to attack protesters,” reports FP’s Hanano.
The protestors may be on their own. They may have been abandoned by the Arab League and its timidity in the face of unprecedented violence carried out against civilians. They may be resigned to a long, bloody, and difficult campaign to wrest control of the country from Assad.
But in the end, they see their struggle as a fight for human dignity. FP’s Hanano:
As part of the “Strike for Dignity,” protesters in Homs held a “noise campaign” by banging pots in protest. Tanjara is Arabic for pot, but when transformed to a verb, it means to disregard. Disregard the regime, the Arab League observers, and the world, because the people on the street know they are running this revolution alone — with chants, flags, cell-phone cameras, and now kitchen utensils.
And, no doubt, with the spilling of more of their own blood to achieve their goals.
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