A U.N. panel tasked with investigating the human rights situation in Syria released its report yesterday. It’s a disturbing, but sobering, read. Based on 369 interviews, the report documents the many crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime during the past year; below, we’ve gathered some of the most appalling violations. Torturing Children “Children continued to be arbitrarily arrested and tortured while in detention. According to former detainees interviewed by the commission, children were treated in the same way as adults, in blatant disregard of their age.
Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. I. Last November a protester on the outskirts of Damascus held up to the cameras a placard that mocked the people of Aleppo: “URGENT! ALEPPO REBELS—IN 2050!” It was hardly heroic, the caution of Aleppo, particularly against the background of a rebellion that had scorched Deraa and Hama and Homs and Banias and so many unheralded Syrian towns.
Since the Syrian people began their uprising against the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Americans have been told repeatedly that there is little they can do about the situation. Experts in think tanks, universities, and the halls of U.S. government have been eager to remind us that the conditions in Syria—with its fractured opposition, brutal and loyal military forces, and fragile regional neighborhood—simply didn’t leave much room for Americans to make a difference. But Robert Ford, our ambassador in Damascus, never seemed to accept this simplistic line of thinking.
On Tuesday, as Syrian shells rained down on the besieged city of Hama, the White House took the opportunity to press for senate confirmation of its ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford. At his hearing, the ambassador described the regime of Bashar Al Assad as either “unable or unwilling to lead democratic transition, but either way it doesn’t matter: it’s not in our or [the] Syrian peoples’ interest.” After months of hedging and obfuscations from the Obama administration about the United States’ stance towards the Syrian regime, Ford’s words were a breath of fresh air.
I was living in Damascus in early 2009 during the Gaza war. The entire city turned tense, and my neighborhood with it. Store owners along the popular shopping avenues decorated their windows with pictures of blood splattered, scorched Palestinian kids. A popular caricature of Tzipi Livni, who was then the Israeli foreign minister, had her lipstick melting into a drool of blood and her eyes colored to suggest beaming demonic light. Across the exterior of the mosques, citizens hung banners depicting recently killed Palestinian soldiers.