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Syrian uprising takes violent turn

October 6th, 2011

The uprising in Syria is into its seventh month, with no signs of stopping despite the best efforts of the Syrian government to slow it down.  President Bashar al-Assad has seen protests across the country since March 15 calling for the end of his rule.

Following in the footsteps of the people in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Syrians have taken to the streets to voice their opinions and advocate change.

Eyewitnesses say peaceful protests are being squashed by anything from live ammunition, to nail bombs, to fighter jets used by the Syrian army and the security forces. Opposition activists and organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have put the death toll anywhere from 3,000-5,000, including hundreds of women and children.

The violence has prompted many western nations including the United States and United Kingdom to call on President Assad to step down.

While the Obama administration has called on Assad to step aside, the international community is having difficulties deciding on action.

“The international community is not in consensus,” said Mona DeBaz, John Carroll professor of Middle East politics, “The U.N. is having trouble agreeing upon condemnation and sanctions against the regime, let alone significant action. With China and Russia (two of Syria’s biggest allies) having veto power, it is tough to see any serious resolution being passed that would hurt the regime. The sovereignty of the regime must be kept in mind as well.”

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian army soldiers carry the coffins of their comrades who were killed in recent violence in the country, during their funeral procession at the military hospital in Homs, Syria, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. A Syrian rights group says government troops have retaken most of a rebellious central town after five days of intense fighting with army defectors who sided with protesters. (AP Photo/SANA)

Despite the disagreement among the international community, the U.S and European Union have imposed sanctions on the oil sector and freezing assets of top Syrian government officials.

As the violence continues, the main question amongst the opposition has become whether or not to take up arms.

Several members of the Syrian army have already defected and started the Free Syrian Army.

Yet, despite their best efforts, the Syrian army has proved to be too strong for the defectors, according to several activists.

In spite of the ongoing violence in the country, the Syrian government has remained defiant.

“These [reports] are blatant lies. This is the problem we are facing today in Syria: a massive campaign of disinformation and lies,” said Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States.

The Assad regime has put blame on religious extremists and armed groups who seek to destabilize Syria.

Syrian troops arrested more than 3,000 people in the past week in the town of Rastan, which has seen the much of the violence of the uprising recently, The Associated Press said Monday.

Over the past week, the military fought hundreds of the Free Syrian Army who sided with anti-Assad protesters in Rastan. The fighting demonstrated the increasingly militarized nature of the uprising and heightened fears that Syria may be sliding toward civil war, according to The Associated Press.

The crackdown has continued with many deaths occurring amongst both anti-government protesters and pro-government citizens, however the question remains: What is the future of the Assad regime?

“In the beginning, they were not calling for the fall of the regime, they were asking for freedom and general reform,” DeBaz said. “They [the government] messed up. The brutality has caused Syrians to ask for the fall of the regime. Can Assad implement enough reforms to stay in power bearing in mind the violence? Only time will tell.”