Syrian violence continues as 125 are killed Monday

March 31st, 2012

The streets of Homs are filled with Syrians, outraged at the continued crackdown of President Bashar Assad.  Assad’s security forces killed 125 protesters on Monday, according to multiple news outlets.

Due to constraints placed on the local media, there has been no independent corroboration of the body count.

The protests, which began last March, have faced significant violence from the Assad regime. The protesters were out in full force on Monday after a referendum put forth by the Syrian president was passed.

The referendum promises democratic reform, but guarantees that Assad will stay in power until at least 2018.

The referendum was immediately lambasted by the opposition as a sham. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CBS News, “It’s a phony referendum, and it is going to be used by Assad to justify what he’s doing to other Syrian citizens.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called it a farce, and said that Assad must end the violence.

Not everyone in Syria feels the need to overthrow the current regime, however.

Mohammed Diab, a civil servant in Syria, old The Associated Press, “This is a good constitution. It calls for party pluralism and the president can only hold the post for two terms. These did not exist in the past.”

A Syrian-American woman, who identified herself to The Associated Press as “Diana,” said that the government is “on the right track.” She defended the regime saying, “When someone hits you, you have to hit back.”

The U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay, who does not agree and has urged the international community to get involved, said, “More than at any other time, those committing atrocities in Syria have to understand that the international community will not stand by and watch this carnage and that their decisions and the actions they take today ultimately will not go unpunished.”

President Obama has repeatedly said it is time for Assad to step down.

In last Wednesday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the leading Republican candidate, said, “We need to work with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, ‘You guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria.’”  He went on to say that the U.S. needs to turn Syria away from Iran.

The European Union placed Syria under tighter sanctions Monday, freezing the assets of seven Syrian ministers and the central bank, and making it illegal to trade in precious metals and diamonds with Syrian public bodies.

The U.N. Security Council has repeatedly taken up the issue of pressuring Assad to step down and make way for democracy.

“What is urgently needed today is for the killings to stop. For that to happen the international community must unite in sending a clear message to the Syrian authorities and the Security Council must assume its responsibility to protect the population of Syria,” Pillay told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Tuesday.

She also said that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  The Security Council has been repeatedly hamstrung by Russia, backed by China, who has billions of dollars at stake in arms deals to the Assad regime.