With the downfall of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, the protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria have intensified. Unfortunately, the Syrian government’s violence against its own citizens has intensified as well.  An newly released report by local human rights groups found that more than 5,000 people have been killed since the protests began in March, however, only 3,000 of these deaths have been verified and according to the United Nations 2,700 Syrians have been killed. On top of that, 3,000 people have been forcibly detained by the government and have since disappeared.

Since the public demand for Assad’s resignation by President Barack Obama and European leaders on August 18th, violence has continued to escalate in the Syrian cities of Homs, Dara’a, Damascus, and Hama. Activists fear that the increasingly violent reaction of the government to the peaceful protests may cause demonstrators to take up arms escalating the situation into a civil war. Violent clashes between government soldiers and armed demonstrators have already begun.

President Assad’s desperate attempts to hold on to power have alienated even those who previously supported him. On September 1st, the attorney general of Hama, Mohammed Adnan al-Bakkour, resigned from his post in protest.  Attorney General Bakkour says that he was required to falsify reports of the numbers killed, wounded, or detained in order to make the government’s repression seem less violent. Members of the Syrian armed forces have defected to the side of Syrian protestors saying they were ordered to use deadly force against protestors. One defected sniper revealed, “We were ordered to aim for the head or heart from the beginning. We were not given specific numbers but told to kill as many as possible as long as there were protests”.

International pressure continues to mount against Assad’s regime.  A coalition of 176 human rights and civil organizations operating in the Arab world sent a letter to the Arab League asking them to take more concrete measures to stop the violence in Syria. The organizations asked that the Arab League suspend Syria’s membership, impose travel ban on Syria’s leaders and an arms embargo. Meanwhile, the US and a number of European countries have considered a UN resolution to impose a travel ban and assets freeze on Syrian leaders, as well as an arms embargo. This initiative is opposed by Russia and China, Assad’s main supporters, who want to consider softer options against their ally.

You can help end the violence in Syria:

Call 1-800-GENOICDE (1-800-436-6243). Choose option number two to connect with one of your Senators. Urge your Senator to co-sponsor the Syria Sanctions Act (S.1472). Click here for more information on the Syria Sanctions Act.

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