Since the death of his father Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad has followed in his footsteps, ruling over the Syrian people with violence and intimidation as his primary instruments. Al-Assad has been accused of ordering several acts of violence against his own people, and has followed the example his father set by rounding up and imprisoning any political activists who seek a reformation of Syria’s long standing authoritarian rule. Despite the monumental changes occurring in the Middle East on almost a daily basis, national media outlets only cover the events that have enough “conflict content” to boost ratings.Several Middle Eastern nations have experienced major political changes over the last two years in a movement that has been dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The Arab Spring has led to regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya between 2011 and 2012, and at the start garnered heavy attention from the global media. Much of the media focused on Egypt and Libya, where the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) played a major role in governmental shifts. After the bombs stopped exploding and ratings dropped, so did the coverage.
Like all things media, attention quickly went elsewhere. Such as headlines like Ann Romney’s “humanizing” of her husband and Prince Harry’s nude pictures that were so much more important than governmental changes that will lead to massive global economic and power shifts. With the death toll in Syria skyrocketing, the media has once again started drooling over the ratings hike that will surely follow such carnage, and news coverage is at an all-time high. Viewers drive ratings, which in turn drives coverage, so it is up to us to prioritize the news correctly. Massive regime changes, high. Prince Harry’s wang, low. Al-Assad ordering his soldiers to bombard his own cities and fire on citizens is something that our media needs to cover.
Syria demands the focus of our collective attention, with Agence France-Presse reporting that Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, said the death toll was “staggering” when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Syria has been a nation embroiled in combat and conflict for centuries, and the country itself has known independence for a relatively short amount of time. While Syria is an independent nation, the people who call it home are far from free, and with tensions coming to an all-time high, the country is desperately in need of a regime change.
From 1970 to 2000, during the rule of Hafez al-Assad, several internal uprisings were put down with the use of military power. The most notable of these was in the city of Hama, where military forces ruthlessly attacked civilians during an uprising instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Holly Yeager in a Washington Post article published in March 2012, “At least 10,000 people were killed in February 1982 during the three-week pounding of the city by government artillery and tanks ordered by Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president.”
These staggering estimates are low compared to other numbers compiled from outside sources during the nearly month-long massacre that took place in 1982. Middle Eastern correspondent for The Independent, Robert Fisk, estimated that 20,000 civilians were slaughtered, and the Syrian Human Rights Committee puts the number upwards of 30,000. Apparently the old adage, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” isn’t too far from the truth in the case of Hafez’s dear son, Bashar.
Since March 2011, the violence in Syria has reached obscene levels, and thousands of innocent civilians have been caught in the crossfire occurring between rebel forces and security forces loyal to al-Assad. According to an Associated Press article on Sept. 3 by Bassem Mroue and Jamal Halaby, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) put the death toll from the previous week of military and civilian clashes at 1,600. This pales in comparison to the total death toll estimation in Syria since the start of uprisings by UNICEF, which puts the number of dead Syrians at anywhere from 23,000 to 26,000.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in August 5,440 people were killed, of which 4,114 were civilians. Although the 1982 three-week massacre in Hama resulted in more deaths, Bashar al-Assad is proving that he intends to follow in his father’s footsteps when it comes to quelling rebellions.
Al-Assad is a disgusting pig and the only Syrian who deserves to be slaughtered. His overuse of military authority on civilians is despicable, and the rest of the world should set aside their differences, if only for a moment, and bring this little piggy to justice. While I don’t believe that the U.S. military should directly be involved, I strongly believe that the United Nations, and the League of Arab States should act quickly to put an end to al-Assad’s brutal campaign.
Syria may be half a world away from the University of Tampa, but for the innocent people caught in the middle of a tyrant’s wrath, the bloodshed and death is very real. Regardless of our proximity to the violence, the atrocities in Syria warrant our attention. Al-Assad is committing terrible crimes against humanity. Not only is Syria involved in a catastrophic civil war, the entire middle eastern region has been going through serious power shifts for the last two years, and as a world superpower, it is crucial that we as a nation remain informed on the global power structure.
The Middle East has deserved attention since December 2010. When Mohammed Bouazizi self-immolated in protest to Tunisia’s oppressive ruling government, attention should have remained on the entire region. I mean, if setting yourself on fire isn’t enough to turn heads, I really have no idea what is.
Since Bouazizi, middle eastern governments have toppled, and ruling authorities have begun to bend to the will of their people. Several countries have made major law changes, granting their citizens new rights and freedoms. Al-Assad has displayed his opposition to change and shows his resolve. It’s time that those of us lucky enough to live in a free country speak out against Al-Assad and tell him, like the first democratically-elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, “Your time won’t be long.”