A note from Ambassador Robert Ford

September 6, 2011 at 8:42am

This past weekend, as Eid al-Fitr was concluding, I read reports of peaceful protests yet again being met with security force gunfire in places like Basra ash-Sham, Telbissa and Jassem.  International media reports already speak of dozens of civilians killed.  This is yet another sad day to reflect on the courage of the tens of thousands of courageous Syrians who march peacefully.  

 

Some of the people who write on this page complain that the U.S. is “helping terrorists” in Syria.  We support the right of Syrians to protest peacefully.  Peaceful protesters are not “terrorists,” and after all the evidence accumulated over the past six months, no one except the Syrian government and its supporters believes that the peaceful protesters here are.  Also, the United States is not providing any assistance to any armed group in Syria.  If the Syrian government has evidence, let’s see it.  I’ve asked them and I’ve gotten nothing back from the officials.  The United Nations, which was finally allowed to send an assessment team here, instead has directly assigned responsibility for the violence in Syria to the Syrian government.  The Arab League has assigned responsibility for the violence to the Syrian government.  The European Union and its member states have done so.  The governments of Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia have done so.  The Turkish government has done so.  Don’t like or trust the United States – fine – look at what other organizations and countries are saying.

 

Some Syrian security service members have been killed.  Some want the United States to acknowledge it; well, I’m the American ambassador, and I just did.  But the number of security service members killed is far, far lower than the number of unarmed civilians killed.  No one in the international community accepts the justification from the Syrian government that those security service members’ deaths justify the daily killings, beatings, extrajudicial detentions, torture and harassment of unarmed civilian protesters.  I entirely agree with the group of Muslim scholars in Aleppo who says that the Syrian government, which has a clear preponderance of arms and force, bears the responsibility for the violence.  And given the extent of the government’s brutality, neither the Syrian protest movement nor the international community will believe that this Syrian leadership desires or is capable of the deep, genuine and credible reforms that the Syrian people demand.  This isn’t about Western military intervention.  This isn’t about oil (many governments have banned its import).  This isn’t about Israel or the West wanting to dominate the Arab world (an old, discredited government line).  This is about basic political freedoms from the United Nations’ Human Rights Charter – signed by Syria, don’t forget – which calls for freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly.  And the United States wholly supports Syrians’ rights to exercise those freedoms.