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Syria’s Monstrous Siege

By Charles Rollet, Contributing Writer

Photo by Jan Sefti. Graffiti; says "down with Bashar"

Homs is Syria’s third largest city, and has been besieged by government forces for 20 days. The Syrian Army has encircled Homs, and is currently pummeling the place with hourly artillery barrages.

Imagine America’s third largest city, Chicago, being besieged by the Army and hit with hours-long artillery barrages. It’s a terrifying prospect (and not just because I live in Chi-town.)

And yet that is exactly what is going on in Homs right now. Homs has been controlled by the Syrian opposition for some time, and to stop the movement from spreading, the Syrian Army has decided to quash all resistance in the city.

This is eerily reminiscent of the Hama massacre in 1982, in which the Syrian Army massacred tens of thousands during the country’s Islamist uprising. In fact, that travesty was carried out by Rifaat Al Assad, the uncle of Syria’s current leader, Bashar Al Assad. Despite being a war criminal, Rifaat now lives comfortably in Paris’ posh 16th arrondissement. 

It is clear the Syrian Army is not just trying to kill armed resistance in Homs- civilians are a target too. A prime example of this is thedeaths of noted journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Olchik this week; Colvin had entered the country illegally on a motorbike (due to the Syrian government’s ban on foreign journalists) and was reporting from Homs’ Baba Amr district. Before she died, Colvin noted that Syrian artillery was targeting civilian buildings in the city, including a temporary press center. Protests in Syria were held commemorating their deaths; crowds chanted ‘hurriya’ (Arabic for “freedom”) and blamed other Arab leaders for their inaction.

All of this a reminder that regime change in the Middle East is a much more volatile process than in the rest of the world. Whoever has the most powerful army or rebel militia on their side will ultimately win. Right now, the Syrian Army is on the offensive- but its enemy, the Free Syrian Army, is still holding out. Knowing how quickly fortunes change in the region, it may still have a chance to wrestle Syria from the claws of its ruling elite. Inshallah.

Charles Rollet is a History and International Studies double major at Northwestern University. He is the managing editor of The Northwestern Chronicle, and is an aspiring writer/pundit. He can be contacted at charlesrollet2014@u.northwestern.edu.

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