Democracy News

Syrian Government Continues Crackdown; Faces EU and US Sanctions
May 24, 2011
By: Carlos Aramayo
| Printer Friendly

On April 25, the Washington Post reported that Syrian leaders deployed tanks and troops against unarmed demonstrators in capital city of Damascus. The move represented a sharp escalation of the government’s efforts to crush the widening protest movement, prompting the Obama administration to condemn the deadly crackdown and weigh additional sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled government.

Following the latest crackdown, on April 29, the United States (US) imposed sanctions against senior Syrian officials and other Syrian government entities responsible for human rights abuses.  Later on May 6, the White House issued a statement that said the US government “strongly condemned the use of violence by the Syrian government.” Additionally, the US warned the Syrian government that it – along with other members of the international community – would begin to take “concrete actions” against those responsible for the continued crackdowns.   

On May 9, following another outbreak of violence between anti-government demonstrators and government security forces, an unidentified activist in Damascus told BBC News that at least three civilians had been killed and many others were wounded. The activist stated, "Military and security forces have used deadly force against people inside the city, and they want to arrest specific people... who are the leaders of [the] protests." According to figures from Amnesty International, more than 350 people were arrested during a three day period. Additionally, Amnesty International claims to have documented the names of 580 people killed since the uprising began in mid-March 2011.

One day later, on May 10, the European Union (EU) responded to the latest development by imposing their own sanctions against Syria that included a travel ban on 13 high-level Syrian officials from travelling within in the 27-nation union. The officials also had their assets frozen. Commenting on the sanctions, which included a ban on arms trading, the bloc said it was banning the shipment of "arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression," BBC News reported. The order also effectively prohibits any business dealings between anyone in the US and the members of the regime targeted by the sanctions: Assad, Vice President Farouk al-Shara, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar, Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud, Military Intelligence chief Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, and Political Security Director Mohammed Dib Zaitoun.

In response to the sanctions, the New York Times reported that Bouthaina Shaaban, President Assad’s official spokeswoman suggested the Syrian government was accustomed to “adapting in the face of crises and was prepared to weather international condemnation and sanctions.” Additionally, Shaaban stated that protestors were “a combination of fundamentalists, extremists, smugglers, people who are ex-convicts and are being used to make trouble.”

On May 17, the Washington Post reported that the US and EU said they were preparing to hit Syria's leadership with more sanctions. "We will be taking additional steps in the days ahead," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after meeting with EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton."There will be a number of moves in the coming hours and days that you will see," Ashton stated. The next day, the US government announced that President Obama issued an executive order “to take additional steps with respect to the Government of Syria's continuing escalation of violence against the people of Syria -- including through attacks on protesters, arrests and harassment of protesters and political activists, and repression of democratic change, overseen and executed by numerous elements of the Syrian government," the National Journal reported.

In response to the US and EU sanctions, the Syrian government reportedly stated that the actions “would not affect Syria’s independent choices and steadfastness,” the New York Times reported.

Ignoring growing pressure from Washington, on May 19, Reuters reported that the Syrian government deployed tanks around the country. Meanwhile, in an interview the same day, President Obama stated, "The Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and mass arrest."

According to BBC News, human rights activists say more than 850 people have been killed and thousands arrested since March 2011.

For previous news on Syria please read:
Syrian President Offers Concessions; Anti-government Protests Continue

The White House Statement – Statement by the Press Secretary on Violence in Syria

Washington Post – Syrian tanks, soldiers lay siege to southern towns

BBC News – Syrian army 'surrounds Damascus suburb' of Muadhamiya

New York Times – Syria Proclaims It Now Has Upper Hand Over Uprising

BBC News – EU sanctions target Syria elite in bid to end violence

Amnesty International – Syria death toll rises as city is placed under siege

Washington Post – Obama imposes sanctions on Syrian leader, 6 aides

National Journal – U.S. Imposes Sanctions against Syria's Assad

Reuters – Obama says Syria's Assad must reform or go

BBC News – Syria: EU imposes sanctions on President Assad



© 2009 Council for a Community of Democracies - All Rights Reserved