Syria: from revolution to sectarian war?

With foreign journalists effectively barred from first-hand reportage on the violence in Syria, the situation is by definition murky. But accounts from the city of Homs suggest an outbreak of sectarian killings, with numerous bodies—many of them tortured or mutilated—left on the streets in recent days. On Dec. 5, 36 bodies were dumped in a square adjacent to both Sunni and Alawite areas of the city, and the violence is portrayed by opposition activists in Homs as a cycle of retaliatory killings by followers of the two sects. The cycle was apparently initiated by a pro-government militia known as the Shabiha, which is said to be arming Alawites and attacking Sunni protesters.The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called the 5th “one of the deadliest days since the start of the Syrian Revolution.” Since then, at least 20 more bodies have been left in the streets around the city. Some 4,000 are believed to have been killed in Syria since the start of the uprising in March. (SAPA, NPR, Dec. 7; LAT, NYT, Dec. 6; AFP, Nov. 26)

The reports come as President Bashar al-Assad gave his first interview to the US media since the uprising began, telling ABC’s Barbara Walters that he never gave orders for repression: “Every ‘brute reaction’ was by an individual, not by an institution, that’s what you have to know. There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference.” (CSM, Dec. 7)

See our last posts on Syria and the Arab revolutions.

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