As the revolution in Syria continues to escalate, one Syrian journalist gave a personal account of the violence Wednesday night as she called for an end to the country’s current government.
Syrian author and activist Samar Yazbek spoke at the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies on Prospect Street about the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria as well as the progress made by the Syrian anti-government forces. Before a crowd of roughly 25 people, Yazbek asserted that the Syrian government’s unnecessarily violent response to peaceful demonstrators sparked the revolution that grips the media’s attention today.
“The only solution for Syria … is the fall of the Bashar Al-Assad regime,” she said, according to a translator that relayed her speech from Arabic to English. Otherwise, she said, Syria will “drown in a sea of blood.”
Yazbek and her daughter fled from Syria in 2011 and are now exiled from the country.
She recounted how in early 2011, young students in Southern Syria began writing anti-government slogans on their school walls. The government’s forces “arrested these kids like they were criminals, and these kids were 11 or 12 years old,” she said. When the parents of these students asked for the release of their children, they too were treated in a “terrible, savage way” by the government. She described how she saw firsthand security forces harshly beating demonstrators on the street, even though the demonstrators were carrying flowers and olive branches as symbols of peace.
This level of brutality against non-violent protesters drew widespread resentment toward the regime, she said, even from soldiers in the Syrian army. Because the punishment for failure to obey orders was death, she said countless soldiers fled the army and formed their own brigades in order to protect civilians.
“The [soldiers’] orders were to shoot the demonstrators, and many refused to follow the orders,” she said.
In discussing the revolution’s future, Yazbek highlighted what she referred to as “the real danger in Syria:” the growing number of Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters in the Free Syrian Army. While most opponents of the current regime in Syria are rational and tolerant, she said, the relentless violence from the government has also prompted an increase in extremist combatants. Yazbek noted that these extremist fighters are not welcome in the Free Syrian Army, but there is a concern that their numbers may grow to more dangerous levels.
In response to a question about the potential for Western intervention in Syria, Yazbek said the Free Syrian Army does not need the support of ground troops from the West, pointing to the “great victories” that the Free Syrian Army has achieved on land. Still, she urged for the establishment of a no-fly zone in order to prevent the Syrian Air Force from attacking the revolutionaries, who have no air-based military power themselves.
Five audience members interviewed all said they were impressed by Yazbek’s dedication to the revolutionary cause, especially since she comes from an upper-class family in Syria. Tiraana Bains ’15 called the talk “illuminating,” saying that it was particularly interesting because Yazbek has firsthand experience with the events in Syria.
Yazbek chronicled her memories of the revolution in her 2012 book, “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution.”