Syrian Army Drives Rebels From Embattled City | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Syrian Army Drives Rebels From Embattled City

Play associated audio

A key rebel stronghold in the central Syrian city of Homs has fallen to the Syrian army.

Residents fled as government forces bombarded the city's Baba Amr neighborhood for nearly a month. On Thursday, the rebels withdrew.

When the Syrian uprising began nearly a year ago, Baba Amr saw regular, daily protests. Then after months of being shot, detained and tortured, protesters began taking up arms. Those armed civilians were later joined by defectors from the Syrian military, and together, they called themselves the Free Syrian Army.

The rebels in Baba Amr had grown bold in recent months — so bold that they posted a video online showing a group calling itself the Farouq Brigade marching through the streets in a kind of parade. In Syria, merely showing your face at a protest could get you jailed or killed.

For the people of Baba Amr, it was a glimpse of the freedom they'd be chanting for. No longer could government forces or thugs enter the neighborhood and arrest people at random; the Farouq Brigade was in control.

The rebels manned checkpoints around the area and shot at any government soldier who got too close.

But last month, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. Critics of the Syrian government said the U.N. vote would embolden Assad, and shortly afterword, government forces began pounding Baba Amr with tanks, mortars and rockets.

Spreading The Word

Activists inside Baba Amr set up their own media center, with generator-powered satellite modems that would allow them to post videos of damaged houses and injured and dead civilians.

Amid the heavy fighting, activists told part of the larger story. Now that Baba Amr has fallen, more details are emerging.

One man evacuated to nearby northern Lebanon said he's been fighting with the Farouq Brigade for two months. He was hit with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade as he battled government troops who were trying to enter Baba Amr a few days ago. He's now lying in a hospital bed with a shattered thigh.

Another man, Omar Shakir, was one of the main activists at the media center in Baba Amr. He left just a few days ago, and admits that he and his colleagues tailored their information to show as much of the civilian misery, and as little rebel activity, as possible.

"Sometimes you to have to hide some news," he says.

A few foreign journalists did manage to sneak into Baba Amr. Two of them were killed last week when a rocket hit the media center. Some believe the Syrian government was tracking satellite signals from the media center and hit it on purpose.

Two journalists have managed to escape, but several activists died getting them out. Shakir says the activists considered it their duty.

"It's those [journalists] who were helping us to show the world," he says. "We were caring for their lives more than anything."

Shakir says the Farouq Brigade's withdrawal from Baba Amr was a tactical retreat. He says the rebels managed to evacuate some civilians, but several thousand remain, and the conditions are dire.

The Syrian government has announced it will allow the Red Cross to enter Baba Amr as early as Friday now that the rebels have left the area.

Shakir says the few months of freedom that Baba Amr tasted were worth everything that has happened to the neighborhood.

After the government killed so many people, he says, the uprising cannot be peaceful any more.

"Either we win our dignity, our freedom, or we will die trying," he says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Little House,' Big Demand: Never Underestimate Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wilder's memoir reveals that she witnessed more violence than you'd ever know from her children's books. The South Dakota State Historical Society can barely keep up with demand for the autobiography.
NPR

Coffee Horror: Parody Pokes At Environmental Absurdity Of K-Cups

The market for single-serving coffee pods is dominated by Keurig's K-Cups. But they aren't recyclable, and critics say that's making a monster of an environmental mess. Meet the K-Cup Godzilla.
NPR

The Next Air Force One Will Be A Boeing 747-8

The Air Force says the decision came down to the American-made 747-8 or the Airbus A380, which is manufactured in France. But even with that pick, the 747 program might not last much longer.
NPR

Charles Townes, Laser Inventor, Black Hole Discoverer, Dies At 99

Physicist Charles Townes died Tuesday. He was a key inventor of the laser and won the Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1964. But his career didn't end there.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.