Feb 28 2012

Syria Death Toll Rises, as EU Slaps More Sanctions

Feature Stories | Published 28 Feb 2012, 10:57 am | Comments Off on Syria Death Toll Rises, as EU Slaps More Sanctions -

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At least 41 people have died in Syria today with half of the deaths occurring in Helfaya, near the opposition stronghold of Hama. The UN human rights chief called for a ceasefire between President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces and Syrian rebels. At least 125 people were killed yesterday in Syria while government officials boasted that their constitutional reform referendum passed with overwhelming support. Al-Assad’s regime put a new draft constitution up for approval through a referendum vote on Sunday in response to domestic and international calls for reform. The government reported the referendum was approved by 89% of voters, with over half of eligible voters participating. Reforms included allowing political pluralism and establishing term limits on the Presidency to two seven-year terms. At least 55 people were killed while voting took place on Sunday, and the United Nations and Syrian dissidents have called the vote an exercise in ‘political theater’ that will produce no tangible change. A UN Spokesman told reporters , “[a] referendum must take place in conditions free of violence and intimidation” and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called it a “cynical ploy.” Meanwhile, Syria’s strongest international supporter, Russia, characterized Al Assad’s effort as “[a]n important step on the path of reforms.”

The European Union on Monday stepped up efforts to force the Syrian government into a ceasefire through sanctions. Al Jazeera reports that 27 countries banned the purchase of diamonds, gold, and other precious metals from Syria, prohibited cargo flights from the EU to Syria, approved sanctions on the Syrian central bank and froze the assets of some government officials. Elsewhere, in Qatar, the Prime Minister of the tiny Gulf nation said yesterday his government was open to arming the Syrian opposition stating, “We should do whatever [is] necessary to help them, including giving them weapons for self-defense.” The year-long government assault on civilians in reaction to the Syrian uprising has left an estimated 8,000 people dead and the killing continues with no end in sight as the Al-Assad regime has made no commitment to a non-violent resolution.

GUEST: Joshua Stacher, assistant professor of political science at Kent State University who specializes politics in Egypt and Syria.

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