Clerics encourage hungry Syrians to eat dogs and cats

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As international attention has shifted to Syria’s chemical weapons, Syrian activists and international organizations worry that atrocities committed using conventional weapons are being overlooked.

“If you are a mother who loses a child to a bullet, not to sarin gas, your grief is as deep and profound as those who have faced the most horrible of weapons. We cannot close our eyes to that,” Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union’s commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, said at the New America Foundation in Washington last week.

“Yes, chemical weapons are now being tackled, but conventional weapons are used in full speed.”

Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, said he is concerned that “the international focus on the destruction of chemical weapons has resulted in setting aside the investigation of crimes against humanity, which continue unabated to this day.”

Many Syrians feel betrayed.

“People do not give a damn about the diplomacy over chemical weapons,” said Alexia Jade, a spokesperson for the Damascus Media Office, an opposition group that comprises activists and journalists.

“The signs for peace are not bright, especially now that the Assad regime has created the image of the good guy who is abiding by international law,” said Ms. Jade, who uses a pseudonym out of concern for her safety.

The Syrian National Council, the largest group in the opposition coalition, said this week that it will not attend peace talks in Geneva because conditions on the ground are not conducive to such a dialogue.

In Skype interviews with The Washington Times, residents of war-torn Syrian cities recounted the challenges they face living in a war zone.

In Damascus, Mr. Ibrahim frequently changes homes to avoid detection by the regime, but even then he cannot evade the threat of mortar shells. Once settled, wary of the security checkpoints that have sprung up across the city, he prefers to remain indoors. His friends help arrange food and medicine for his family, including a 3-year-old child.

“This has become the ‘normal’ life for Syrians,” said Mr. Ibrahim.

In the southern city of Homs, Fadel Mohamad Ali, an opposition activist, regularly sets out on life-saving missions for his diabetic mother. The Assad regime has prevented medicines from reaching his Sunni neighborhood, so he has to travel by foot to pro-regime Alawite areas to purchase insulin. The journey home is fraught with danger as he runs the risk of being arrested if security personnel discover the insulin concealed in his clothing.

But Mr. Ali isn’t any safer at home. Every other day, Syrian soldiers search homes for suspicious activity and sometimes valuables.

“If they find me talking to you on Skype, they would arrest me,” he said in a recent conversation.

In Homs’ Old City neighborhood, which is controlled by the rebel Free Syrian Army, residents have endured a months-long siege by Syrian troops. They grow their own vegetables and eat canned food. Milk and bread are scarce. What little is available is exorbitantly priced. Residents use generators as electricity has been cut off. The sick and wounded rely on expired medicines from hospitals that have been destroyed in the war.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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