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Libyan rebels' advance emboldens Syrian activists

Protesters say uprisings in the region are connected and that they will continue their peaceful movement against President Bashar Assad.

August 22, 2011|By Roula Hajjar, Los Angeles Times
  • Ambassadors discuss beneath a ceiling painted by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo prior to the opening of an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to examine the crackdown in Syria.
Ambassadors discuss beneath a ceiling painted by Spanish artist Miquel… (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Beirut — Syrians opposed to the regime of President Bashar Assad on Monday found inspiration in Libyan rebels' advance into their nation's capital as they battle Moammar Kadafi's forces.

The developments in Libya, where fierce clashes continued in some areas, have made many Syrian activists more intent than ever on removing Assad from power. In the minds of protesters in Syria, the fate of their movement is very much influenced by events in Libya, as Arab countries that have been distant for decades have become united in their uprisings.

A 26-year-old resident of Damascus, the Syrian capital, who gave her name as Lina said their fight is one fight: "We are unified in our resistance to dictators. We are unified by the greater Arab awakening."

According to a lawyer and activist in Hama, "All Arab dictators should look to Libya and tremble. The Libyans have taught us that autocrats can't subdue their own people and survive."

Anti-regime protesters in Syria, unlike the rebels in Libya, have not organized an armed counterweight to the government. Opposition to the four-decade Baath Party rule in Syria has remained largely peaceful.

"Our revolution will remain peaceful no matter what. We are happy for our brothers in Libya, but Syria is not Libya," said an activist and member of the popular anti-regime Local Coordination Committees in the coastal city of Latakia who goes by the honorific Abu Yousef. "Syria is a country with many different sects, under different geopolitical circumstances. We are fighting a regime that wants to foment a civil war; therefore, we must remain peaceful."

Activists said Assad's forces continued to crack down on protesters as U.N. human rights delegations visited different parts of Syria. More than 2,000 people have been killed during the five-month uprising, activists say.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York that he was concerned by reports of violence after Assad's promise last week that military offensives would stop.

"It is troubling that he has not kept his word," Ban said.

Hajjar is a special correspondent.

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