Syrians Divided Over Fighting Assad

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. In Syria today, aid workers were allowed to enter the scene of some of the worst carnage in the country's 11-month uprising. Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan announced the breakthrough in Geneva.

Hicham Hassan: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are currently and since this afternoon in Bab Amr and Homs in an attempt to evacuate all persons wounded without exception and this is through direct negotiations with the Syrian authorities, and the opposition.

Mullins: Bab Amr is a neighborhood of Homs where dozens of people have been killed by a sustained government bombardment. The victims have been rebels and civilians. Among them, two western journalists killed two days ago. Today's Red Cross effort is aimed at rescuing the wounded but the opposition Syrian National Council, is pleading for the outside world to do more.

Ausama Monajed: When you have your children being slaughtered in front of your eyes, your wife gets raped, you lose your family, you lose your home, you can't even pull your dead beloved ones from the streets because of the snipers, what can you tell these people on the ground? They are begging for a devil to come and just rescue them.

Mullins: That is Syrian National Council Spokesman Ausama Monajed. So far the international community has not been able to agree on an intervention plan for Syria. Representatives of about 70 nations met today in Tunisia at a Friends of Syria conference. Many ideas were aired. Turkey mentioned an arms embargo. Saudi Arabia was interested in arming the opposition but, in the end, participants would only endorse an Arab League plan that called for a political transition such as the one taking place now in Yemen. Here is conference host Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki.

Moncef Marzouki: [speaking in Arabic]. Translator: Being a true friend of Syria means looking for a political solution and we see this only in the Yemeni model. This would grant the possibility of a legal amnesty for the Syrian President, his family, and members of his regime, and a place of exile that could be provided by say, Russia.

Mullins: The Syrian National Council was disappointed with the outcome. The head of it said that the meeting had fallen short of the aspirations of the Syrian people, but even the Syrian opposition can't agree on what to do. Rim Turkmani is a London-based academic. She's a member of a separate Syrian opposition group that's called "Building the Syrian State."  She told us earlier today that she has family living in Homs.

Rim Turkmani: My parents, my sister, nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts, uncles.

Mullins: When did you hear from them last?

Turkmani: About 10 days ago.

Mullins: Ten days ago. Do you know their status now?

Turkmani: I don't know. There are no communications. All communications with Homs are cut. No internet, no mobile phones, no landlines.

Mullins: Do you know if they're in the neighborhoods of Homs that have been bombarded by the government forces?

Turkmani: My parents are in a reasonably safe area which means there is no bombardment, but there is the odd bullet fights. So, for instance, the last time I spoke to my father he said he just went to buy bread for breakfast and he saw 3 dead bodies on the corner of the street.

Mullins: Do you, at this point, see that kind of danger alone, people in those neighborhoods including your own family, as sufficient reason for international intervention?

Turkmani: No I don't. How is it going to work if somebody can tell me how are the shells are going to fall particularly on the tanks of the regime without losing many more people, many more innocent civilians? We've seen this in Libya when the fights were spread over a much larger area and still they couldn't save the lives of 50,000- odd people who were killed after the intervention started. I don't see this happening in Syria without losing far more people because of that.

Mullins: Well, what is the way forward then? How do you propose stopping the attacks?

Turkmani: It's never going to be through violence. I mean, whether it is arming the opposition or military intervention it's not going to be the solution. It's not going to end the violence. It's not going to stop the bloodshed. Also, the aim of this revolution is not going to lead to a democratic transition. However, we have to use diplomatic and political roots. We have all to agree on a political solution - peaceful, political solution to this crisis. Unfortunately, calls like...we heard from example Hilary Clinton lately giving a statement that is hinting towards arming the opposition. I see this also as a form of political intervention. If I were in Syria now I would probably be in the casualty of some of this arming because I am against the arming myself. Whichever groups take arms in this revolution I'm going to be their enemies, so I have to work against two enemies at the same time. I have to work against the regime and also against the groups that decided to take on arms.

Mullins: Do you consider yourself a member of the opposition?

Turkmani: Absolutely. I am completely devoted to support the goals of this revolution and I'm still against the arming. I support stopping the bloodshed. I support the attempts to change the regime; I want to change this regime but I don't support taking up arms against Assad. I might give you an example. Most of the bombardment right now in the city of Homs is for the part of the city called Bab Amr. It's not for the parts where my parents live in; Al Bayada . Although there were demonstrations in Al Bayada, there were demonstrations in Bab Amr but the ones in Bab Amr are the ones which took up arms and they declared this. I am not saying it's not a secret. Of course, this is not enough reason for the regime to use this brutal, excessive force against the area and to kill so many civilians. But again, we have given the regime an excuse to kill more civilians by carrying arms and hiding among heavily populated areas. It's not the kind of regime you want to face it with power, really. We've seen this with it in the past in Hama. It didn't care. It killed 30,000 people and it didn't care. We are taking the wrong road if we take up arming. We're bringing more destruction, more death, and more division to Syria because it's such an issue. It divides even the opposition. You just wondered whether I am opposition or not because I am against arming. I am opposition to my bones and I am also against arming.

Mullins: Dr. Turkmani, thank you.

Turkmani: Thank you.

Mullins: Rim Turkmani is a Syrian-born astrophysicist and a member of a Syrian anti-government group called "Building the Syrian State."