Syrian Exodus As Fighting Continues

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

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Activists in Syria are reporting ongoing massacres and torture being conducted by Syrian security forces. And United Nations Human Rights Officials say they've seen a video of patients being tortured at a hospital in Homs. All of which explains a rising international outrage over the violence in Syria. Here's President Obama speaking earlier today:

Barack Obama: What's happening in Syria is heartbreaking and outrageous. And what you've seen is the international community mobilize against the Assad regime. And it's not a question of when Assad leaves or, or, if Assad leaves. It's a question of when.

Werman: Still the president continues to resist calls to intervene militarily. Syrian president Assad meanwhile, is refusing to end his year-long crackdown. Today he vowed to continue fighting what he calls foreign-backed terrorism. The BBC's Jim Muir is follow events from Syria in Beirut. He says Syrian state run media is broadcasting images of Baba Amro. The neighborhood in Homs destroyed by the government's month-long bombardment.

Jim Muir: Syrian state TV has been showing a big cleanup operation underway there. With, uh, the trucks moving in with uh bulldozers to get rid of the rubble. People setting to with brooms et cetera. And some people, some families starting to move back in with bundles of belongings. But meanwhile, continued reports of excessive force used security forces. And, uh, an extraordinary bit of footage that showed up on Dunya TV, which is a, uh, private TV station but very close to the regime. In fact, sometimes it shows pro-regime material that the state television doesn't even show itself. Now this footage showed what you can only describe as a massacre and both sides have described as exactly that. It's the butchery of an entire clan — seventeen people raging in age from one to eighty-five; including a number of women — uh, butchered in their house by, who knows whom the two sides are accusing one another. The uh, Dunya TV, said it was the work of terrorists and activists actually distributed the, uh, link to that piece of Youtube footage on, um, Dunya TV, saying these people were martyrs and naming them all saying they had been killed by security forces or pro-regime militia. So, you can choose who you want to believe.

Werman: Mm. Ei-, either way, ho-, horrific footage. Are attacks, or aerial attacks and mortars still going into homes, generally speaking?

Muir: Generally speaking, it seems to be back under government control. There has been some reports of, uh, occasional shells on a number of towns and villages around, for example, at Daraa in the far south, around Idlib, places in Idlib provence, places in Hamma provence, to the north of uh, Homs, and uh, various other places. So, that I think has led the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Erdoan to come up with some very strong language, saying that President Assad's father, Hafez, may have got away with killing thousands and thousands of people in the city of Hom in 1982, but he said that Bashar Assad will not get away with the massacres, as he put it, that are going on now.

Werman: What about those Red Cross convoys Jim, which have been waiting for days for final permission to enter Baba Amr. Will they be able to finally go in?

Muir: Well they may do when it's too late and it's all over. I mean it's practically at that stage already. They had been given the official green light to go down there from Damascus on Friday. They've been waiting ever since, being held on grounds of security while meanwhile a big cleanup operation is already underway in Baba Amr. So, it's frankly a humiliation for the international Red Cross and perhaps the international community that they should be given the runaround like that.

Werman: Baroness Valorie Amos, is the special U.N. envoy for humanitarian affairs and she's been given permission to visit Damascus tomorrow. What can she hope to accomplish?

Muir: She wants to have immediate access to all troubled areas; all the stricken parts of the country. And given the form so far, the regime seems absolutely determined to crush all resistance wherever it finds it and it's not going to let anything get in its way. Now the more crucial mission, in my view, is the make or break one of, uh, Kofi Annan, who goes to Damascus on Saturday via the Arab League in Cairo. He's trying to bridge the gap in a very balanced way between the two camps into which the world is now polarized over Syria. And, um, he has the stature, he has the experience, he has the international diplomatic skills — if he can't do it, I really don't believe anybody can and we'll see Syria sliding further into civil war and chaos.

Werman: BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut tracking the often conflicting coverage of what's happening in northern Syria. Thanks a lot Jim.

Muir: It's my pleasure.