Syrian refugees, who are camped at a 2,700 person tent city set up in Turkey's Hatay province, have recounted to Kofi Annan the horrors they fled; horrors their countrymen still suffer from at the hands of forces loyal to the Assad regime.
Annan, the special representative of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, was in the Yayladağ tent city on Tuesday for nearly an hour-and-a-half, where he talked to 13 representatives who came from other tent cities, and visited the wounded hospitalized in health clinics.
The representatives handed a four-page document listing their problems and demands. Among the refugees who talked with Annan were Adnan El Shigri and Malik Ali, a Quran teacher who spent 24 years in jail under the Hafez al-Assad regime. The two men noted that the world needs to act to stop the violence. According to the representatives' account, hundreds are dying, and hundreds are injured in Syria. They requested a humanitarian aid corridor under UN and Turkey oversight to get supplies to the people trapped in Syria.
Forces loyal to Assad are relentlessly attacking civilians with tanks and heavy artillery, the representatives said and expressed their wish to see the Free Syrian Army armed against the regime.
El-Shigri later told journalists: “We listed our immediate demands. Firstly, we wanted the Free Syrian Army to be armed as soon as possible. We explained [to Annan] that Bashar al-Assad will never keep his word, and that he is only trying to buy more time. We are safe here for now, but tens of thousands of our people who can't come here are under great danger, living with the fear of a new massacre every day. We told him that a safe zone should be set up immediately and people moved to this zone.”
Syrian refugee Malik Ali said those captured by the Syrian army would rather die than endure the torture. “I told Mr. Annan about the barbaric acts of the Syrian army and what they are doing to civilians. I told him that to deter the people, Assad is using all kinds of violence. Assad's only concern is destroying the opposition completely. He is pursuing the same policies as his father. People can be jailed and tortured for years over very little things. He destroys to keep the regime alive. People are doomed to live without ever seeing the sun for years. In Tedmur Prison, there are 40 -- sometimes even 80 prisoners -- being held in a tiny cell. The cells are so small that when I was there we could only sleep taking turns. Now it has gotten even worse. People are shot in the legs and left to die agonizing deaths. Because the prisons are so crowded, they shoot all the opponents and bury them in mass graves. Bashar al-Assad is no state leader, he is a mafia boss. We told all this to Kofi Annan.”
Meanwhile, Syrian Commander Abu Yezen told Today's Zaman, speaking at the Syrian border in Hatay, that the Free Syria Army declared a cease-fire following diplomatic efforts made over the past few days. “We known that a sectarian conflict would cause a great disaster, and we are doing our best to prevent such a conflict. Assad on the other hand is trying his best to fan a sectarian conflict. However, despite all his efforts we are fighting against him together as a people, Alawites and Sunnis, shoulder to shoulder. His cruelty is so harsh that no one can remain indifferent. [Commander of the Free Syrian Army] Riad Esad ordered us to stop clashes starting today. We obey our commander's orders. We will wait, but we will never surrender our guns. If Assad doesn't go by the Annan plan, we will become a nightmare for his army, which kills civilians relentlessly. The people of Syria are not enemies of each other. There is no division among the people.”
Mazil Hakim, who took refuge in Turkey five months ago with his son, is currently a resident of Yayladağ. “The entire world has seen that Assad is an international liar. If there is a new peace plan, it will end like the Annan plan. Assad will massacre innocent civilians and know no peace plan. Two thousand people were killed after the Annan plan was declared. What we want is for the Free Syrian Army to be armed and a safety corridor to be formed for civilians.”