Syrians vote on referendum amid military onslaught

At least 31 Syrian civilians and soldiers were killed on Sunday in bloodshed that coincided with a vote on a new constitution that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military bombardment of opposition districts in Homs, now in its fourth week, had killed nine civilians, while rebel fighters had killed four soldiers in clashes in the city.

The British-based Observatory said eight civilians and 10 members of the security forces were killed in violence elsewhere in Syria, scene of what has become an increasingly militarized revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

Voting was under way in the referendum on a constitution which Assad says will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months, but which his opponents see as a sick joke given the unrest convulsing the country.

“What should we be voting for, whether to die by bombardment or by bullets? This is the only choice we have,” said Waleed Fares, an activist in the Khalidiyah district of Homs.

A man displays a ballot card for a draft referendum on the new Syrian constitution. " Do you accept the new constitution " yes " or "No"

“We have been trapped in our houses for 23 days. We cannot go out, except into some alleys. Markets, schools and government buildings are closed, and there is very little movement on the streets because of snipers,” he said.

“Baba Amro has had no food or water for three days,” Fares said of another besieged and battered district in the city. “Homs in general has no electricity for 18 hours a day.”

He said people in opposition areas of Homs had wanted to burn copies of the new constitution in protest at the referendum, but it was too dangerous to venture out of doors.

On Saturday security forces killed at least 100 people across Syria, including six women and 10 children, the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said.

HARROWING CONDITIONS

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt the carnage, says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups.”

The outside world has been powerless to restrain Assad’s drive to crush the 11-month-old revolt, which has the potential to slide into a sectarian conflict between Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and the president’s minority Alawite sect.

The military onslaught on parts of Homs has created harrowing conditions for civilians, rebels and journalists.

A video posted by activists on YouTube showed Mohammad al-Mohammad, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Baba Amro, holding a 15-year-old boy hit in the neck by shrapnel and spitting blood.

“It is late at night and Baba Amro is still being bombarded. We can do nothing for this boy,” said the doctor, who has also been treating Western journalists wounded in the city.

American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the bombardment of Homs last week and two other Western journalists were wounded. The group is still trapped there despite Red Cross efforts to extract them.

An image grab taken from a YouTube video shows anti-government protesters holding a banner that reads in Arabic and English "Go out Bashar" during a pro-democracy demonstration

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was still unable to evacuate distressed civilians from Baba Amro. After a day of talks with Syrian authorities and opposition fighters, it said there were “no concrete results.”

“We continue our negotiations, hoping that tomorrow (Sunday) we will be able to enter Baba Amro to carry out our life-saving operations,” spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

REVISED CONSTITUTION

Despite the violence in provincial cities across Syria, voting on the constitution went ahead in calmer areas.

If approved, it would drop an article making Assad’s Baath party the leader of state and society, allow political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms.

But the limit will not be enforced retrospectively, meaning that Assad, already in power for 11 years, could serve another two terms after his current one expires in 2014.

Dozens of people lined up to vote in two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist in Damascus. “I’ve come to vote for President Bashar, God protect him and give him victory over his enemies,” said Samah Turkmani, in his 50s.

Bassam Haddad, the director of one polling centre, said: “From the beginning the voting has been much better than we expected. We can say 200 percent above expectations.”

Another voter, Majed Elias, said: “This is a national duty, whether I agree or not, I have to come and vote… I agree with the draft constitution, even if I object to some parts. Every Syrian must ride the wave of reform to achieve what he wants.”

Anti-Assad activists have called for a boycott of a vote they see as meaningless. They said they would try to hold protests near polling stations in Damascus and suburbs where troops drove out insurgents last month.

Some said security forces had stopped people venturing out to buy food in Homs on Saturday, confiscated their Interior Ministry-issued identification cards and informed them the cards could be retrieved at specified polling centers the next day.

“They want to force people to vote in this doctored, so-called referendum,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.

This is Syria’s third referendum since Assad inherited power from his late father. The first installed him as president in 2000 with an official 97.29 percent ‘yes’ vote. The second renewed his term seven years later with 97.62 percent in favour.

Source: Reuters

  • Amine123

    What a Joke

  • Anonymous

    What a Joke

  • 5thDrawer

    I wait to see the ‘positivity’ emoting from the anti-new-world-anti-Jew-anti-Mason-anti-west crowd for this moment of democracy.

  • Anonymous

    I wait to see the ‘positivity’ emoting from the anti-new-world-anti-Jew-anti-Mason-anti-west crowd for this moment of democracy.

  • MeYosemite

    Maybe they should vote on the weather also

  • MeYosemite

    Maybe they should vote on the weather also

  • Anonymous

    Maybe they should vote on the weather also

  • josephphdman

    multiparty elections will come and the people in charge of the ballots boxes are alawites ; they will swith the boxes and cheat the election  similar to what ahmadinijidad did in iran ; so asad will win agaain and again , by the second election or third , no need of cheating elections no more , it will be few years from now , by then the regeme would have killed all the people ,who potentially anti regeme voters , and asad will stay in power for ever until his kids or his nephews assume power , when he is too old and not able to work ; all of this will not lead to democracy in syria
    ; on the other side the outside military intervention by the us is out of the question , because the us  will risk going to war with russia  and china , for syria, s cause , and  the us will not do it , it is not worth  the trouble for the us , and us national security interrest is not at risk in syria ; so what is  the others options ?
    1- arming the rebels will lead to a sectarian wars , it could last for years and years similar to what happened in lebanon , where no side could declare a quick victory
    2- invasion by turkey a; turkey could invade syria decalring the reason is humanitarian , in which turkey aiming  to save the syrian people from beiing slaughtered ; but that may trigger a retaliation from iran and iran will send warships to support syrian regeme ,and will engage in war with turkey ; then  the war will spread out and every other country start supporting its allies ;
    so it will be ,turkey and arab countries on one side supported by the us ; and syrian regeme , iran, iraq hezbolla, shia,s on the other side supported by russia and china ; and that is a very dangerous route , it may lead to a world war3 ;
    3- there is no solution at this time it is a stealmate ,and if you are playing a chess game ,when its a stealmate , you,ve got to start  to play another game ; at this time economic game seems to be best option ; if you the international community could bring down the syrian pound  to 500 syrian pounds to one dollar ,that will probably bring the regeme to fall on its own , and bring about a change in syria ; this could be the second chess game ,the international community should play and if this lead to another stealmate ; then they need to think in the future on the third chess game

  • Anonymous

    multiparty elections will come and the people in charge of the ballots boxes are alawites ; they will swith the boxes and cheat the election  similar to what ahmadinijidad did in iran ; so asad will win agaain and again , by the second election or third , no need of cheating elections no more , it will be few years from now , by then the regeme would have killed all the people ,who potentially anti regeme voters , and asad will stay in power for ever until his kids or his nephews assume power , when he is too old and not able to work ; all of this will not lead to democracy in syria
    ; on the other side the outside military intervention by the us is out of the question , because the us  will risk going to war with russia  and china , for syria, s cause , and  the us will not do it , it is not worth  the trouble for the us , and us national security interrest is not at risk in syria ; so what is  the others options ?
    1- arming the rebels will lead to a sectarian wars , it could last for years and years similar to what happened in lebanon , where no side could declare a quick victory
    2- invasion by turkey a; turkey could invade syria decalring the reason is humanitarian , in which turkey aiming  to save the syrian people from beiing slaughtered ; but that may trigger a retaliation from iran and iran will send warships to support syrian regeme ,and will engage in war with turkey ; then  the war will spread out and every other country start supporting its allies ;
    so it will be ,turkey and arab countries on one side supported by the us ; and syrian regeme , iran, iraq hezbolla, shia,s on the other side supported by russia and china ; and that is a very dangerous route , it may lead to a world war3 ;
    3- there is no solution at this time it is a stealmate ,and if you are playing a chess game ,when its a stealmate , you,ve got to start  to play another game ; at this time economic game seems to be best option ; if you the international community could bring down the syrian pound  to 500 syrian pounds to one dollar ,that will probably bring the regeme to fall on its own , and bring about a change in syria ; this could be the second chess game ,the international community should play and if this lead to another stealmate ; then they need to think in the future on the third chess game

  • yazidi

    like some one is about to be executed and they ask him do you want a cigarette and he replied no cigarette  give me cancer such a scum joke referendum like the scum assad family!!

  • Anonymous

    like some one is about to be executed and they ask him do you want a cigarette and he replied no cigarette  give me cancer such a scum joke referendum like the scum assad family!!

  • Fauzia45

    A comedy, but a tragic one!!!

  • Fauzia45

    A comedy, but a tragic one!!!

  • Anonymous

    A comedy, but a tragic one!!!