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It was interesting to spend a few days in South Africa last week and to hear some different perspectives from the media and from those I met with about the resignation of Kofi Annan and the unfolding developments in Syria. The Western media has been lamenting how the protection of civilians in Syria has been cruelly thwarted by the pesky Russians who are determined to maintain a naval base on the Mediterranean. Those I spoke with in Johannesburg were not lacking in compassion for the innocent victims in Syria, but they were much more critical about what they perceived as the duplicity and double standards of Western Governments.
The West is perceived to be seeking to topple an authoritarian regime in Syria not because of any commitment to the human rights of people in Syria, but because of a desire to weaken Iran. Several people pointed out to me that alongside a public strategy of blaming Russia the West has been quietly supporting the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to arm opposition groups in Syria.
Razan Ghazzawi, winner of the 2012 Front Line Defenders Award talks about the arrest of Sryian blogger Hussein Ghrer
Hussein Ghrer was detained on 16-2-2012 in a raid on Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression’s office in Damascus by Air Force Intelligence – Mazzah branch. This is Ghrer’s second arrest; he was detained on 24-10-2011 and released on 1-12-2011 on bail and is still on trial.
Amidst the destruction and abuse going on in Syria, Anthony Shadid, a friend, died in an effort to tell the story of what is happening to people under fire. Anthony was in there without approval of the regime, and died tragically from an asthma attack when heading for the border with Turkey (this touches me personally on another level, as I suffer from asthma too).