A screen shot showing an Arab League monitor filming bullet holes on storefronts in the neigbhourhood of Baba Amr.
The Arab League monitors began their mission to Syria with a visit to Homs, the epicentre of the popular uprising that has shaken the country since March. Since the start of the monitors’ visit, the Arab League has made reassuring declarations about what they’re seeing there, in stark contrast with what local residents report. Activists in Homs have filmed the Arab League monitors walking around the city, which makes it possible to see exactly what they’ve seen.
When the monitors arrived in Syria on Monday evening, the head of the mission said the Syrian regime was being “very cooperative.” After their first day in Homs on Tuesday, he said he had seen “nothing frightening.”
Yet as soon as the monitors arrived in Homs, local residents rushed out to plead for their help, despite the presence of Syrian regime officials escorting them. In the video below, people ask one of these regime officials not to hide the truth from the Arab League monitors, but the official refuses to answer. Then, gunshots are heard.
The head of the monitors then went to visit the neighbourhood of Baba Amr, where several people had been killed in an army attack the previous day.
None of the monitors went to the neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh, just next door to Baba Amr, where tens of thousands of protesters had gathered. So they didn’t see the crackdown by security forces, in which eight people died.
A massive protest Tuesday in the neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh. The message written on the piece of paper reads: "Please protect the inhabitants of Homs that are left."
On Wednesday, the monitors returned to the Baba Amr neighbourhood.
This time, they were no longer flanked by Syrian officials. This made it easier for local residents to tell them about what they had lived through these past few months. In the video below, two women talk about their imprisoned sons.
The monitors then walked down streets where they saw storefronts riddled with bullet holes.
They then saw the body of one of the victims, Ahmed Arra’i, a 5-year-old child who was killed by a bullet in his back.
A group of people stopped the monitors’ car, and accused them of fleeing the day before to avoid seeing the bodies of their “martyrs.” The monitors replied that they had not been able to stay very long because they had reports to write. But the residents did not accept this excuse. They practically ordered the monitors to follow them to see the child’s body.
The monitors followed these people into a mosque, where they were shown the child’s body. They recited a few verses of the Koran and filmed the body.
The same day, monitors also witnessed the presence of tanks in the streets of Homs, despite the fact that Syria had promised the Arab League to take military vehicles off city streets.
The Arab League monitors seemed to speak much more freely with local residents without Syrian regime officials escorting them. What they told some of the locals even seems to contradict the official statements made by the head of their mission. In this video, one of the monitors tells a local resident: “Please trust us. We know people have died; we filmed it all. We’re just asking you to be cooperative.”
A video from Thursday shows an Arab League monitor photographing a man who says he was hit in the leg by snipers.
These amateur images show that the Arab League monitors are aware of the violence of the regime’s repression. Syrian authorities will likely respond by saying they are fighting armed terrorists, not protesters, which is their usual line of defence. Syrians on all sides are eagerly awaiting the report the Arab League will publish after the monitors’ visit ends. Their visit is due to last a month, but could be renewed for another month – if the Syrian regime agrees. Dozens of monitors are expected to visit the whole country.