Brahimi calls for change in Syria
United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, calls for real change in war-torn Syria and the installation of a transition government with full powers.PT0M0S 620 349
AS THE night-time temperature in Syria drops closer to freezing and the rains begin, it is difficult to imagine how those who have barely survived without electricity, water or enough food this year can endure another winter.
Each day the emails come in: ''The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented the death of 199 people across Syria today, including 10 children, 15 women, and two killed under torture.'' More than 44,000 have been killed during the 21-month conflict.
Soon the snow will begin, only worsening the misery of those who have survived for so long without the most basic essentials.
Without basic essentials ... housekeeping in the Bab al-Salama refugee camp, near the border between Turkey and Syria. Photo: Reuters
Children have missed multiple school terms, farmers have been forced to let crops die and fruit rot on trees, while many families have moved again and again until they have been forced to admit the unthinkable: in Syria, today, there are no safe places.
At least 2.5 million Syrians are now internally displaced, the Syrian Red Crescent estimates.
For the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees living in camps or in the community in neighbouring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, they did not ever contemplate a second winter outside their homes.
Many are living in terrible conditions in the classrooms of abandoned schools, or in half-built houses, crowded into rented flats or under tarpaulins fashioned into tents, rationing paper piece by piece to burn in small wood stoves.
Every day brings a new atrocity. Blood now stains the footpath outside a bakery in the town of Halfaya in the central province of Hama this week, where at least 60 people died and 50 more were wounded when Syrian army warplanes attacked a line of people queuing for bread.
Syrians have stoically documented the death and destruction the regime of the President, Bashar al-Assad, has rained down upon them, and YouTube holds a disturbing catalogue of videos of massacres of civilians.
But as this conflict drags on, world powers seem as paralysed as ever, unable to find a way to end the crisis and help civilians.
As Amal Hanano wrote in her haunting essay in Foreign Policy this month: ''Syria has become the land of topless minarets and headless little girls. It seems in every video there is always something missing, something broken, something that can never be mended.
''Our country is a landscape of urban and rural rape by the Assad dynasty. They leave the land, like the Mongols did before them, covered in smoke, rubble, and blood.
''The regime redefines barbarianism for the new millennium - cynically cloaking the country in false modernity for decades, funneling international resources for personal gain and glory, then bombing the country to pieces.''
It is a different Middle East and North Africa from last year's, which ended on a note of hope and optimism.
Dictators had been toppled in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and the power of the Arab street and people's hunger for change was there for the world to see.
There were warnings that Assad could hang on indefinitely in Syria, drawing Islamist groups from the region towards an increasingly protracted civil war that had started, as the other revolutions had, as a peaceful civilian uprising.
One year on, and, as predicted, more militant groups such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra are infiltrating the conflict - a reason Western powers have consistently given for not providing arms to the Free Syrian Army.
Other countries in revolution have faced the challenge of building new governments well before the wounds of decades of dictatorship and sectarian conflict have healed.
Egypt has held four elections and a referendum on the country's new constitution, revealing a deep urban-rural divide that yet another election scheduled for February is unlikely to mend.
In June, amid worsening tribal violence, Libyans held their first democratic elections for a 200-member General National Congress and will vote in a prime minister and parliament next year as well as write a constitution, while Tunisians, with their parliament already in place, are facing their own drafting issues with a new constitution.
It is Western-style democracy on fast-forward. No wonder there have been serious stumbles along the way.
Meanwhile, in the shadow of a second Gaza war, in which at least 158 Palestinians were killed, including 103 civilians, and six Israelis, including four civilians, a Palestinian state was recognised at the UN General Assembly.
Israel responded by saying it would significantly expand its settlement construction beyond the 1967 border, to the condemnation of the international community.
And so one of the world's longest-running conflicts, where the peace process has not just stalled but stagnated, remains impossibly rigid in a region where so much is in flux.