7-8-2011By Robert Joyce
Human Rights Defenders Program
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford is to be commended for visiting the city of Hama yesterday. His visit, expressly in solidarity with protestors, is exactly the kind of action the US should take in Syria, where policy options are limited but serious human rights violations are taking place. As the death count rises in Hama and protests continue, outreach by the international community to Syrian protesters and activists will demonstrate that the legitimate demands of protesters calling for basic rights and freedoms have international support.
Ambassador Ford was joined in his visit by the Ambassador of France. Such visits should continue and other nations should follow suit to demonstrate international solidarity with the Syrian people.
The Syrian authorities were quick to criticize the visit. Following the foreign conspiracy playbook, the Syrian Foreign Ministry stated that Ford’s visit was unmistakable evidence that the US is orchestrating the nationwide protests. Syrian state television reported an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying:
“The presence of the US ambassador in Hama without previous permission is obvious proof of a clear evidence of the United States’ involvement in current events in Syria and its attempt to incite an escalation in the situation, which disturbs Syria’s security and stability,”
The U.S. State Department was right to back up Ambassador Ford. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said “The fundamental intention was to make absolutely clear with his physical presence that we stand with those Syrians who are expressing their right to speak for change.”