Two days into an uncertain ceasefire, Bashar al Assad still has blood on his hands. At the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011, he fired into crowds of peaceful demonstrators and ignited the flame of the five-year war that has ground Syria into pulp.
He has launched chemical weapons. He has bombed Aleppo into a parking lot, targeting heavily populated civilian areas with barrel bombs. He has allied with the Russian Air Force, which has taken out more hospitals and schools than combatants and killed more civilians in January alone than IS did.
Assad’s prisons and detention centres are full of “the disappeared”. Most were political dissidents or people in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Assad has driven out more than four million refugees, whose lives hang in an uncertain balance in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and other parts where they have been scattered. He has driven nine million people from their homes inside Syria — never to return because he has scorched their earth.
In the four years since I began reporting inside Syria — from both sides — I tried to document the stories of the people who can not speak for themselves. For them to imagine that Bashar al Assad remains in power once peace comes would be a terrible betrayal. When the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura mentioned in 2015 that any political solution had to include Assad, he alienated the Syrian opposition.
Read the full op-ed