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The Week That Was: A Tragedy Continues

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On Friday evening, as I collected up the week's detritus from around my desk and scribbled some eyeliner on in a shortcut excuse for day-to-night makeover, a voice from the TV screens we have positioned across our news room distracted me. The British photo-journalist Paul Conroy was being interviewed on Sky News about Syria and his recent personal experiences in war-torn Homs.

It is an overused sentiment that we are lucky to live in the country we do, but it has never seemed more apt as in those minutes as I downed tools and listened to Paul's impassioned words.

A lot has been written about the human catastrophe currently unfolding in Syria, horrific photos assail us daily, politicians drop sound-bites condemning the violence, but in a few heart-felt sentences the injured photographer eloquently and dramatically cut through it all. "It's not a war," he insisted. "It's a massacre."

Speaking from the safety of his hospital bed in London, having been smuggled from Homs to Lebanon earlier in the week by Syrian rebels, Conroy pleaded with the world to act now or regret forever the atrocities being committed by the ruling elite and its forces.

Later in the evening, in an interview with Newsnight, the 47-year-old compared the massacre he'd witnessed in the city to those committed in Rwanda and Srebrenica, talking of a "pure and systematic slaughter of a civilian population". In 10 years, he believes the world will be "wringing its hands" in shame.

Injured in the same rocket attack that killed the Sunday Times' Marie Colvin and French journalist Remi Ochlik, Conroy left the rebel district of Homs, Baba Amr, on the back of a motorbike.

As I write this, the Red Cross has still not been allowed access to Baba Amr, but promises it will continue to demand free passage into the district, which has been without basic supplies for some days.

"It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help," Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said. His UK spokesperson, Sean Maguire, told the BBC: "We haven't turned back... We're persistent."

The organisation had been given permission from President Bashar Assad's government to enter the district on Thursday, and had sent a seven-truck convoy loaded with supplies to do so, but was then blocked en route. At first, no explanation was given as to why the offer had been rescinded, more recently authorities claim it is because they are clearing the area of booby traps and mines.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has backed the Red Cross' pleas, telling reporters: "It's totally unacceptable, intolerable. How, as a human being, can you bear this situation?"

Speaking of a "systematic slaughter of the civilian population," perhaps the most important message Paul Conroy had to impart was that while we have had visibility, shocking as it has been, up until now of the horrific events in Syria, the next phase of the conflict will unfold behind a media blackout. That doesn't mean it won't happen.

"When Baba Amr is finished, and I think it's almost there now, we've watched it happen, they're going to move on, they're going to move into the countryside, the towns and there will be no witnesses," he said.

"Women, children, old men, young people will just cease to exist, they will cease to exist and in 10 years we will have an investigation and people will say 'how did this happen?'"

We owe it to the families, the children, the parents of Syria to keep this conflict on our front pages - a task only possible due to the dedication of individuals such as Paul and his friend and colleague Marie Colvin. It is not enough to say that those who commit crimes of humanity now will be judged at a later date, we must not forget the plight of Syria's people today.

Around the Web

Syria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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