Syria honorary consul in US resigns over violence
LOS ANGELES - Agence France-Presse
A Syrian woman, cries as she carries her injured son who was shot in his hand by the Syrian border guard when they were crossing a river from Syria to Lebanon, at the northern Lebanese-Syrian border town of Wadi Khaled, in Akkar, north Lebanon, Wednesday, May 30, 2012. AP photoA Syrian honorary consul in the United States has resigned in protest after last week's killings in Houla, where more than 100 people were slaughtered in a massacre blamed on pro-government forces.
The resignation of Hazem Chehabi, who had helped arrange passport and other services in California, came as several countries expelled Syrian envoys to protest the spiraling violence of the 14-month government crackdown.
"You get to a point where your silence or your inaction becomes ethically and morally unacceptable," Chehabi, who had held the post for 18 years, told National Public Radio on Wednesday.
"Although I think I may have been there a while ago, the recent barbaric massacre that took place in the town of Houla, for me it was a tipping point and was a point beyond which one could not justify remaining silent." President Bashar al-Assad "has to be responsible for the action of his own government", Chehabi said.
"Either you're committing those atrocities, and therefore you're guilty, or you're not preventing them from happening, and the buck has to stop somewhere. And to me the buck stops all the way at the top." More than 100 people were killed in the central town of Houla on May 25-26, including 49 children and 34 women, according to UN military observers who visited the site.
Some were blown to bits by artillery and tank fire but most were summarily executed, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN officials suspect the massacre was carried out by a pro-government militia.
In a coordinated move on Tuesday, the United States and several Western powers expelled Syrian diplomats over the massacre and warned Assad that time was running out for a tattered UN-brokered peace plan.
Chehabi said he had never been pressured to resign by the US State Department, stressing that he was not a diplomat but a volunteer working on behalf of the Syrian-American community in California and on the West Coast.
More than 13,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, since an uprising erupted in March 2011 against the Assad family's 40-year rule, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.