Deborah Amos

For the past 10 months, Syrians have taken to the streets in large numbers to oppose a repressive regime that has not hesitated to use force. The United Nations estimates more than 5,000 Syrians have died, and it is far from clear how the uprising will play out. President Bashar Assad's regime blames the revolt on Islamist militants and casts the uprising as a threat to Syria's minorities, including Assad's fellow Alawites and the country's Christians.

Despite the presence of an Arab League monitoring mission, Syrian security forces shot dead at least 40 protesters on Thursday, according to activists.

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The central Syrian city of Homs is an opposition stronghold now under siege by the Syrian army. It's also one place where Syrian doctors risk their lives to treat the wounded.

Supplying these secret clinics is also dangerous work, carried out by a network of smugglers in Lebanon who get medical equipment into Syria and transport the most seriously wounded out of the country and into neighboring Lebanon.

The Arab League has a reputation for being long on rhetoric and short on action. That's why it was so surprising when Arab ministers approved an unprecedented package of sanctions against Syria at the end of November.

But the unity that produced that vote is falling apart, and a meeting in Cairo to set the terms of the sanctions was suspended indefinitely.

Srdja Popovic, a lanky biologist from Belgrade, helped overthrow a dictator in Serbia a decade ago. Since then, he's been teaching others what he learned, and his proteges include a host of Arab activists who have played key roles in ousting Arab autocrats over the past year.

"This is a bad year for bad guys," Popovic says with a broad grin in a New York cafe.

In a matter of months, Turkey has gone from one of Syria's strongest allies to one of its sharpest critics as the uprising in Syria has been met with a harsh crackdown by President Bashar Assad.

Turkey has become a haven for Syrian refugees, a base for Syrian army defectors and a home for Syria's main political opposition group. And on Friday, U.S. Vice President Biden was in Turkey for talks that included the deteriorating conditions in Syria.

On the streets of Istanbul, Akram Asaf, a 31-year-old lawyer who fled Syria, says he feels safe, but not yet free.

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