Governments in the Middle East and across the world are exploiting the long chaos of Syria’s populist uprising to gain influence in the region. And Syrians — 70,000 of whom have been killed in the conflict — are paying the price with their bodies and lives.

Rim Turkmani is an astrophysicist and member of the Syrian Civil Democratic Alliance. She was in New York this week to discuss possible political solutions to the conflict in her country. The provision of arms by international parties to either the ruling regime or rebels has turned the country into a battleground between international forces who aren’t paying the price of war with their own blood, she says.

“[N]owaday, people don’t talk about democracy anymore,” Turkmani told “Democracy Now!” “You don’t talk about the original rights and freedoms, which the people two years ago went to the street to protest for. We’re talking more about ending a war.”

A peaceful resolution to the conflict is not something international actors with regional ambitions, such as Saudi Arabia, are interested in, Turkmani says. “It’s more of a geopolitical struggle, really, over Syria than responding to the needs of the people. I am a member of the opposition, as well. All my group, very active inside Syria, is in opposition, but it’s a nonviolent opposition. That is very clear in its aim to reach democracy. However … we don’t get any support. … [T]here’s systematic efforts to marginalize people like us inside Syria and focus only on the armed rebels. And they are the ones now who are stealing all the headlines. Now, why? Because, yes, there are certain actors, regional and international, who see this as proxy wars, and it’s an opportunity to fight their international opponents. It’s a struggle over Syria, over power, and the Syrians are falling victims to that.”

Reese Erlich, a freelance foreign correspondent who’s reported from Syria on several occasions, joins Turkmani on “Democracy Now!” to talk about the Saudi monarchy’s increasing involvement in the war, which consists of arming “the most ultraconservative, ultrareligious” rebel groups in the hope that a pro-Saudi government will emerge.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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