Syrian civilians are under attack. Assad's forces are moving in on cities across the country. Days of government shelling have left hundreds dead. One of the many citizens who died over the weekend was a brave activist who worked closely with Avaaz.
The international community is paralysed, but we are not. Our 12 million-strong community has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical supplies, cameras and satellite phones that we've smuggled into Syria. Now it's time to redouble our efforts.
For the last five days, Syrian forces have bombarded the city of Homs. Mortars and rockets have rained down on the neighbourhoods of Khaldiya and Baba Amr. Snipers sit in waiting for anyone who ventures into the streets. More than 300 residents have been killed since Saturday. Last night 50 were killed in Homs. And more than a dozen children died when a hospital ran out of electricity.
Homs is not alone. Assad's forces launched a new overnight assault on Zabadani, killing at least seven. And now his forces are moving towards the restive cities of Deraa and Idlib. The video below gives an idea of just how devastating the regime's onslaught is:
The story of "Omar"
One of the dead is "Omar", a brave 24-year old activist and one of Syria's leading citizen journalists. On 4 February, Assad's security forces began heavy shelling in the Khaldiya neighbourhood of Homs. Buildings collapsed, covering the dead and trapping the wounded. Omar went to the scene to help. Late that night he was killed by shrapnel as he pulled wounded Syrians from the rubble.
Omar is just one of the thousands of brave Syrians killed by Assad's forces. But his death hit home. For the last 11 months, he has been at the forefront of the struggle against the Assad regime. Armed only with a digital camera, he helped to show the world what was happening in his country. Omar worked closely with our team, and his pictures and eyewitness accounts ran in the world's leading news media. He was in his final year of university, studying civil engineering. He dreamed of earning a doctorate in the US and returning to a free Syria. His legacy is now in our hands.
On their own
The world has been unable to act meaningfully on Syria. Declarations and sanctions can only go so far. The principal roadblock to global movement has been Russia, Assad's strongest remaining ally. Last week Moscow vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, and for years has channeled billions of dollars in weapons to the Assad regime.
On Tuesday, Russia sent its Foreign Minister to Damascus to rein in the violence. But it's difficult to believe that the country which is supplying Syria's forces with weapons and diplomatic cover will act as a credible mediator. For days, residents in Homs have woken up to Russian-made tanks firing barrages at their homes.
Take action: With the international community frozen, our community needs to take the lead. We're launching a global fundraiser to purchase desperately needed medical supplies, satellite phones and cameras for Syria's besieged citizens. Donate here. There are 12 million of us, and growing – we can make a huge difference.