Syrians first took to the streets last year to call for political reforms, and security forces violently cracked down. Amateur video provided by activists shows anti-Syrian government fighters shelling the city of Homs.
During a news conference on Thursday, Syrians in Southern California said the atrocities are a crime against human rights. They say the people are desperately fighting a tyrannical regime.
"Entire families are being tortured and killed, they rape the women in front of their husbands and their brothers, then they kill the brothers, they kill the infants, and then they kill the women after that. I mean it's brutal," said Dr. Saleh Kholaki of the Islamic Center of Southern California.
Syrian President Bashar Assad blames the uprising on armed gangs backed by foreign powers. His response has been fierce.
There are reports of soldiers being told to fire upon civilians. One soldier named Usama who refused was reportedly executed on the spot.
"When Usama said, 'No, I'm not going to shoot at the protesters, these are my family, these are my friends,' the commander ordered that Usama be killed. But it was not the commander who killed Usama, he forced Usama's friend, who was also in the military, to shoot him," said civil rights attorney Reem Salahi.
And during all this, Assad and his wife are reportedly ordering luxury items, jewelry and furniture.
The Guardian newspaper in London published private emails that Mrs. Assad was apparently on the Internet recently buying luxury shoes worth more than $5,000.
"I am not surprised, this is how dictatorship does. This is how they behave, this is their mind frame, that they are super humans," said Dr. Maher Hathout of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government marked the one-year anniversary by holding a huge rally in the capital Damascus, trying to show they are still in charge.
"People over there in Syria love the life of the United State people, they love the life of freedom. So you have to grant them this life," Kholaki said.
Local Syrians say the people need immediate humanitarian assistance. They are also criticizing the governments of China and Russia for supporting the current regime in Syria.