News / Middle East

Syria's Assad Promises Reforms as Crackdown Continues

In this image made from amateur video released by the so-called Shams News Network, a loosely organized anti-Assad group and accessed via The Associated Press Television News on Aug. 1, 2011, military armored vehicles are seen in the central city of Hama,
In this image made from amateur video released by the so-called Shams News Network, a loosely organized anti-Assad group and accessed via The Associated Press Television News on Aug. 1, 2011, military armored vehicles are seen in the central city of Hama,

Syrian President Bashar al Assad says he will allow a multi-party political system, one day after the United Nations Security Council condemned his government's crackdown on popular protests.  But human rights groups says at least four more people have been killed as troops try to put down the uprising.  

Syrian state media say President Assad issued a decree Thursday authorizing political parties other than the Ba'ath - the Assad-family dominated party that has ruled the country with an iron fist for decades.  

But the announcement of an alternative to single-party rule, light on details and coming one day after international criticism of the government, might have carried more weight if previous promises of reform had been carried out.

Nadim Shehadeh is a political analyst at the London-based Chatham House.

"All these are tricks of the trade designed to confuse the international community," said Shehadeh. "Nobody in Syria believes that this is feasible.  It is very clear that the regime has no intention to reform in any serious way.  The way the regime thinks is that it can still suppress the revolt in the traditional manner that it has done before."

Syria's Assad Promises Reforms as Crackdown Continues
Syria's Assad Promises Reforms as Crackdown Continues

Ongoing suppression

Human rights groups and witness reports Thursday say suppression is continuing.  Particularly hard hit is the city of Hama, where more than 100 people are believed to have died in a government offensive that began Sunday.  A spokesman for the Arab Commission for Human Rights, Haytham Manna, says the situation is very bad.

"We have a lot of people killed and injured and we do not know exactly what happened in two quarters in the city because it is completely isolated from the world," he said. "There is a good part isolated, completely isolated, by all ways of communication now."

With phone lines in several areas cut, and heavy restrictions placed on the few journalists allowed to work in Syria, much of the information is coming out through witness accounts and amateur reports.

Much of the information cannot be independently verified, but there is a consistency to the reports coming from across the country.   Human rights groups estimate 1,700 people have been killed in the five months of protests.  The government blames the unrest on armed gangs and foreign intervention.

Hardeep Singh Puri, President of the Security Council for August 2011 and Permanent Representative of India to the UN, reads the presidential statement condemning Syrian authorities for the widespread violations of human rights, 03 Aug 2011
Hardeep Singh Puri, President of the Security Council for August 2011 and Permanent Representative of India to the UN, reads the presidential statement condemning Syrian authorities for the widespread violations of human rights, 03 Aug 2011

UN statement falls short

Given the ongoing crackdown, human rights monitor Manna says the United Nations has fallen short. "Unfortunately, it is not enough.  With a statement, the international community can say that we did our best, but for the people, it is another thing," he said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe defended the U.N. move Thursday, saying it was an important step and pointing out it was the first time the Security Council had "unambiguously" condemned the violence and explicitly warned the Syrian government about its actions.

Political analyst Shehadeh, speaking from Beirut, agrees that as weak as he finds the statement, he thinks it signifies that an international consensus is, at last, beginning to emerge.

"In a way, what is happening in Syria is simple," he said. "It's Washington that seems much more complicated.  It's the U.N. Security Council that is much more complicated.  Brussels is much more complicated.  And it has taken a very long time for a very-watered down statement like this to come out."

Shehadeh argues that part of the problem is that the international community is telling the Syrian government to reform, when, he says, it has shown it is "unreformable."

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid