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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid