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

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    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.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora