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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid