News / Middle East

    Syrian Leader Defends Crackdown

    An image grab taken from Syrian state television on August 21, 2011, shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking on television after the "iftar" meal that breaks the Muslim Ramadan fast.
    An image grab taken from Syrian state television on August 21, 2011, shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking on television after the "iftar" meal that breaks the Muslim Ramadan fast.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview on state television Sunday that the security situation in his country is “improving.”  Mr. Assad also vowed to continue a political dialogue with the opposition, move toward a multi-party political system and hold elections.  

    The Syrian president spent a half-an-hour on state television, saying that he is working toward reform, despite the country's political and security crisis.

    Mr. Assad said he understood that the only solution to popular protests is to come to a political understanding with opposition forces.  But he added that this could not be done until the unrest was dealt with.

    The Syrian leader said that there is no such thing as a security solution, only a political solution, but that when there is a security crisis, "proper methods," including use of the police, security, and riot control forces must be used.  Mr. Assad added that he would have chosen the political solution from the beginning of the crisis, but that a political solution cannot succeed without first maintaining order.

    The Syrian president also said the country's economy is “improving,” despite economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union.  Mr. Assad said Syria has other partners to trade with and that sanctions will not seriously affect on the Syrian economy.

    He said that there is no doubt that the crisis has had economic effects, especially with morale, but that the economy has been improving during the past few months, notably in the tourism sector. He added that despite the sanctions, Syria has alternative trading partners.

    Mr. Assad called Western concerns over human rights violations, during weeks of a bloody government crackdown “a phony complaint.”  He offered several pledges, including steps to recognize new political parties, and to hold local and national legislative elections.  Mr. Assad added that his own Ba'ath Party would continue to play a significant role in politics.

    Political scientist Khattar Abou Diab of University of Paris says President Assad does not understand the unfolding situation in Syria. Diab says that Mr. Assad continues to claim that the popular uprising in Syria is part of a foreign plot to topple him.  He says the Syrian leader does not understand the depth of the crisis, despite Mr. Assad's promises of reform and to hold local and national elections, and that the Syrian president has lost touch with the reality.

    Sunday's television interview was the fourth time that Mr. Assad has addressed the Syrian people since popular uprisings began back in March.  It was the first time that he has agreed to answer questions put to him by journalists.

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

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora