News / Middle East

Defiant Assad Speech Draws Angry Reaction From Syrian Opponents

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus university, January 10, 2012.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus university, January 10, 2012.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has again promised both reform and retaliation in response to the unrest roiling the nation.  Assad also added the Arab League to the list of groups fueling Syria's problems.

In his first speech since June, President Assad remained defiant, blaming foreign interference for the turmoil, while claiming he retained the support of his people.  He vowed he would deal with "terrorists" with an "iron fist" - a reference to those opposed to him who, in addition to peaceful protesters, have increasingly included armed military defectors.

Assad denied ordering security forces to shoot at civilians, saying there is no order at any level to do so.  He also blamed foreign news sources for spreading lies.  The government has strictly controlled media coverage, but countless amateur reports have shown troops firing on unarmed protesters.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a 100-minute speech in Damascus...

  • Security can 'only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron hand.'
  • 'The dark desires of warmongers outside cannot be hidden away and are made clear now.'
  • 'By law, nobody can open fire, except in self-defense.'
  • 'There is no order at any level within the levels of our country to shoot at any civilian.'
  • 'When I leave this position, it will be because all of the Syrian people want it.'

The two-hour speech, aired on state television, offered a familiar mix of apparent concessions along with renewed threats.

The president raised the possibility of a referendum on a new constitution and called for a broader-based government, 40 years after his family came to power.  He also vowed that a national dialogue would begin shortly, though he has promised, and failed to hold, inclusive talks before.

In addition to criticism of the West,  Assad had harsh words for the Arab League, which has suspended Syria and now has sent a team to monitor whether Damascus is keeping its promise to end the crackdown.

Even as the president spoke, demonstrations continued in other cities, and Kuwaiti media reported that several of its league monitors had been attacked and injured the day before.

Opposition forces used Twitter to send videos of people slapping televisions carrying the speech with their sandals, while others documented the ongoing violence.

One opposition activist, Haitham al Maleh, watching the address from his base in Turkey, dismissed the promises Assad made.

"My reaction is that all his speech is a kind of propaganda and made up of lies.  He wants to say to the international community and to the Arab world that he is good and he is going to change, but he will not.   He is not going to do anything differently," said the activist.

Political analyst Nadim Shehadi of London-based Chatham House questions how long Assad can keep up the defiant front.

"The way I interpret the speech is that the regime in effect cannot really recognize or acknowledge a real crisis.  It's a regime that can only look absolutely strong until the last minute, and then it will break down," said Shehadi.

The United Nations estimates 5,000 people have been killed in the 10 months of unrest.   Some outside Syria, including Turkey's leaders this week, have expressed fears the situation is nearing civil war.

 

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid