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.
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid