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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs