News / Middle East

Syria's Popular Uprising Fails to Force Authentic Reforms

Syrian immigrants shout slogans in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, to protest Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after violence was used on a group of anti-governmental protesters who allegedly were tortured and held hostage in Syria, March
Syrian immigrants shout slogans in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, to protest Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after violence was used on a group of anti-governmental protesters who allegedly were tortured and held hostage in Syria, March

Multimedia

Audio
Mohamed Elshinnawi

A wave of anti-government protests has swept through several cities in Syria in recent weeks, with demonstrators calling for political reform and an end to the country’s 48-year state of emergency. Syrian security forces have dealt harshly with the protesters, at one point killing a reported 60 demonstrators in the southern city of Daraa.

Emboldened by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian protesters took to the streets hoping they could force President Bashar al-Assad to ease his harsh rule and enact the political reforms he had been promising for 11 years.

And after violent confrontations with in several towns, Syrians were eagerly awaiting the president’s address to the parliament this week, expecting an announcement on major reforms. Instead, Assad made no mention of reforms and warned of foreign conspirators using television and the Internet to incite violence in the country.

He said, "Our enemies are consistently and systematically working on a daily basis to target stability in Syria."

The Syrian president said the country’s enemies were using social networking websites and pan-Arabic satellite TV news channels to incite confrontations. And instead of announcing expected policy changes, he said all members of the ruling cabinet would be replaced.

Edward Djerejian is a former U.S. Ambassador to Syria. He said dismissing the Syrian cabinet is not enough to satisfy the people. Djerejian said if Assad really wants to assure stability in Syria, he will have to implement serious changes in government policies.

"The resignation of a government is a sign by President Bashar al-Assad that they are going to try to accommodate the calls for change by getting rid of the current government that obviously represents the status quo, and then follow up with broad reforms," he said. "What is important is what specific policies the president of Syria will take in order to meet the demands of the people for political, economic and social reforms.”

Djerejian said Syria has some unique problems compared to most of its Arab neighbors. Among them is the threat of sectarian strife among the country’s Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds and significant Christian minorities. He said this issue will have to be addressed first to ensure stability.

But Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian human rights activist living in the United States, said it may be too late for Assad to offer any acceptable reforms.

"That is not enough anymore," he said. "The only thing that can stop the revolution is his departure. Demonstrators sort of put a list of nine demands saying: 'First of all we want end to corruption and they mention the president’s cousin by name. We want free presidential elections, free parliamentary elections, and an end to the state of emergency, release of all political prisoners.' When you go down the list, you realize these amount to regime change."

Ammar predicts especially large anti-government protests on Friday and said the protests will continue despite the government’s crackdown.

The United States has consistently urged the Syrian government to begin reforms immediately, but State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Assad’s speech this week was not encouraging.

"I think it’s clear to us that it didn’t really have much substance to it and didn’t talk about specific reforms as was suggested in the run-up to the speech," said Toner. "We understand that protests are scheduled, I believe, for Friday and, obviously, we would strongly condemn any violence against those protesters."

Robert Hunter, a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, says Washington has increasingly less leverage, however, to use against Assad if the Syrian leader continues his harsh measures.

"It is obvious that we are not going to use force, and something like a no-fly zone would not be applicable because the [Syrian] internal security forces don't use aircraft. And who knows what will happen if the brutality continues and if there is an outcry about massive murdering of people," said Hunter.

Hunter’s cautious assessment is shared by many U.S. experts, who point out that Syria’s central role in the search for Middle East peace makes it an especially delicate problem for Washington policy-makers.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid