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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid