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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid