After the September 11th terrorist attacks in America, the then media advisor to the British government, Jo Moore, sent an e-mail to her staff which read: “It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury.” Did the news of Bin Laden’s death bury the news of repression in Syria?
The answer is no, Bin Laden’s death did not have any effect, it did not change anything. On the contrary, it escalated internal and external stances against the Syrian regime, especially as the number of protestor deaths has reached nearly six hundred, not to mention the arrest of nearly a thousand individuals, in an effort to suppress the unprecedented protests in the majority of Syrian cities. However, all this did not deter the Syrians from demonstrating and protesting, rather it appears that the Syrian regime is looking for new justifications for its military and security campaign, which suggests there is concern amongst the Syrian security apparatus. This was evident in a recent declaration from the Ministry of Interior, announcing a 15 day period in which the so-called accused can surrender and benefit from a promised amnesty. However, the protests are still ongoing in several cities, just as there are renewed calls for further demonstrations and protests in public places throughout Syria.
As for external perceptions, although the world is preoccupied with the news of Bin Laden’s death, this did not prevent the escalation of international institutions, specifically European ones, towards the Syrian regime. Yesterday the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated that any government which opened fire on its own people “had lost its legitimacy”, adding that France is willing to include the name of the Syrian President on the list of sanctions which the European Union is busy formulating against the regime. Previously, the French Foreign Minister had stated that “If the [Syrian] regime perseveres down this path, it will fall, one day or another, but it will fall”. The Deputy German Foreign Minister also did not hesitate to say that the time has come for action, saying “the continued brutal actions of the Syrian government do not leave the EU any choice but to press strongly for the application of targeted sanctions against the regime”, which is a position that the British seem to support. This is not to mention the call from the International Committee of the Red Cross towards the Syrian regime, stressing the need to allow health workers safe and immediate access to the wounded who have been injured in Daraa, and also to allow medical access to prisoners.
All these developments show that contrary to what some have claimed, Damascus has not benefitted from a good day – the day Bin Laden died – to bury its bad news, namely the repression used against unarmed Syrians. The reason is simple; demonstrations are still ongoing, and the regime is still stubbornly insisting on using repression. This is something I alluded to last Thursday, that the continuation of demonstrations and the rising death toll in Syria would inevitably break the international silence. Even Israel has broken its silence, with Ehud Barack talking about the fall of the regime, and saying that Israel must not be afraid of change in Syria!
In summary I would say that nothing buries bad news except good news. States can only benefit from a unified internal front, and this cannot be achieved through repression, but through respect for the dignity and rights of citizens.