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Syria: Praying by identity card - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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At the same time that a female presenter appeared on an Arab satellite channel to say that “the situation in Syria is calm, and the people of Syria have shown their awareness by not responding to calls to take to the streets to demonstrate and protest”, some Syrians visiting mosques in the country were having their identity cards confiscated from them upon their entry, with these being returned to them after they had completed their prayers, on their way out.

The funny thing is that just minutes following the presenter’s statement about the calm in Syria, a breaking news report flashed across the bottom of the screen revealing that demonstrations were occurring in several Syrian cities including Damascus, Banias, Homs, and Latakia! What I want to say here is that the real solution to what is happening in Syria, and other Arab states, is for this political earthquake that is striking our region to be dealt with sincerely, with governments taking reformative steps and implementing reforms that directly reach its citizens, as well as reforms that genuinely affect the state’s infrastructure, and the regime itself. This is something that applies to any and all countries, not just Syria. The media may be attempting to play down the true nature of events, but that does not change the reality of the situation; sometimes the media acts like a painkiller, whilst at other times it acts like an appetizer, but the fact remains that the presence of injustice and inertia in the institutions of the state, any state, hasten their collapse, regardless of any attempts to prevent this.

The best example of the fact that the media is not the solution can be seen in the media’s coverage of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s last speech in front of the Syrian People’s Council. The Syrian president said that his country was subject to a foreign conspiracy, and throughout the day the Arab media reiterated these words, particularly the television media, whilst failing to cover the demonstrations taking place in Latakia! As for the western television media, following the Syrian president’s speech, it also focused upon the question; who? As in, who is conspiring against Syria? Therefore the difference is clear; however the most important thing here is the [Syrian] citizens: do they truly believe that there is a conspiracy, or do they believe that there are genuine injustices? That is the question!

Therefore, the continuation of the demonstrations in Syria, even until yesterday, means that the popular demands have not been met with practical solutions, and that the solutions, until now, have been ineffective. What is irritating about the Syrian situation is that the demands remain ordinary and acceptable and can be easily implemented; these will not weaken the country or bring down the temple walls on all those inside, however the government’s response continues to be weak. The problem is that the protestors’ demands and violence will only increase and intensify the more the solutions are delayed. This is something that we have seen in a series of recent events in our region.

Therefore what I want to say is that Damascus is still in a position to cut the fuse by proposing a series of genuine reforms, rather than making promises of conducting studies about abolition the state of emergency and the anti-terror law, whilst the situation remains unchanged. This is in order to avoid confrontation and violence. Until now, the number of protestors killed stands in the dozens, although there are reports that say that the death-toll stands as high as 60. Even if the regime becomes stronger and more resolute [in confronting the protestors], it will continue to face endless internal and external difficulties, however if the regime decided to implement genuine reforms, it will certainly emerge stronger than before. However all the signs indicate that Damascus has failed to learn from the experiences of others, in this regard.

Therefore the question now is: where will the ceiling of demands reach in Syria?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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