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What will al Assad say? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian President Bashar al Assad is due to deliver a speech to the Syrian people this afternoon after a lengthy silence. The question is what will he say after 10,000 Syrian citizens have fled to Turkey, and after his regime killed around 1300 of their own people, not to mention the arrests and those missing?

My Turkish sources indicate that al Assad might talk about the parties’ law, especially as there is increasing Turkish pressure on al Assad, and if he doesn’t then Ankara will take a firm stand against him. Indeed, it seems that this has either already happened or Ankara is on the verge of doing so, especially as the sources believe that it “is too late” for the regime, and if it proposes a solution for a certain matter, it will not follow this through. The same is expected even for the parties’ law; and this is what the Syrian opposition indicated a few days ago based on their estimation that the law will be a mere formality.

This estimation is supported by previous evidence. For example, when it was announced that the emergency law would be lifted, this was followed by the military sweeping several Syrian cities and areas with weapons that would suggest that the country is at war. When it was said that al Assad ordered that demonstrators were not to be fired upon, the number of killings increased and the world was shocked by the level of inhumanity shown towards unarmed citizens. After all of that how can the Syrians, the Turks, Arabs or the international community believe that the regime is serious about reforms? Even when the Turks told al Assad to get rid of those closest to him, meaning his brother Maher al Assad and Rami Makhlouf, Makhlouf held a press conference in which he announced that he would be retiring from business. However this failed to calm anything down and in fact sparked a wave of Syrian and international ridicule.

The problem with Syria today is that everybody is looking at what is happening there as if it is the conclusion of [what is happening on] the Arab scene, and that the same pattern exists for each country. Many believe that the Syrians are “copying” the Tunisians, the Egyptians, and others, and this is simply not true. The size and depth of the Syrian opposition within the country is greater than everybody thinks. The demands that are being called for today by the Syrians have been in place ever since 2000, the year that al Assad assumed the presidency. Many of us forget that in September 2000 the Syrian opposition issued what was called “Statement of 99” [a document advocating reform signed by 99 Syrian intellectuals], followed by “Statement of 1000” [a more explicit call for reform with 1000 signatories], not to mention what was known as the “Damascus Spring”. Among those who have opposed the regime for many years are the Allawis themselves, some of whom have been imprisoned.

Therefore what is happening in Syria is not the same as what happened in other parts of the region; it is a genuine movement. It is important for every person following or concerned about what is happening in Syria to read a book called ‘Syria: Ballots or Bullets’ by Carston Wieland. This was published at the beginning of this year, translated into Arabic by Dr. Hazim Nahar, and revised by Dr. Radwan Ziyada, both of which are notable names in Syria.

The importance of this book lies in the fact that it reveals that all the promises that are being made by the al Assad regime today are responding to the demands made by the Syrian public over 10 years ago. The same promises were made in the past, including the naturalization of the Kurds! Therefore when we mull over the facts within this book we understand why the Syrians are demonstrating and shouting, “We don’t love you, we don’t love you, leave us alone and your party too!”