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Syrian Reform Pledge Rings Hollow After Deadly Protest Crackdowns

March 24, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Middle East, Protests with 0 Comments

The Syrian government has announced that it will “study” the emergency rule that has been in place since 1963, following a week of deadly protests that rocked the southern part of the country, al-Jazeera reports.

“I am happy to announce to you the decisions made today by the Arab Baath party under the auspices of President Bashar al-Assad… which include… studying the possibility of lifting the emergency law and licensing political parties,” presidential media adviser Buthaina Shaaban said at a news conference earlier today.”The demands of the people are being studied night and day and Syria will witness important decisions that meet the ambitions of our people,” she claimed.

The emergency law allows for warrantless arrests and imprisonment without trial.

The government’s announcement comes amid a week of protests by as many as 20,000 demonstrators in the southern city of Daraa. The protesters are demanding greater liberty and economic improvements and are unlikely to be impressed by the government’s pledge to reform. Today they took to the streets during funerals for nine protesters killed yesterday by state security forces. At least 25 people were slain yesterday, residents told al-Jazeera. Another witness said more than 100 people have been killed during the protests, with many bodies dragged away from the streets.

Shaaban blamed the protests on “outside agitators.” “What is being targeted is Syria’s position, Syria’s security and ability to be a pillar of resistance against Zionism and US schemes” she asserted.

The protesters in Daraa seem undaunted by the deadly government crackdown. Despite the death toll and the arrest of as many as 93 activists, like journalist Mazen Darwish and blogger Ahmad Hadifa, more protests are planned for tomorrow. President Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for 40 years and is now watching anti-government protests sweep across the region like a tidal wave, is certainly keeping a very close eye on developments in Daraa.

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