Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Blog

Clashes between anti-government protesters and government forces in Daraa have left at least dozens dead, and possibly more than 100 according to one eyewitness. While journalists are prevented from entering the city, footage on Youtube of gruesome fatalities and injuries to the background of heavy and incessant gunfire confirms that the situation has indeed dramatically escalated.

The government said it was battling armed groups in the city, and state television showed pictures of weapons stockpiles it said were recovered from the Omari mosque which was under assault by government forces earlier this week. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for a “transparent investigation into the killings” that took place, and a spokesperson for the US State Department lamented what he described as “the Syrian government's use of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests to hinder the ability of its people to freely exercise their universal rights.”

In response to the unrest, the Syrian government indicated that it was considering major reforms. In an announcement today, the government said it was studying officially ending the state of emergency under which the country has been governed since the 1960s, and which allows for individuals to be imprisoned without charge or trial. The government is also considering licensing other political parties, raising salaries in all jobs of the public sector, and increasing transparency.

While such reforms are unlikely to satisfy the protesters in Daraa where dozens of casualties had fallen, the bigger question is whether the protests that took place in a few towns and the unrest in Daraa will spread to larger parts of the country tomorrow which protesters have termed “Friday of Dignity.”  Analysts regard the ruling regime in Syria to be among the most robust and least vulnerable, but the government’s announcement of impending reforms indicates that no government is immune from the wave of popular self-assertion and demands for political rights which are sweeping the Arab world.

comments powered by Disqus