Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Syrians are tired of Assad's 'reforms'

A new bill promising fair elections is not going to wash with Syrians – they've had carrots dangled in front of them too long

Fadwa al-Hatem
(pen-name of a Syrian citizen who currently lives in Britain.)
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 31 May 2011

"It is ironic that while Syria's much-heralded general elections bill has been released for public feedback on several official government websites including Tasharukia (an e-government portal), the justice ministry's website, the interior ministry's website and the local administration ministry's website, many villages that are now under siege by Syrian security services have no internet or telephone access.

The inhabitants of villages such as Talbiseh, or Rastan – that is, those who have not fled for their lives yet – will most likely be unable to give their opinion regarding this bill. They have been under tank and machine gun fire for the past few days while the Syrian military widens its crackdown against protesters throughout the country. If they are not as enthusiastic or grateful as they should be about this elections bill then surely they are forgiven. The family of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, whose horribly mutilated body was handed back to them by the security services last week, can also be forgiven if they are not impressed in the slightest.....

Second, the issue of "resistance" and championing the Palestinian people's rights is something that many Syrians, including myself, have always felt very strongly about. Yet, incredibly, we are expected today as Syrians to consider the term "resistance" as the exclusive property of the Assad regime.

It is implied that if the Syrian revolutionaries had their way they would allow the opening of an Israeli embassy in the plush Damascus district of Malki tomorrow, and allow the relocation of the Palestinian people to a desert outpost on the Iraqi border.

Apparently Syrians are just waiting to betray the noble Arab cause in a trice if they are not savagely repressed at every opportunity. We are, to paraphrase Rousseau, being forced to be free – for our own good, of course.

Irony aside, it seems the Syrian regime does not yet understand that both these carrots can no longer work. What the Syrian people want is not phoney e-government websites or cheaper sugar and diesel. The people want the torture, killings and arrests to stop, full stop; they want their dignity back; they want an end to the endemic corruption and a dismantlement of the intrusive secret police.

Genuine political reform can never be possible while your own people are being killed in the streets. Nor, with regard to justice for the Palestinians, does it have to come at the expense of individual freedoms and rights. The people of Syria want their country back, and it is up to Assad, if he is serious about his future legacy and about reform, to give it to them."

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