Friday, March 25, 2011

Syria is 'studying' the possibilities of liberalising the political system

Ms Bouthaina Shaaban, media adviser to president Assad during her news conference

 Syria was preparing itself for a new day of protests on Friday,  after calls had been made to turn the day into a 'Day of Dignity'. The calls were were made in spite of  some promises to liberalize and reform the system by the Syrian governement, which were made by Bouthaina Shaaban, president Assad's media adviser, during a press conference on Thursday evening.
Shaaban's news conference came after a day during which in Deraa some 20.000 people, about a fifth of the total population of the town, were on the streets during a funeral of some of the protesters killed on Wednesday. 
 Shaaban said that the government would 'study the possibility of lifting the state of emergency', which is in place since 1962. Also it would 'look into the possiblitity of legalising political parties', in the country, where since the rise to power of the Baath party in 163 only this one party is allowed.     
About the events in the southern city of Deraa, where at least 37 people, but according to some up to now some 100 people may have been have been killed, she said that international media, including the BBC and CNN, had grossly exaggerated the crackdown.
'This is in Syria,' she said, so 'only Syrian television could be trusted'. According to her no more than ten people had been killed on Wednesday. She blamed outside agitators for it, who had instigated unrest in an attempt to target Syria because 'of its ability to be a pillar of resistance against Zionism and US schemes.'  She claimed that president Assad had ordered not to use live ammunition against the protesters. However, the protesters in Deraa had attacked the security forces. Shaaban announced that a committee would be set up to talk to 'our brothers in Deraa' and bring to justice those responsible for the killings.
She said the Syrian government was studying the 'demands of the people night and day and promised that Syria would witness 'important decisions that meet the ambitions of our people'. She added to that the government would raise workers' wages, introduce health reforms, arelax media restrictions and establish a new mechanism for fighting corruption.
Reuters reported that dissidents in Syria and in exile dismissed the reforms, calling for the immediate scrapping of the state of emergency and freeing of thousands of political prisoners. They pointed to the fact that Ms Shaaban announced a similar package of reforms in 2005, but that her pledges were never enacted.
In spite of the obvious lies about the events by Ms Shaaban, the regime did, however,  release some actvists, of the at least 93 people that, according to Amnesty International,  had been arrested during the past days.
Abdul-Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian Human Rights League, said authorities had released several activists including prominent journalist Mazen Darwish and writer Louay Hussein.

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