Assad A Mockery In Eyes of Syrians
It all looked very familiar — an Arab dictator appearing in front of the TV cameras after being unable to crush a popular uprising, promising limited reforms and freedoms. It didn’t work for the likes of Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and there seems little reason to suppose it will work for Bashar Assad.
On Monday, the Syrian president made his third speech to his country since the protests began, promising reforms and urging the people to denounce the “plotters” and “vandals” he said were behind the violence which has rocked Syria. But there are not many, inside Syria or in the rest of the world, who are willing to take him at his word; certainly not within the ranks of the opposition.
Meanwhile, the violence continues. Thousands of Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, especially Turkey, to avoid the escalating violence, and there does not appear to be much popular support for their leader there either. “Assad is an evil person, a murderer,” Mustafa L., a refugee in Turkey, told SPIEGEL ONLINE last week.
Following the speech, Adel Othman, the Damascus spokesman of the protest coordinating committees, told the BBC: “What we want now is not reform, but to topple the regime and change it.”
German commentators Tuesday slammed Assad’s speech and poured scorn on his supposed reforms, as well as asking why the West has not done more to stop the violence.
The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:
“It’s always the same with these Arab dictators. They stand there in a corner from which there is no escape and talk of reform and dialog. And as they speak, all their listeners already know: Your time is up.”
“No concrete timetable for reform, no orders to withdraw his security forces, no amnesty for those who had demonstrated and now find themselves languishing in Syrian jails. No date for free and fair elections, no… no… no…. Instead, Assad threw one smoke bomb after another for 75 minutes.”
“It is always the same: Arab autocrats cannot initiate serious reforms, because that would mean abolishing themselves. With the Arab revolutions and the brutal reactions from the regimes, another aspect has been added: They must keep going, because if they stop, they will find themselves in court.”
The conservative Die Welt writes:
“(Assad’s) 75-minute speech was full of the same old hollow rhetoric: Foreign conspiracy, vandalism, national dialogue, yet more commissions and committees to discuss reforms. It was the consistently technocratic sound of an insecure-looking president, who if at all, could only find dry words of compassion for his many dead compatriots. In short: It will not be enough to save himself and his already discredited regime in the new era.”
“The Syrians have made it clear that they are no longer willing to consider phony compromises. Their sacrifices have been too great, and at a total of 40 years the Assad dictatorship has gone on too long. Assad’s time has run out. Perhaps he feels that too. As president, he must lead, he said yesterday. That is a mockery in the eyes of his people. He has not done that in 10 years, and given the chance to prove himself, he failed completely and resorted to violence.”
The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:
“(…) Assad is waging war against the opposition. He allows his brother Maher, who commands Syria’s elite units, to pursue protestors with full-fledged violence. Tens of thousands of people have fled, and over a thousand have been killed.”
“And how has the European community reacted? It wants to tighten sanctions against Syria: A couple of prominent Syrians should no longer be allowed to travel to Europe; a few Syrian companies will be temporarily banned from doing business in the EU. There could not have been a more useless and uninspired reaction. The Europeans have so far not even managed a diplomatic initiative to help the crisis-hit country so close to its own borders.”
“Instead, as German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle goes on about Syria’s ‘political isolation,’ the EU member states should be looking to offer more support to Turkey. Erdogan’s government has been trying for several weeks to be a moderating influence on Assad and to show him the way to a compromise with the opposition.”
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
“It is, despite all the violence, a display of overwhelming impotence: Syrian soldiers kill livestock, shoot children, burn down houses. Military helicopters circle over villages as whole provinces flee to neighboring countries. And the people, in an almost suicidal fashion, still arm themselves, go out onto the streets and demand the overthrow of the regime.”
“Now Syrian President Bashar Assad has once again tried to be the good guy; he has promised reforms, more political parties, freedom of opinion. A better, more peaceful, more prosperous and free Syria can be created, his reforms promise, if “plotters”, “vandals” and “extremists” are resisted; if Syria decides in favor of its president and against the chaos. It is not impossible that sections of the Syrian population thoroughly endorse Assad’s speech.”
“Nevertheless, the ongoing actions by protesters, exactly because they are risking their lives, show how much of society has turned against Assad. Moreover, many Syrians believe that the president no longer has the power to push through reforms against the hawks in his own family. ‘You can not turn back time,’ Assad rightly said. The deaths in Syria show that not even violence can change that.”
The daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:
“In the analysis of Bashar Assad’s latest speech — or rather, his latest empty words — Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has already found the right tone. The Syrian leader has glorified the situation in which his country finds itself. And Westerwelle has added to the acrimony, calling Assad ‘inconvincible.’ But the inference falls short. Westerwelle is still hoping that the person responsible for the brutal violence against the Syrian opposition will perform a U-turn. There is no basis for this hope.”
“For years the West has aroused only mild opposition to Assad; it has even courted him — in the hope the Syrian president would then see that there was an alternative to Iran.”
“This plan has apparently failed. Assad — once again — has turned to Iran and is no longer an agent for change in his country. For this reason, Washington, which has already added Assad’s resignation to its demands, and the Europeans should seek contact within Assad’s opponents and should now shun him.”