Monday, 11 July 2011

Syria “A Great Deal of Mistakes”

Syria protests

DAMASCUS- Syria's vice president on Sunday called for a transition to democracy in a country ruled for four decades by an authoritarian family dynasty, crediting mass protests with forcing the regime to consider reforms while also warning against further demonstrations.

Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa spoke at a national dialogue that opened its session on Sunday, with some critics of the government in attendance. Al-Sharaa acknowledged that the promise of reforms would not have come without the uprising.

"It must be recognized, that without the blood sacrificed by civilians and soldiers ... this national dialogue would not have been held, at this high level of supervision, under the lens of cameras," he said.

In a rare acknowledgment of the regime's mistakes, al-Sharaa said demonstrations were triggered by "a great deal of mistakes ... that we swept under our carpets, without thinking deeply about the upcoming days."

Several opposition figures, intellectuals and members of parliament joined the dialogue. Their presence was a rare step in a country where people rarely criticize the regime publicly or directly, fearing retribution by the pervasive security forces.

On live Syrian television, tightly controlled by the regime, a series of intellectuals slammed the government for using force against protesters.

Emboldened residents speaking to state-run television said they believed some protesters were true reform seekers and that government vows of change had to implemented, not just discussed.

"This dialogue comes at a really sensitive time — but shouldn't it have come earlier?" one man asked a reporter who was interviewing residents about the meeting.

Rula Amin, alJazeera correspondent from Beirut said "We heard very harsh statements in that room, even by people who are pro-government. Some said that the security system has to be dismantled. These are major transformations, for people to speak about, and covered by state television."

However, key opposition figures driving the four-month-old uprising boycotted the meeting, saying they refuse to talk until a deadly crackdown on protesters ends.

Such a carrot-and-stick approach reflects the Syrian regime's policy of using both brute force and tentative promises of reform to try to quell the uprising, which was inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Some 1,600 civilians and 350 members of security forces have been killed since demonstrations began, activists say.

Senior opposition figures and activists driving some protests boycotted the meeting.

"They are blockading (restive) cities, and killing demonstrators, arresting people and torturing people to death," said Omar Idilbi, a spokesman for a loose network of anti-government activists. "That cannot create a good environment for dialogue."

At Damascus too, State news agency SANA reported that 3 martyrs from the army and security forces, who were killed by armed terrorist groups in Homs and Damascus countryside, were escorted from Tishreen and Homs military hospitals to their cities and villages.

Official ceremonies were held in honor of the martyrs, who were draped in the Syria flag and held on shoulders while the 'Martyr' and 'Farewell' music was played.

As the meeting was being held; Activists and Human Rights Watch have reported many arrests and deaths in a fierce government crackdown in the country. Oppositions have called for a general strike in Hama city as arrests and assault are still going on at the city.

Also activists and HR groups have sent along their social media networks reports telling that protests and demonstrations took place at many cities such as Homs, Idleb and few rural areas around it and near capital Damascus.

Pro-regime ralliesFor its part, State media SANA and Syrian TVs have reported that Syrian people on Saturday reiterated their adherence to the independency of the national stances, rejecting all forms of foreign interference in the Syrian internal affairs.

SANA added that Hundreds of Syrian also gathered before the U.S. and French Embassies in Damascus and also at their Consulates in Aleppo to denounce the presence of the two ambassadors in Hama and their flagrant interference in the internal affairs. They demanded the expulsion of the ambassadors and called for the unity in the face of the external plot, hailing the Syrian army for its national stances, according to State media.
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