By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, January 13, 2012
Last Tuesday, President Bashar al Assad addressed a large gathering of his supporters in the Syrian capital Damascus. The Syrian president appeared smiling and waving to a large audience of his supporters. The picture stands in a sharp contrast with the grimness of the reality in the streets that turned cities into military bases due to the heavy presence of tanks. The Syrians paid close attention to the president’s speech, harboring hope for new terms of a settlement for the inflamed situation. But, the president was totally unapologetic using skilful euphemistic terms to describe the crackdown and the massive protests as mere “incidents”.
The crowds of Syrians have been protesting since March calling for a change in the regime and democratization of the country. The protesters are constantly urging Bashar al Assad, who has been ruling for ten years, and its ruling elite to issue political reforms. They also demand a democratic overture that would allow for pluralistic participation and higher accountability of officials. The president and his cronies from the Ba’ath party have been controlling politics for decades. In fact, political and economic power has remained confined within the reach of a privileged elite including the presidents, his family, the Baath party leadership and the Alawite sect.
Bashar al Assad came to power in 2000 in succession to his father Hafez al Assad who undisputedly ruled Syria for 29 years until his death. Bashar was propelled to the highest ranks of the military and to public life during Hafez al Assad “reign” who tried to prepare his heir for a smooth transition of power from father to son. Bashar al Assad won the elections in 2000 after his father’s death and in 2007, always unchallenged by any candidate. It is noteworthy that the Ba’ath party has dominated the political process in Syria. In fact, the eighth article of the Syrian constitution sates explicitly that “the Arab Socialist Baath Party leads society and the state.”
It was his third speech since the uprising has swept over major Syrian cities. Seemingly, Bashar al Assad clutches unflinchingly to the “conspiracy” plot. He condemns the “radicals” and “armed gangs”, “who attempt to sow the seeds of discord and insurrection in Syria.” He argues that these radicals are orchestrating a conspiracy against Syrians in alliance with foreign forces who have been incessantly trying to infiltrate the country.
The president appears to be in a total state of denial as he describes the protesters as anarchists. “We paid a heavy price for the acts of anarchy and vandalism that has resulted in the death of innocent civilians, looting their property. It is a big loss,” stated Assad. The president holds the protesters accountable for the causalities, an outrageous claim to the bulk of Syrians. Obviously, he is deaf to the pulse of the Syrian street and the opposition ready for a takeover of power.
The president asserted, “I have personally summoned components of society that had demands and I am not referring here to protesters”. Bashar considers the protesters as a minority and belittles their impact on Syrian society. He also makes a sharp distinction between those who have demands and “vandals” who he claims are a serious threat to the country’s stability. The president added obstinately that the protesters are trying to corrode the foundations of the state while still claiming that he enjoys a large support among Syrians.
On the other hand he reiterated the same empty promises he gave in his two previous speeches. He expressed readiness to respond to the demands of the masses for political reforms but without giving any deadlines and without announcing any concrete steps. It is noteworthy that the military offensive against civilians and peaceful protesters has resulted in 5000 dead according to the UN and many arrests besides the great number of refugees who have fled across the Turkish Syrian border. President al Assad kindly asked the refugees to return home and claimed that his military forces would guarantee them protection. Al Jazeera reported that Syrian refugees continued to find shelter in the Turkish camps along the border immediately after the president‘s speech. One of the refugees said, “He wants us to return to finish us all. The tanks are still there”.
This staunch attitude towards the uprising in Syria mirrors the president’s determination to ride out the anger of the Syrian protestors. Yet, the threatening tone gives away to a perplexing discourse especially when he declares that he envisions clemency for those “outlawed” protesters. Thus, Bashar Al Assad uses both the carrot and the stick in dealing with the domestic insurgency. He issues threats and condemnation to the protesters’ mobilization and uncovers a more human face by bestowing “clemency” for Syrian rebels.
Bashar al Assad’s latest speech touches upon critical issues in a very shallow manner. While he claims that he still holds the reins of the government, Bashar al Assad is no longer in full control caught between the hammer of internal divisions within the concentric circles of power and the anvil of the growing uprising that calls the regime’s legitimacy into question. The president’s stern speech makes it clear that regime change may be far off but his hesitant terms reveal a president who lacks the ability and the will to make any palpable concessions.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Loubna Flah is a Moroccan national. She earned a master degree in Biochemistry from the Mohammedia faculty of science and technologies. She obtained also a bachelor degree in English studies from Ain Chok University after writing a dissertation about the aspects of sexism in Moroccan Arabic. She graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Rabat as a high school teacher of English.
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