Monday, January 31, 2011

Assad on Reform

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Syrian President Bashar Assad asserted that, in comparison with Egypt, "Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue. When there is divergence…you will have this vacuum that creates disturbances."

And what has kept Assad simpatico with his subjects and fearless in the wake of Egypt's protests? Stressing his desire to make some reforms, '"Mr. Assad said he will have more time to make changes than Mr. Mubarak did, because his anti-American positions and confrontation with Israel have left him in better shape with the grassroots in his nation."' 

What's more, "Mr. Assad acknowledged in the interview that the pace of political reform inside Syria hasn't progressed as quickly as he'd envisioned after taking power following his father's death in 1999. Still, Mr. Assad indicated he is unlikely to embrace the sort of rapid and sweeping reforms being called for on the streets of Cairo and Tunis. He said his country needed time to build institutions and improve education before decisively opening Syria's political system. The rising demands for rapid political reforms could turn out to be counter-productive if Arab societies aren't ready for them, he said.'"Is it going to be a new era toward more chaos or more institutionalization? That is the question,"' Mr. Assad said. '"The end is not clear yet."'

'Institutionalization'...interesting choice of words. It could as easily mean repression as building of institutions for democracy. So let's consider most recent examinations of the growing institutionalization of liberty in Syria. And we're not even talking about Syria's support of other purveyors of freedom outside its borders such as Hezbollah and Hamas:

Human Rights Watch: Syria: Repression Grows as Europe, US voice Discussion Rights
The Guardian: Syria's Decade of Repression
Firat News Agency: Kurds in Syria Still Under Heavy Repression
The Guardian: Syria's Attack on Gay People Must End

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