A Syrian human rights protest
The New York Times reports that there was a human rights protest in a place where neither human rights nor protests are all that common — Syria: The security police quickly squelched an extremely rare public demonstration demanding political reform on Monday, the 41st anniversary of the Baath Party’s seizure of power here. Organizers and ...
The New York Times reports that there was a human rights protest in a place where neither human rights nor protests are all that common -- Syria:
The New York Times reports that there was a human rights protest in a place where neither human rights nor protests are all that common — Syria:
The security police quickly squelched an extremely rare public demonstration demanding political reform on Monday, the 41st anniversary of the Baath Party’s seizure of power here. Organizers and other reform advocates said the huge police presence in downtown Damascus, which far outnumbered the demonstrators, was a sign of how jittery the government and especially the overlapping security services remained just a year after the rapid fall of the Baath Party in neighboring Iraq. “There was a band of about 20 to 30 nonviolent people, hardly a group that could threaten the government, yet it reacted in a way that is completely out of proportion,” said a Syrian intellectual who declined to be quoted by name, fearing reprisals. Rights advocates and others seeking reform planned to draw attention to their petition demanding the lifting of emergency laws, which have been in place throughout Baath Party rule, by staging a sit-in at the gates of Parliament. The reform advocates say they have gathered 7,000 signatures to support their demands. But when the small band unfurled a few paper banners reflecting their demands, dozens of plainclothes security officers pounced. They shredded the banners and ripped up the notebooks of some reporters covering the protest, igniting numerous scuffles.
In addition to that, a U.S. diplomat was detained by Syrian security officials for an hour, prompting a vigorous protest from the United States. Although security officials clamped down on the protest pretty much before it started, its organizer was released, because he gave an interview to the Associated Press after the protest. He sounds undaunted:
Aktham Naisse, who leads the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, said Monday’s sit-in outside parliament was a success even though police quickly detained all the demonstrators. “As activists, we were able to send a clear message to the Syrian street, and to international public opinion, that we are serious about our demands and program,” Naisse told The Associated Press in an interview. “We embarrassed the Syrian authorities which, unfortunately, showed they are unable and unwilling to meet our demands.”…. Naisse, who was told to appear for further questioning later Tuesday, told AP: “I think the authorities realized it was foolish of them to arrest us, and would have been even more foolish to keep us under arrest. There would have been an extremely high political price to pay if they did.”
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to this BBC story about the incident. And this BBC article provides some more backstory.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.