Syria's Assad Jr. seeks to appease opposition his father suppressed

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is being increasingly challenged by dissidents.

Syrian opposition sources said dissidents have become bolder under the new regime. The sources said that despite a crackdown on reformers an increasing number of prominent Syrians have pressed for democratic freedoms.

So far, more than 2,000 prominent Syrians have signed a petition to Assad that urged an end to emergency law. [Syria has been under emergency regulations since 1963, Middle East Newsline reported.]

"We, the signatories, herein demand the Syrian authorities lift the state of emergency and annul all associated measures," the petition said.

The petition was drafted by the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria. Members of the group have not reported any significant retaliation by the Assad regime.

Opposition sources said that under the regime of Assad's father, who ruled Syria from 1970 until 2000, protests and petitions for democracy were quickly and brutally quelled. But they said the new regime has been perceived as much weaker in wake of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which placed U.S. troops along the border with Syria.

Unlike his father, Bashar appears to have launched an effort to reconcile with his Islamic opposition. Over the last month, the president ordered the release of more than 120 prisoners, most of them Muslim Brotherhood members detained since 1982.

Bashar, who has rejected the U.S. campaign for democracy in the Middle East, has also allowed some political activity in Syria. They include the operation of seven parties aligned with the ruling National Progressive Front. The president has also allowed more than 170 Syrian supporters of the Iraqi Baath Party to return from exile.

At the same time, Syrian authorities prevented the head of the human rights committee, Haitham Al Malah, from traveling abroad. A statement by the group said Al Malah had sought to board a flight from Damascus to the United Arab Emirates for a family visit.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover