But this is no longer a language the Syrian people will tolerate as they have paid far too heavily for more than forty years, and have reached too far to back down.
Nothing will convince Syrians now, especially not after the massacres that followed, claiming the lives of over 80 protestors in one day, raising the official number of the causalities of the protests to over 400 hundred, and 1,700 arrested.
This should’ve been expected, as analysis of Assad’s speech shows his overriding concern with the security of his regime, in stressing the notion of ’security’ again and again, and in issuing a Big Brother warning (threat) to citizens that he will not tolerate any further demonstrations against his rule once ‘reforms’ are put in place.
Bashar has had eleven years in which he could have changed the police-state legacy handed down by his father Hafez and his uncle Rif’at. Not only has he failed to do so, but even worse, he managed to recreate the Hafez/Rif’at dynamic in a Bashar/Maher one.
Further, he has repeatedly consulted his father’s most ruthless Alawite generals to advise him on how to hold power — those hated men that terrorized Syria in the 1980s.
During the crushing of all dissent that took place in the 80s, Syria lost thousands upon thousands of its citizens. They were murdered by the Assad Senior regime in cold blood – the disappeared are estimated at around 17,000.
Even though protests are the norm of the day around Syria nowadays, the streets reacted to Assad’s latest speech with bigger protests calling for his ouster, especially as the following Sunday marked “Eid al-Jalaa”, the Syrian Independence Day.
This time, protests broke out in Syria’s biggest cities, Aleppo, Damascus and Hums in order. The two biggest cities have not yet mobilized a fraction of their might, yet the third one, Hums, made up for that, as it has fully erupted causing the regime to shift its focus on it from Darra, Latakia and Banyas.
According to confirmed reports, Homs suffered over 50 deaths just in 3 days (Friday to Sunday).
Several fatalities were also recorded in the nearby cities of Rastan, where a statue of Hafiz Al-Assad was toppled and burnt on Friday, and Talbise where the head of another Hafiz Assad statue was taken to be hit with shoes.
Recently, there has been a campaign of regime-symbols cleansing in Syria where the protestors had been bringing down the statues of Assad senior and tearing down posters and pictures of Assad junior.
Syrians everywhere are fed up with the system, and the protests are slowly seeping through to Damascus and Aleppo suburbs. Both together account for half of Syria’s population.
Conversely though, in central Damascus and central Aleppo, where residents are well off and not exposed directly to the protests, the people are still with the regime, brainwashed by all the fallacies spread by Syrian media.
People are actually buying into a media campaign spread by public Syrian media claiming to have found ‘hallucination pills’ with Aljazeera’s logo embossed on them, a lesson learnt from the regime’s ally, Gadhafi, who has supported the Assad family financially for years.
Note that 90 percent of these propaganda shows are produced by ad-Dounia TV, which is privately owned by top regime henchmen.
In general, people who are well-off want the regime to stay as they are happy with their lives, some argue: “Bashar did a lot of reforms lately, the country improved since his father passed away. Also, we are proud of being the opposing force against the Zionist movement in the region.”
To this, the opposition answers: “Golan heights were lost because Hafez Assad allowed that when he was minister of defense, and since then nothing has changed. The regime managed to kill over 17,000 Syrians in the past decades, yet it did not fire a single shot at Israelis. We are poor, our lands are occupied, and our airspace is trespassed every other day.”
On the other hand, others use the Muslim Brotherhood argument, citing the possibility of their rise and prominence if the regime leaves. These sentiments had been fueled by the sectarian violence committed by the Assad youth movement in the past month.
It appears that the regime has partially succeeded in turning the protests to a sectarian strife, especially as you find many Muslim Sunnis protesting against the “Persian influence” and the Magus/Shiite project.
Life in Damascus has slowed down, yet the air is electric with anticipation of what is to come next Friday, with anticipation translated to hope and fear: Hopes of the Arab spring overwhelming the regime, and fears of economic instability cited by the supporters.
What escapes the supporters is the fact that Syria has more oil than Bahrain and UAE and with proper management their conditions could significantly improve.