Today’s much-anticipated speech from Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, failed to lift the country’s emergency laws (which have been in effect since 1963) nor did he offer any concrete political reforms or concessions.
Instead, Assad blamed unidentified “conspirators” for inciting the unrest in Syria and suggested some are working in league with Israel to destroy the country from within.
Also, during the one-hour speech Assad also criticized social networking websites and pan-Arabic satellite television news channels.
Assad insisted he supports reform but made no statement that he would ease the one-party rule in the country.
The emergency law and political party’s law have been under study for a year. There are more, unannounced reforms ... but giving a timeframe is a logistic matter, he said.
Syria, one of the most repressive states in the Arab world, has been jolted by an unprecedented wave of protests for the past four weeks which have resulted in the death of dozens of people and arrest of hundreds of others.
Assad’s speech was a great disappointment to activists after all the hope and buildup of the past few days, particularly after news of the cabinet’s resignation.
“We have returned to the point zero,” said Razan Zeitouneh, a human rights lawyer in Damascus, according to Christian Science Monitor.
Another Syrian activist said: “It would have been better if he had said nothing than to raise everyone’s hopes beforehand only to crush them again.:
Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, tweeted “Short version Bashar speech: reforms maybe. Foreign conspiracies definitely. Satellite channels are bad.”
There were also reports that after Assad’s speech, gunfire broke out in the city of Latakia, where 12 people were killed last week during protests.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.