In moves to appease the country’s conservatives, the Syrian government has dropped a rule that banned teachers from wearing a niqab (a veil that covers a woman’s face, except for her eyes) and closed the nation’s lone casino.
President Bashar al-Assad originally banned the niqab from schools last summer – a move which moved hundreds of women teachers into administrative positions.
Ali Saad, education minister in Syria's caretaker government, said teachers who wear niqabs can now return to their jobs.
The Casino Damascus was closed, according to the Tishreen newspaper, because the owners violated laws and regulations.”
Conservative Muslims consider gambling a violation of Islamic principles.
Such concessions to religious conservatives will likely mean nothing to thousands of protesters who are demanding democratic reforms in one of the most repressive nations on earth.
All these moves will not stop the protests at all, said Radwan Ziadeh, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and the founder of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Policy told the Associated Press.
Ziadeh explained that the Syrian government does not understand that its people should be free to demonstrate peacefully. Rather, the government wants to solve the problems through killing and oppression.
Activists have called for more protests this week.
Dozens of people have died in the unrest that has now spanned three weeks.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked Assad to order the country’s security forces to cease using unjustified lethal force against anti-government protesters.
For three weeks, Syria's security forces have been firing on largely peaceful protesters in various parts of Syria, said Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW, according to press reports.
Instead of investigating those responsible for shootings, Syria's officials try to deflect responsibility by accusing unknown 'armed groups'.
Assad has made a number of concessions, including a plan to study lifting the state’s emergency law (which have been in place since 1963). The former government has also resigned and Assad is in the midst of forming a new cabinet.
However, these gestures have been largely cosmetic since Assad and his family hold almost all the power in Syria.
Still, the president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, has praised Assad.
The Russian president supported the Syrian leadership's intention to begin the internal transformations announced by Bashar al-Assad with the aim of preventing the unfavorable development of the situation and human casualties, for the sake of preserving civil peace, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Medvedev told military officers: We proceed from the assumption that the whole series of conflicts that are taking place should be resolved in a peaceful way, without the participation of troops and on the basis of international mediation,