Anti-government groups in Syria are planning massive rallies across the nation Friday, one day after the Bashar al-Assad’s regime said it would begin a process to lift emergence laws, one of the key demands of the opposition.
An anonymous group that posts on Facebook under the name “The Syria Revolution 2011” has reportedly been a driving force behind many of the protests in the country, according to Al Jazeera.
The group posted a statement on the site which said: our date is Friday, from all houses, all places of worship, every citizen and every free man, to all squares, for a free Syria.”
Assad has also set up a committee to investigate the deaths of protesters at the hands of state security forces. Dozens of people have died since the unrest broke out in mid-March, mostly in the southern tribal city of Deraa and the coastal town of Latakia.
With respect to dropping the emergency laws, Syria’s state-controlled television said the Baath Party's regional command formed a committee comprised of legal experts to study legislation that would guarantee the country's security and dignity of Syrians and combat terrorism. This would pave the way for lifting the state of emergency laws.”
The emergency laws, in place since Hafez Al-Assad, the current president’s father, seized power in 1963, gave the state security forces extraordinary power in arresting and detaining people.
However, Al Jazeera speculates that Assad is keen on demonstrating that he is in power and will make reforms at his own pace, rather than being pressured by protests. Indeed, when Assad first addressed the nation in a televised speech on Wednesday, he announced no reforms; instead he blamed the unrest on foreign conspiracies.
Activists were clearly disappointed by the lack of any swift and sweeping reforms by Assad – hence, the agitation for more protests.
Another aspect to the growing discontent in Syria are the sectarian rifts in the country – the Assad family and his cohorts Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam; while the majority of the population are Sunni Muslims (there are also smaller segments of the populace who are Kurds, Armenians, etc.).
The Syrian paradigm is the reverse of the situation in Bahrain – where are Sunni elite rule over a Shia majority.