(photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
The United States has advised US citizens in Syria to consider leaving because
of the unrest there, offering free flights out of the country to family members
of US government employees, the State Department said Sunday.
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travel warning on Syria is the third issued in less than two weeks. The
department urged citizens to defer nonessential travel, AP reported, and advised
Americans against all travel to Latakia, Deraa and nearby towns and
It also reminded US citizens “that even demonstrations intended
to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.”
department said it is urging US citizens to avoid demonstrations, if possible,
and to exercise caution if demonstrations are being held nearby, warning of a
possible increase in “anti-foreigner sentiment.”
“Detained US citizens
may find themselves subject to allegations of incitement or espionage,” the
The government said Syrian authorities do not notify the
US of the arrest of a US citizen until days or weeks afterward, and requests for
consular access go unanswered, especially in the case of those detained for
Last week, the United States advised its citizens to
put off nonessential travel to Syria and urged those already in the country to
consider leaving because of the protests, which followed popular revolts
elsewhere in the Arab world.
On Monday, Syrian authorities released
prominent human rights defender Suhair al-Atassi, one of her lawyers said.
Atassi, who was dragged by her hair and arrested in Marjeh Square in Damascus
during the March 16 silent protest to demand the release of political prisoners,
was released just before midnight on Sunday, the lawyer said.
in Syria has presented the gravest challenge to the 11-year rule of President
Bashar Assad, who assumed power after the death of his father, Hafez, in 2000.
The United States has long had a contentious relationship with Syria, which
maintains an anti- Israel alliance with Iran and supports Hezbollah and
A former Israeli foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, wrote Monday:
“A sad lesson of the West’s duplicity with regard to democratic reform in the
Arab world, which both Syria and Iran have been happy to embrace, is that
pro-Western moderate leaders who gave ground to pro-democracy protesters ended
up being swept away, while those who brutally crushed their opponents are
“The West, after all, never put irresistible pressure on any
Arab regime to undertake reforms, and deserted its autocratic clients in Tunisia
and Egypt only when they failed to nip the revolutionary bud.
is that the West will coexist with tyranny, provided that it is swiftly and
efficiently repressive,” wrote Ben- Ami, now vice president of the Toledo
International Center for Peace, on the Project Syndicate website.