Syrian activists meet to chart way out of crisis

Meeting appears to have authorities' blessing; organizers: it will discuss path to democracy; opponents say it legitimizes Assad crackdown.

By REUTERS
June 26, 2011 23:02
3 minute read.
Anti-Assad protesters in Deir al-Zour, June 17.

Syrians at anti-Assad protest in Deir al-Zour_311 reuters . (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

AMMAN - Some of Syria's most prominent intellectuals will meet in Damascus on Monday to seek a way out of the country's crisis, but anti-government activists said the meeting could give political cover to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The planned meeting at a Damascus hotel includes noted critics of Assad who are respected in opposition circles, as well as some people known as supporters of Assad. The gathering appears to have approval from the government.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


RELATED:
Turkey temporarily closes Syria border crossing
Syrian forces kill 5 civilians in clampdown

Assad has sent troops to crush protests across the country, while promising a national dialogue in an effort to contain an uprising for political freedoms which have posed the gravest threat to 41 years of family rule begun under his father.

Rights group say 1,300 civilians have died in the three-month uprising. The government says 250 security force members have died, and blames armed militants for provoking unrest.

Rights groups said security forces shot dead five civilians on Saturday, two at funerals which turned into protests and three during a campaign of arrests in Damascus and Quseir town near the Lebanese border. That followed mass protests on Friday, when activists said security forces killed at least 15 people.

Organizers of Monday's conference described it as a platform for independent figures searching for a way out of the violence.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


"There is no one officially from the regime or from the opposition, but the intelligentsia have a duty to meet and call for an end to military repression, release of political prisoners and establishment of political freedoms," opposition figure Aref Dalila told Reuters by telephone from Damascus.

"Most participants are demanding in total seriousness a move to a democratic system," said Dalila, a leading economist who was jailed for eight years after criticizing a telecoms contract awarded to a cousin of Assad.

Writer Louay Hussein, another high-profile opposition activist attending the meeting, said the aim was "to discuss the situation that is threatening the country and move in a safe and peaceful way into a democratic and civic state that achieves equality and justice for all citizens without discrimination".

Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East

But an activists' group called the Coordination Union of the Syrian Revolt denounced the conference as an attempt to "bestow legitimacy" on the regime. In Istanbul, where 150 Syrian youth activists concluded a two day opposition conference on Sunday, delegates also criticized the planned meeting.

"We respect the past of people like Mr Dalila and Mr Hussein, but the fact the conference will go ahead while killings continue is a whitewash for the regime. Whatever they decide will have no bearing for protesters on the ground," said Iyad Qarqour, an activist elected to the executive committee.

Dalila and Hussein were both among a group of four activists who met an Assad adviser two months ago to discuss a national dialogue. After that meeting the four said no dialogue could be held while protesters continued to be killed and security forces were arresting and torturing Syrians in their thousands.

Assad's repression of the protests has triggered Western condemnation and a gradual escalation of US and European Union economic sanctions against Syrian leaders. Authorities in Damascus blame the violence on armed militant groups.

Despite strong rhetoric against Assad from Western leaders, there has been little suggestion they plan to go beyond economic sanctions to tougher action such as the military intervention launched against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

A general view of the attack during the military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, 2018
September 24, 2018
Iran warns U.S. and Israel of revenge after deadly parade attack

By REUTERS