Syrian opposition plans Friday protests, keeping pressure on Assad
While President Bashar al-Assad has maintained a defiant tone, his government has hinted at concessions. Unconvinced, protesters plan to demonstrate again today.
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Despite government officials' hints that they may make some concessions to protesters, Syria is braced for more demonstrations after Friday prayers. The government’s violent crackdown and remarks from the embattled President Bashar al-Assad make it seem unlikely that the government will make any substantive changes.
Particularly after President Assad's speech Wednesday – in which he said little to bolster hopes of reform among protesters – many analysts say the situation may be moving beyond Assad’s control.
“Syria's future has passed into the hands of the country's young people, people in their 20s and 30s, who constitute more than half the population. They – members of the Sunni community and of the other ethnic groups, from the periphery and from the major cities – are the ones who will determine the country's path and future,” said Eyal Zisser, dean of humanities at Tel Aviv University and an expert on Syrian affairs, in an article in Haaretz.
Syria's aggressive response to protests has so far left more than 100 dead, according to demonstrators. Assad claims the protesters are conspirators sent by other nations and implied that he will demonstrate little leniency in dealing with them. This Friday will be a critical test of the opposition’s strength and willingness to fight, The New York Times reports.
“People are afraid to protest tomorrow [Friday], but there are many who are upset about the speech and what is happening in the country right now, and a good many of them will not be afraid to take to the street,” said Ammar al-Qurabi, a Syrian activist in Cairo. “The president’s speech was very threatening.”
Additionally, the president still enjoys at least a modest base of support. In Damascus, which has not seen protests on the scale of those witnessed in Latakia and Daraa, Al Jazeera spoke with a number of Syrians who supported the president and questioned the allegiance of those protesting. Some even defended Assad's decision not to repeal the controversial emergency law, in place since 1963, which has given unprecedented power to security forces for the last 48 years.