Assad reform not serious, says Freed Syrian activist

When Syrian activist Suhair al-Atassi raised a poster of a political prisoner in Damascus last month secret police dragged her away by the hair and a court charged her with “sowing division” among the nation.

“It was surreal. I was dragged for what felt like the length of two streets. The apparatchiks looked at me as if I was not their compatriot. They kept shouting that I was an Israeli spy,” Atassi said in an interview from the Syrian capital.

Mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad have swept Syria in recent weeks, taking their cue from popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

Assad has responded to the protests with a mixture of force and promises of reform including studying ways to lift emergency law, which has been used to justify arbitrary arrests and given unchecked power to the security apparatus.

“As I stood bruised in front of the judge at the Palace of Justice, I thought that the only progress the Syrian regime was making was in making up absurd charges,” said Atassi, scion of a Damascene family that has a history of defying the ruling Baath Party.

Secret police arrested Atassi in Marjeh Square at a silent protest on March 16 for the release of political prisoners including lawyer Anwar al-Bunni and writer Ali Abdallah, and 15 children arrested in the city of Deraa for writing slogans on walls inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.

The protest, dispersed by police as soon as it began, resulted in the arrest of more than 40 activists and relatives of prisoners, including Atassi and 9 other women.

The 45-year president has freed most of the Marjeh Square protesters and around 250 Islamists and Kurds in jail for years on political charges, while continuing to arrest activists and civil leaders, a policy Atassi said indicated a lack of seriousness about reform.

“We demonstrated to free political prisoners. Syria’s national figures are still in jail.”

“The way the authorities are behaving indicates that they are not getting the message of non-violence,” she said, citing pro-Assad rallies organised by the government last week.

The slogans included: “Bashar al-Assad, father of freedom, your holy name is etched on the pistol.. Bashar do not worry, your people are blood drinkers”.

INTIMIDATION BEFORE RELEASE

Atassi said she was sent to a women’s jail near Damascus. A day before she was released on Sunday, secret police moved her to a security branch where she was held incommunicado to exert psychological pressure on the 39-year old mother of one.

“What sort of system allows secret police to do this? Where is the independence of the judiciary? Where is the rule of law? The security apparatus is the one that should be charged with dividing the nation, not ordinary Syrians demanding freedom,” she said.

Two days after her arrest protests against Assad’s 11 years of autocratic rule erupted in the southern city of Deraa, followed by protests in Damascus, the coast and areas in between during which more than 60 people were killed.

In a speech to parliament last week Assad said that many people had demonstrated “with good intentions”, but blamed outside powers for trying to stir up sedition.

During interrogation, Atassi was repeatedly asked about statements she had made to the media challenging assertions by Assad loyalists that Assad was the “master of Syria”, she said.

“No one has the right to be a master of a nation,” said Atassi, who started a political forum shortly after Assad succeeded his late father in 2000, during the period known as the Damascus Spring, which Assad crushed.

Reuters

  • josephphdman

    just like he lied to the us for years ,he sent jihadist to iraq to fight americans and sent weapons to lebanon to hezbollah to destabilize lebanon and israel ; and conspire with ha to kill israelis civilians , he has been lying to the syrian people for years and stealing their money , 120 billions of their tax money , he deposited 6o billions in switzerland and the rest in iran,
    the moneyhis family collected from oil sales and import taxes and other taxes; beside any succeful buissiness in syria he send his gangs to the owner of the buissiness and they force him to give them the buissiness ; and 80% of syrian people live on $300.00 per month , this regeme commited millios of crimes against the syrian and the lebaneese people and no one held them accountable .
    he lied to the us he agreed not to meddle in lebanon and he still distabilizing lebanon and meddling through his allies ha
    the only person he does,nt lie to is ahmidinjidad iran , because iran support him strongly ,and they send him weaopons and money ; so when iran declare war against israel, to wipe israel out of the map they could use him and hezbollah as a war base.

    • Rafic

      I just met a Syrian last week that works for FBI now ,he said what Pres. Assad is doing now ,lying and manipulating his people to just buy time,and this is his regime all about he says all those years lying and manipulating, that is why Ms Attasi does not beleive him.

  • josephphdman

    just like he lied to the us for years ,he sent jihadist to iraq to fight americans and sent weapons to lebanon to hezbollah to destabilize lebanon and israel ; and conspire with ha to kill israelis civilians , he has been lying to the syrian people for years and stealing their money , 120 billions of their tax money , he deposited 6o billions in switzerland and the rest in iran,
    the moneyhis family collected from oil sales and import taxes and other taxes; beside any succeful buissiness in syria he send his gangs to the owner of the buissiness and they force him to give them the buissiness ; and 80% of syrian people live on $300.00 per month , this regeme commited millios of crimes against the syrian and the lebaneese people and no one held them accountable .
    he lied to the us he agreed not to meddle in lebanon and he still distabilizing lebanon and meddling through his allies ha
    the only person he does,nt lie to is ahmidinjidad iran , because iran support him strongly ,and they send him weaopons and money ; so when iran declare war against israel, to wipe israel out of the map they could use him and hezbollah as a war base.

    • Rafic

      I just met a Syrian last week that works for FBI now ,he said what Pres. Assad is doing now ,lying and manipulating his people to just buy time,and this is his regime all about he says all those years lying and manipulating, that is why Ms Attasi does not beleive him.

  • Anonymous

    just like he lied to the us for years ,he sent jihadist to iraq to fight americans and sent weapons to lebanon to hezbollah to destabilize israel and and through missiles and rockets to kill israelis civilians , he has been lying to the syrian people for years and stealing their money , 120 billions of their tax money , he pdeposited 6o billions in switzerland and the rest in iran,
    the money he collect from oil sales and import taxes and 80% of syrian people live on $300.00 per month ,
    he lied to the us he agreed not to meddle in lebanon and he still distabilizing lebanon and meddling through his allies ha
    the only person he doe,nt lie to is ahmidinjidad iran , because first he support him strongly ,and second he is a shia like him
    (an alawite and shia are 99% the same sect)

    • Anonymous

      I just met a Syrian last week that works for FBI now ,he said what Pres. Assad is doing now ,lying and manipulating his people to just buy time,and this is his regime all about he says all those years lying and manipulating, that is why Ms Attasi does not beleive him.

  • zabadani

    I salute Ms Attasi for her courage and struggle for her basic right, the primordial right of any citizen: freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom to elect own political representatives and above the freedom and independence of the judiciary. I cannot believe how any nation, any people accept for so long to be slaves in their own country. That is why these blood suckers dictators can get away with their crimes for so long. Long Live Syrian people and Syrian Revolution.

  • Anonymous

    I salute Ms Attasi for her courage and struggle for her basic right, the primordial right of any citizen: freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom to elect own political representatives and above the freedom and independence of the judiciary. I cannot believe how any nation, any people accept for so long to be slaves in their own country. That is why these blood suckers dictators can get away with their crimes for so long. Long Live Syrian people and Syrian Revolution.