The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopol­i­tics -

that stretch long into Syria’s past, ac­tivists and an­a­lysts say.

“What is go­ing on in Syria brings to mind all the atroc­i­ties of the regime com­mit­ted through­out [the decades] [. . . ] be­cause the mas­sacres of the Syr­ian regime have been on­go­ing,” said Walid Saf­four, the Lon­don-based pres­i­dent of the Syr­ian Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee. “These ex­pe­ri­ences and these mem­o­ries ex­ist in the con­scious­ness and the mem­ory of the Syr­ian peo­ple.”

Ac­tivists say that 1,400 peo­ple have been killed in the three months since the up­ris­ing be­gan and are unim­pressed by Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s talk of re­form in re­cent speeches.

In Washington on June 28, the State Depart­ment said that Syria’s move to al­low ac­tivists to meet to dis­cuss po­lit­i­cal change was a pos­i­tive step but that the gov­ern­ment needed to do more to launch real re­forms.

“The fact that op­po­si­tion mem­bers were al­lowed to meet in Syria for the first time in decades, as I un­der­stand it, is progress and is some­thing that is new and is im­por­tant for the demo­cratic process in Syria that we all want to see,” spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nu­land said.

“We think this is a move in the right di­rec­tion, but there is far more to be done. The vi­o­lence needs to end through­out Syria, and a broader pub­lic process needs to be­gin.”

Some of Syria’s lead­ing in­tel­lec­tu­als used the June 27 meet­ing to call for sweep­ing po­lit­i­cal change, and the gov­ern­ment an­nounced that it would in­vite op­po­si­tion fig­ures to July 10 talks to set the frame­work for a di­a­logue promised by Mr. As­sad.

While the power of a grass­roots up­ris­ing in Syria is com­pelling, an­a­lysts say, it is lim­ited in terms of or­ga­ni­za­tion and main­tain­ing mo­men­tum. But some see that lead­er­ship al­ready is be­gin­ning to take shape in the lo­cal com­mit­tees.

For now, with or with­out lead­er­ship, the Syr­ian peo­ple ap­pear set to con­tinue protest­ing.

“The coun­try is split in two, ei­ther you’re with As­sad or you’re not,” said one Syr­ian who fled to Gu­vecci and asked not to be named.

“Those who are with As­sad are do­ing it out of fear. Those who are against As­sad have looked death in the face, and we won’t give in un­til we have free­dom. It’s death or free­dom.”

Ruby Rus­sell in Ber­lin con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle, which is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.


Some Syr­ian refugees in Turkey say they are ded­i­cated to continuing the fight for free­dom from across the bor­der. “We weren’t ready ear­lier. This couldn’t haven’t hap­pened ear­lier,” one said. “Now we have cell­phones and can ring each other, and we know what has hap­pened in other towns.”

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