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SYRIA: Protesters demand accountability before talks with Assad regime

May 15, 2011 |  9:26 am


Syrian activists released a statement after days of deadly antigovernment protests this weekend, reiterating their demands, calling for good-faith discussions with the government of President Bashar Assad to end the violence and vowing to remain in the streets until their demands are met.

"As peaceful demonstrations and protests enter their third month in Syria, the Syrian society with all its diversity and different classes proved commitment to their justified demands," the statement said. "Those demands of a country that is based on freedom, dignity and citizenship; demands that are achieved through peaceful democratic transformation, regardless of the price to be paid, or repression and intimidation by arresting, torturing and killing people, or sieging cities and towns with tanks and armored vehicles."

Timeline: Uprising in Syria

The statement followed a bloody weekend in which at least four people were reportedly killed during protests nationwide, while hundreds more were detained or fled across the border into Lebanon. Casualties could not be independently verified due to the media blackout by Assad's government.

"Today, it became clear to anyone that security and military approach, which the Syrian regime has used since day one of our revolution, has failed and had serious consequences on Syria as a country, and on the regime itself too," the statement said.

The activists called on the government to prosecute those responsible for the violence.

Assad's regime has announced that it intends to begin a dialog with opposition leaders, and activists from major cities across Syria said they were willing to participate, but not until security forces stop their crackdown.

The statement said: "It is ethically and politically unacceptable to start any national dialogue to end the national crisis (which was created by the Syrian regime) before the following steps are followed:

  • All killing and acts and violence against peaceful demonstrators are brought to a complete halt; the siege on all Syrian provinces is over, and all military divisions shall be returned to their barracks
  • All peaceful demonstrators and political prisoners in Syria are released
  • Putting a stop to all arrests and harassment of demonstrators, political and legal activists; and never face peaceful demonstrations with any forms of oppression or prevention. The Syrian government shall stand up to its responsibility to ensure the safety of demonstrators.
  • Putting a stop to all campaigns that denounce the patriotism of demonstrators, and the systematic media disinformation campaigns that have been practiced by official and semi-official media outlets
  • Allow the Arabic and International news agencies to cover what is really happening in Syria

"Any national dialogue shall be based on clear principals in order to produce real solution to the national crisis that is happening in Syria," the statement said.

Principals specified by activists included:

  • A single meeting for dialogue, rather than provincial meetings
  • Allowing people from all social classes to participate, including democratically elected individuals
  • A clear and strict timetable and deadline for the dialogue made public in advance
  • Public discussions open to the press

 -- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

 Photo: Al Arabiya television Sunday showed people fleeing the unrest in Syria, crossing into northern Lebanon in the Wadi Khaled area. Credit: Al Arabiya / European Pressphoto Agency