Thousands Protest in Syria as Emergency Law is Lifted

Massive protests have forced the Baathist regime of Bashar al-Asad to lift the state of emergency that has governed the country since 1963.

Without the emergency laws, which permit arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, Syria would be governed by the 1973 constitution, including these articles:

‘Article 38 [Expression]

Every citizen has the right to freely and openly express his views in words, in writing, and through all other means of expression6242. He also has the right to participate in supervision and constructive criticism in a manner that safeguards the soundness of the domestic and nationalist structure and strengthens the socialist system. The state guarantees the freedom of the press, of printing, and publication in accordance with the law.

Article 39 [Assembly]
Citizens have the right to meet and demonstrate peacefully within the principles of the Constitution. The law regulates the exercise of this right. ‘

Of course, the Baathist state has no intention of actually implementing these lovely sentiments. Authoritarian states do not actually need an emergency law; they can just repress. Much of the constitution refers to statute for the content of specific articles. The protesters fear that the al-Asad cabinet will pass regular laws now that are just as restrictive as the old emergency decree.

The steps toward abolition of the emergency law did not appease the protest movement in Syria. Some 4,000 student protesters came out in the southern city of Deraa on Wednesday, and a much smaller such student protest was held in Aleppo in the north. Protesters are calling for massive crowds in the street on Friday.

On Tuesday, thousands of protesters are said to have been cleared from the central square in Homs. Protesters had tried to get a Tahrir-Square-rally going on Sunday and Monday but had come under live fire, taking numerous casualties. The city was quiet Wednesday but protesters seem undeterred.

Aljazeera has video on the goals of the protesters:

And here is a slightly earlier Aljazeera program on the lifting of the state of emergency:

Posted in Syria | 2 Responses | Print |

2 Responses

  1. How lovely really are those principles of free speech in the Syrian constitution? I’m not sure how good the translation is, but these look like those lovely “give with one hand, take with the other” clauses so familiar in constitutions without actual teeth. You have the right to “freely and openly express your views”, but then again, you only have the right to participate in “supervision” and “constructive criticism” that “strengthens the socialist system.” It reads an awful lot like the sophistical version of free speech, where you have the “right” of freedom of speech, but no right to be free from the consequences of said speech, such as being arrested and shot. Similarly rights of assembly and free press are hedged with “in accordance with the law”, which usually means “you have these rights, unless we choose to legislate them away.”

    If reverting to this mealy-mouthed pack of hedged and qualified psuedo-rights constitutes progress, it just shows how bad things are now.

  2. The key is to have an independent judiciary, that doesn’t depend on the government officials it is charged with overseeing for its position and authority.

    If there isn’t somebody empowered to enforce these protections against the security services, against the government, they’re just pretty words.

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