In a move which at least has the potential to be the start of historic reforms in Syria, the Assad government has announced that it is ending a 48 year “state of emergency” in the nation. It is unclear, however, exactly what impact this seemingly promising announcement might have.
That’s because in the evening after the announcement, security forces raided the home of an opposition figure and arrested him. This is leading to concern among protesters that the move is a distinction without a difference.
“They are basically telling people ‘we have fulfilled your demands, so go home, and if you don’t we will break your head,'” noted one opposition writer, “in reality, nothing will change.” Protesters appear to be sharing this sentiment, continuing their demonstrations for meaningful reforms.
The “emergency” laws gave the regime virtually limitless power to restrict public dissent and arrest people without charges. Their removal is definitely welcomed, but many believe it will be replaced by a virtually identical system of regulations which differ principally in not being formally called “emergency” laws.
Such laws have been extremely common across the Arab World for decades, with many of the President-for-life style governments leaving such systems in place as a way to ensure a de facto single ruling party system. It is such measures, along with the worsening economies in the region, that have spawned protests across the region.