Speaking today on the nation’s state television network, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a general amnesty for all political prisoners, as well as reduced sentences for a number of felonies.
The move appears to be an acknowledgement that the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters isn’t working, as well as an effort to placate growing international condemnation by finally delivering on at least one of the long-promised reforms.
At the same time, exactly how far the amnesty extends remains unclear. The SANA news agency reported that it extended to the Muslim Brotherhood, membership in which was grounds for execution in the nation, but the agency also reported some death sentences being commuted to life sentences of hard labor.
Needless to say, in the wake of months of violent crackdown there is considerable skepticism that the move is anything more than a public relations stunt. Still, as it is amply clear that violence isn’t resolving the crackdown, so it is possible that the regime is attempting to resolve the situation with reforms instead.