Syria’s decades old state of emergency will be lifted by the end of next week. President Bashar Al-Assad made the televised announcement in a speech to his newly sworn in government.
His comments were surprisingly detailed and wide ranging. In his first public remarks late last month on anti-government protests, Assad made no reference to rescinding the emergency law or setting a timetable for reforms.
But today he promised to lift the 48-year old law, saying that law and order will still be firmly enforced. “We cannot accept chaos and mob rule,” he added. “We will not be lenient towards sabotage.”
Assad said corruption was a problem but cautioned against making hasty changes. “Any reforms have to be based on maintaining internal stability.” There was no mention, however, of ending the tight grip of security services on everyday life or no word on the release of thousands of long serving political prisoners – a key demand of protesters.
Assad’s use of force and mass arrests, mixed with promises of reform have so far failed to quell anti-government demonstrations. Protestors swept into the capital Damascus on Friday for the first time while thousands marched elsewhere, continuing calls for an end to the regime.