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Syrian Government’s Open Mind

February 5, 2011

The Syrian government doesn’t take too kindly to its own citizens showing support and holding demonstrations of solidarity for pro-democracy campaigners in other countries. When some of its citizens began exercising their rights to peaceful assembly, Syria’s government, not surprisingly, responded with violence, while police forces remained aloof and apathetic.

On February 2, a group of 20 people dressed in civilian clothing beat and dispersed 15 demonstrators who had assembled in Bab Touma in old Damascus to hold a candlelight vigil for Egyptian demonstrators, one of the gathering’s organizers told Human Rights Watch. The police, who were present nearby, failed to intervene, the sources said. When demonstrators went to the local police station to file a complaint, a security official insulted and slapped Suheir Atassi, one of the main organizers, and accused her of being a “germ” and an agent of foreign powers.

This response must be part of Bashar al-Asad’s (Syria’s president) master plan of “reform[ing] your society or institution” by “opening your mind.” Sending in undercover police forces and goons to stop people from protesting for better change or stopping people from supporting those who are seeking that change is hardly opening your mind, President al-Asad.

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