Tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets in support of President Bashar al-Assad in demonstrations across the country Tuesday, many at the behest of the government and their employers.
The spirited assemblies were organized in an attempt to show popular support for the authoritarian regime. They came a day after Assad made a speech offering vague, palliative language alluding to future changes in his rule. The government also offered amnesty to thousands of arrested protesters. But many on the opposition side say that the government’s brutal, ongoing crackdown on dissent shows its true nature. —ARK
The New York Times:
The rallies came a day after Mr. Assad offered a national dialogue and somewhat vague promises to bring about change in his government, one of the Middle East’s most authoritarian. Though some opposition figures said parts of the speech were encouraging, many more dismissed the initiative as a step that came too late and gave too little.
As the pro-Assad rallies gathered in Damascus and elsewhere, the government offered a broad amnesty for any crimes committed until June 20, a move Mr. Assad hinted at in Monday’s speech. It was the second such amnesty in a month, and though rights groups say hundreds of prisoners were released under the first one, a ferocious crackdown that has killed 1,400 people and led to the detention of more than 10,000, by activists’ count, overshadowed any real change that the amnesty may have represented.
... Since the uprising erupted in mid-March in the poor southern town of Dara’a, the government has sought to stanch the dissent through tentative reforms, with little real impact so far, while deploying the full coercive force of the state. At times of crisis, the government has also organized rallies to demonstrate its public backing, and those convened on Tuesday in Syria’s biggest cities — Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Deir al-Zour and Hama — as well as coastal cities and restive regions, appeared to be some of the biggest yet.