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After 11 Months of Violence, Syria Proposes a New Constitution

After 11 Months of Violence, Syria Proposes a New Constitution

Back in March of 2011 after a group of teenagers was arrested for scrawling anti-government graffiti in the southern city of Daraa — the start of the Syrian uprising — opposition groups had called for constitutional changes. Under the current constitution, the ruling Ba’ath Party is referred to as “the leader of the state and society.” Hafez al-Assad, father of the current ruler, Bashar al-Assad, was president for 29 years until his death; the younger Assad has been in power for 11 years.

As the uprising has dragged on for almost a year — with at least 6,000 killed and thousands detained according to the United Nations — the opposition has called for Assad to step down. Such a demand was at the center of a United Nations Security Council resolution that was blocked by a veto from Russia and China at the start of this month. Just this Wednesday, Assad has announced that a referendum on a new draft constitution will be held on February 26, in a seeming attempt to offer some sort of reform after “almost a year of the most sustained crackdown in the so-called Arab Spring,” says the New York Times.

The draft constitution calls for the dropping of Article 8 which says that Assad’s Ba’ath party rules “state and society” and calls for a multi-party system. But it also does not allow for the creation of parties based on religion, profession or regional interests, in an apparent attempt to avoid the legalization of the Muslim Brotherhood or of Kurdish parties in the northwest of the country.

At Least 20 Dead Today in Syria

With continued violence — shelling, fires, explosions, reports of the residents of the long-besieged city of Homs scavenging for food or trying to flee across the border into Lebanon in the intervals between shelling — how such a referendum will take place as the government battles with army defectors is very unclear. Videos from the syriapioneer channel on YouTube show explosions and wounded, bloody corpses. On Wednesday, a fuel pipeline in the beleaguered Baba Amr district of Homs — which has reportedly been shelled at for 12 days — exploded. Activists also reported that attacks have stepped up against the city of Hama, the site of a 1982 massacre in which 10,000 were killed under Hafez al-Assad.

Response From US, Russia, Egypt

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Assad’s announcement was “laughable” and that it “makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution”; Russia said that it is “a welcome idea.” While expressing concerned about the “deteriorating situation” in Syria, Egypt has remained wary about other Arab states’ diplomatic efforts and has insisted  that there be no military intervention.

Assad’s announcement about the draft constitution and the referendum also occurs a day after his regime rejected UN allegations of crimes against humanity.

Previous Care2 Coverage

Syrian Tragedy, UN Deadlock and Restoring US Global Leadership

Tanks Surround Homs; Two Bombs Shake Aleppo

67 Killed in Syria Today, Death Toll Rising in Homs


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Photo of anti-riot police in Damascus taken in January 2012 by Elizabeth Arrott via Wikimedia Commons

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11:51PM PST on Feb 18, 2012

In a sense, I believe that this was a measure taken to protect those who are currently in power. They know the ineviable, and the power that ultimately lies with its people. Now, how much of the new constitution rules and regulations they actually follow is still up for debate at this point.

3:50AM PST on Feb 18, 2012


thomas troll is being trollish.

11:22PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

And who would draft this constitution, the ones who are in power at the moment, that should be interesting. Sorry don't see this working.

5:42PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

They are terrorists, who cares.

10:27AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

same crap in the end of it..he will remain in power and nothing has changed

9:28AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Thank you for the article...

7:44AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

It's either done in front of God and everybody, or covertly. The power is in the guns and the people who command those guns. It's happening all over. Why do you think tanks and high-tech crowd control equipment is being provided police department all over this country? I can tell you it isn't because the powers-that-be are concerned about the health and safety of the populace in the US!

6:37AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Open Letter to the Syrian people. America and the Businesses that run it will not help you. We are a country driven by profit and profit margins. There is no money in helping you as we did Libya or Iraq. You have no oil reserves for us to exploit after you become free. There are no precious war metals to fill our cell phones of tablets. It is much better for our business in America if you stay under the thumb of a dictator that we can have a little control over. Your lives don’t matter to American business so it is time for you to give up and embrace your master Dictator. I as an American citizen feel for your plight deeply however I have no control over the Business of America. Our politicians like yours care not what the people think. We are all in the same boat only you have noticed the hole in the bottom and are trying to do something about it however, we setting in the upper cabins will set and party until it is too late to do anything about it.

6:20AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

wow, you have to know that Assad has ill intentions in wanting to open up the constitution.
6000+ dead because of his fascist regime and people still believe that the U.N. shouldn't intervene.
I mean, how many more people have to die or be tortured in his torture clinics before people wake up and realize that this has to stop?
put your political ideals and everything else aside for a second.
Innocent lives are at stake.
That's a little more important.

5:25AM PST on Feb 16, 2012

"— how such a referendum will take place as the government battles with army defectors is very unclear."

On the contrary, it's perfectly clear. Everyone in the war zones will be excluded - for "security" reasons - and the loyal territories, with a gun to their heads, will deliver "massive popular support" for Assad.

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