Syrian opposition seeks momentum after Gadhafi′s death | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 24.10.2011
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Syrian opposition seeks momentum after Gadhafi's death

Syria's state-run media has almost totally ignored the news about the violent death of Libya's dictator. However, opposition demonstrators are hoping to gain new impetus for their struggle against Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian protesters

Syrian protesters hope Gadhafi's death will give their movement renewed hope

Gadhafi's brutal death made the headlines around the world - with one exception: Syria. The news didn't appear in the state-run newspapers in the country.

"After the Arab world saw Saddam Hussein being executed like a common thief, people stopped being scared. Bashar al-Assad doesn't want his people to watch the pictures of Gadhafi's body and get ideas, so the newspapers and TV channels ignored the events," Prof. Eyal Zisser, the head of the Middle East department at Tel Aviv University, told Deutsche Welle.

Prof. Omar Nashabe, an editor at the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper and an advisor for human rights to the Lebanese government, also drew a correlation between Saddam's execution and the demonstrations in Syria. "Gadhafi's death is making an impact in Syria, just as Saddam Hussein's death made an impact, and just as the American invasion in Iraq made an impact," he told Deutsche Welle.

Al-Watan and Teshreen, two major newspapers in Syria, didn't mention the dramatic events in Libya with a single word. Surprisingly, Al-Baath, the newspaper of the ruling party in Syria, was the only one to mention Gadhafi's death. However, the newspaper didn't place the article prominently on the front page.

On the newspaper's website it appeared only as the 10th item. The headline simply stated Gadhafi's death and blamed US secretary State Hillary Clinton, who, while visiting Tripoli two days earlier, had said it was important that Gadhafi be captured. Gadhafi's death was mentioned only in passing, with no reference to the events that led up to his death and no pictures of Gadhafi's body.

Moral media?

Still, Nashabe thinks that the Syrian media was acting in a morally and ethically correct fashion. "How can the world media show those pictures of the dead body? That execution was against the Geneva treaty. The Syrian media didn't show pictures of Gadhafi's corpse, it was ethically right. Nevertheless, people watched it on Al-Jazeera."

Syrian journalists protesting

Only one state-run newspaper carried reports of Gadhafi's death

Despite all those repressive efforts, many Syrians heard about Gadhafi's death from the foreign media. "At last Friday's demonstrations in Syria, you could already notice people holding signs saying 'Congratulations Libya' and 'Bashar you are next,'" said Zisser.

The most important question now regarding Syria is how Gadhafi's death could galvanize the demonstrations against Assad.

"No doubt Gadhafi's death will back the demonstrators," said Zisser, "but it is definitely too soon to know if Assad will be thrown out. The political and social situation in Syria is different than in Libya. It is not just the army protecting Assad, there are also many groups from those who want him to remain in power. It is a matter of patience, whoever can hold on the longest will be the winner."

The biggest effect, according to Zisser, is on the moral of the opposition. "A couple of months ago it seemed that the Arab spring had come to an end. The uprisings in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain were deadlocked. Now, the Syrian opposition has hope again."

However Nashabe is not so sure. "The brutal killing of Gadhafi definitely changed the course of mind in Syria, but I am not sure if it will strengthen or weaken the demonstrations," he said. "The Syrians care about human rights more than the Libyans, so they were also shocked by the Libyans' barbaric and disrespectful behaviour. Now people in Syria are asking themselves: 'Will we end up like Iraq and Libya?'"

Western intervention

Another point Nashabe draws attention to concerns the issue of foreign intervention. World leaders have expressed their satisfaction at Gadhafi's regime coming to an end. Considering that support, what are the chances of a similar intervention in Syria?

"In the two countries where there has been western intervention, Iraq and Libya, the head of the country was killed and the country drifted into civil war. Look at the Libyan rebels, they are definitely not democrats. People in Syria, despite the current crackdown, are still afraid of having a civil war."

Syrian opposition protesters

Left to fend for themselves?

Zisser believes such a scenario is very unlikely. "I don't believe the rebels in Libya would have won without an outside intervention. But the western allies cared about Libya because of the oil. Syria is less important, so they don't care that much."

Author: Adi Halfon
Editor: Rob Mudge

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