September 29, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 131

Syrian Intellectuals Call for Political Reform

September 29, 2000
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 131

The London-Beirut based pan-Arabic daily Al-Hayat published a statement, signed by 99 intellectuals[1] who either live in Syria or visit frequently, calling on President Bashar Al-Assad to enact political reform in Syria. Among the signatories are the renowned poet Adonis, the writers Haidar Haidar,[2] and Sadek Jalal Al 'Azm, and the philosopher Antoine Makdissi. The official Syrian press has had no response to this statement. The communique read:

"We call upon the Syrian authorities to cancel the state of emergency and the military rule that has prevailed in Syria since 1963, to pardon all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,[3] and to allow the return of all political exiles to Syria."

"We call upon the Syrian authorities to establish a rule of law that will grant general freedoms, will respect political and ideological pluralism, will allow freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and expression, and will remove all restrictions and censorship."

"This will enable the citizens [of Syria] to express their different interests within a social consensus, competition and friendship [and will allow] the establishment of [a society] in which everyone will be able to participate in the country's progress and prosperity."

"Syria is entering the 21st century and needs the efforts of all its sons, [to counter] the peace challenges, and also needs openness towards the world. Any reform, whether economic, administrative or constitutional will not bring harmony and stability to the country, unless it is accompanied by political reform. This reform is the only reform that can guarantee that our society reaches a safe haven..."[4]

[1] Al-Hayat published a complete list of the statement's signatories. MEMRI will provide this list on request.

[2] Haidar Haidar recently became famous when his play, "Banquet of Seaweed" was published in Egypt and was attacked by Muslim fundamentalists throughout the world.

[3] The number of such prisoners in Syria, according to the Jordan Times of September 27, 2000, is about 1,300, down from 10,000 a decade ago.

[4] Al-Hayat (London) September 27, 2000.

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