Syria Hopes Arrests Will Still Stop Protesters

May 4, 2011
Originally published on May 4, 2011 9:21 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Hi, Kelly.

KELLY MCEVERS: Hello.

INSKEEP: So we're talking here about a crackdown. What are you hearing?

MCEVERS: Amnesty International says it's got first-hand reports of protestors who have been tortured and beaten in custody. One woman who was trying to organize a relief convoy for Daraa reportedly was thrown into a car at gunpoint when she tried to resist arrest. And she hasn't been heard from since.

INSKEEP: There may be lots of reasons that they Syrians would increase the pace of arrests this week, but might part of it be simply that they can presume that the world's attention is turned elsewhere. We've been paying attention to the death of Osama bin Laden.

MCEVERS: But I talked to an analyst here yesterday who said in addition to knowing that the world was thinking about something else, that Assad might be calibrating the number of deaths. You know, telling his security forces to use some restraint but not too much, you know, to keep the numbers of dead low enough so as not to bring further condemnation from the international community, but, you know, high enough to maintain a level of fear that will keep a majority of people off the streets.

INSKEEP: Isn't there also a journalist who has gone missing in recent days?

MCEVERS: She went there to report on Friday and apparently was detained at the airport. She has not had any communication with her editor since then. The committee to protect journalists says there's pretty strong evidence that she has been arrested.

INSKEEP: So we've had this week where crackdowns have intensified but protests have continued. Do you have any sense, Kelly McEvers, of which side is gaining ground?

MCEVERS: So he seems to be betting on the fact that these crackdowns, these arrests are doing the job. You know, he has announced a package of reforms in the coming weeks, but the protestors claim that, you know, there's pretty much no reform package at this point that would satisfy them. I mean, that they only want his ouster, that he shed too much blood. So the stalemate is going to continue and we'll just have to see.

INSKEEP: Kelly, thanks very much.

MCEVERS: Sure.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.