Syria's Opposition Convenes Following Mass Protest

Originally published on July 16, 2011 10:17 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

NPR's Deborah Amos is following events in Syria from Beirut now, and joins us now. Deborah, thanks for being with us.

DEBORAH AMOS: Good morning.

SIMON: And let's start please with that meeting of opposition activists that was planed for today.

AMOS: That would have been a first to bring them in and make them more public. They would all discuss a roadmap for a democratic transition in Syria. And the plan was to challenge the regime's roadmap that was released earlier this week. Some of the older opposition figures suggested even naming a shadow government, but there was dissent among the young participants and that idea was shelved.

SIMON: So the meeting was canceled because of the violence?

AMOS: Now, they think the killing was also a message from the government to stop the meeting today. And I talked to one opposition figure in Damascus this morning, Dr. Walid al-Bunni. He did call into that Istanbul meeting, but he says he's now on the run and he's worried that he will be arrested by the end of the day.

SIMON: Does the Syrian government make any explanation for what their forces did at the mass rallies?

AMOS: But for the first time, the protest movement managed to get a live feed from three cities - Hama, Homs and Daraa. These are the hotspots in the country. You could see real-time images on a popular Arabic satellite channel. There was no waiting for the cell phone videos to pop up on YouTube. So Syrians are just going to have to decide for themselves what they believe.

SIMON: So on the one hand you have greater means, technological means, at any rate, for members of the opposition to come together and to get out their message. And of course, on the other hand, you have this continuing violence and suppression. How does all this affect the opposition movement?

AMOS: But there's no opposition meetings allowed. People can't meet without government sanction. The meeting in Istanbul, these are the Syrian outside opposition. They are there to call for the end of the regime. It's impossible to imagine how the government would allow a meeting in Damascus to call for the same thing, but that is what the street is calling for.

SIMON: NPR's Deborah Amos in Beirut. Thanks so much.

AMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.