• SYRIA \ Feb 28, 2001
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    Syria launches PR campaign against intellectuals calling for democractic reform
Syria launches PR campaign against intellectuals calling for democractic reform The Syrian regime has embarked on a public relations campaign against intellectuals who have expressed calls in recent weeks for rapid reforms toward more openness, democratization, the lifting of emergency regulations and the strengthening of "civil society" in Syria.

In response to such calls, allegedly coming from the "voice of the people," the government-controlled daily, Al-Ba'ath, warned last Thursday of a possible deterioration in the internal situation in Syria, mentioning military coups, political unrest, internal division and foreign intervention in Syrian affairs.

Damascus reported over the weekend that 17 representatives of the ruling Ba'ath Party would be dispatched to all the Syrian provinces and the country's four universities in order to explain the government's position, the foreign and internal policies of President Bashar Assad and his view of the activities of the intellectuals.

Meanwhile, the Arab-language journal, Al Hayat, reported yesterday that the intellectuals have decided to suspend their activities after being informed by security officials that the regime in Damascus would "prefer" that they receive approval in advance for their actions. Some of the intellectuals expressed willingness to coordinate their actions with the authorities, but only with the Culture and Information ministries, and not with the security establishment.

Religious leaders in Syria have also come out against the activities of the intellectuals and their calls for a "civil society.