Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, following the same formulaic path as the recently-toppled dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, has fired his entire government. There are now hints that he may lift the country’s emergency law, which has been in place for nearly half a century.
But let’s look at what the removal of the law would actually mean. It’s a symbolic victory that could energize the Syrian protesters – but from a practical standpoint, it would probably mean very little. It’s simply another concession that Assad hopes will help him keep his grip on power.
Rescinding the law would reinstate “about 40 items in the constitution which were frozen because of it, like freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate,” Ayman Abdel-Nour, a Syrian activist living in Dubai, told Time magazine.
But, as the past week has shown, Syrians are already demonstrating and speaking freely. The problem is the government crackdowns on these protesters – which likely wouldn’t end with the lifting of the law. There is already a separate legislative decree shielding members of both the intelligence service and security forces from prosecution. So while abandoning the emergency law certainly isn’t a bad thing, it’s not going to be enough to save Assad from the justified wrath of his people.