In the wake of a violent crackdown on protesters in the southern city of Daraa yesterday that left at least 37 dead, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a series of reforms on Thursday to keep the country's unrest in check.
The ruling Baath Party declared that it would increase the salaries of public workers, draft laws to provide for greater press freedom, and study whether to lift its 48-year-old emergency law and draft a law for political parties "to be presented for public debate," Reuters says. Assad also released all those who had been detained during Syria's recent spate of protests, according to the BBC.
But Syrian opposition leaders denounced the reforms as "similar to those repeated at regular Baath Party conferences, where committees would be formed to study reforms that do not see the light of day," Reuters says.
Soon after the government pledged more freedoms, thousands of Syrians gathered at Daraa's Omari mosque chanting "revolution," Reuters reports. Around 20,000 people marched in Daraa on Thursday in the funerals for nine protesters, demanding freedom and denouncing the Assad regime as "traitors."
"Until last week," states The Telegraph's Adrian Blomfield, "Syria's Baathist government had appeared immune to the political unrest sweeping the Middle East, its people too browbeaten to challenge a regime whose reputation for savage repression startled even in a region not known for its respect of human rights ... Yet, while the protests in Daraa appear to be gaining momentum, they can hope to succeed only if the rest of the country joins in."
Throughout the day, a number of videos--some more graphic than others--have emerged of the government crackdown in Daraa. Global Voices has rounded up a number of them.
In one, an injured man is dragged to safety amidst gunshots:
The shaky camera work in a second video speaks to the chaos of the scene:
A third video shows a funeral procession for slain protesters preceding Wednesday's crackdown: