Cell-ebration: Syrian prisoner release cause for optimism?
Under the general amnesty announced on January 15 by President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian government released about 190 prisoners late Sunday.
The release of all arrested protesters has been one of the Syrian opposition’s main demands, which has also been set in the country’s crisis settlement plan proposed by the League of Arab States.
The amnesty announcement follows calls from Qatar’s leader for Arab military intervention in Syria if the violence does not stop.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged President Assad to end the bloodshed and said the age of dynasties and one-man-rule in the Arab World was at an end.
“Stop the violence,” Ban Ki-moon said at a conference in Beirut, Lebanon on January 15. “Stop killing your people. The path of repression is a dead end. The winds of change will not cease to blow.”
Free at last: streams of people leave prison the Syrian prison, into the arms of eagerly-awaiting family and friends.
Embracing and kissing loved ones who have not been seen for many months, prisoners were delighted and relieved to have been given back their freedom.
But for all the people who are being released now the questions remain as to why they were detained in the first place.
“I’ve been in prison for four months. I was accused of weakening homeland security. I didn’t protest, they brought me by mistake,” shares one of the former detainees. “The amnesty is a good step. I just hope it includes everyone.”
“I had some weapons I had inherited from my grandfather, and was accused of bearing illegal weapons. I have been here three months,” another released Syrian tells RT his story. “I knew about the amnesty just this morning. When people heard about it they were ecstatic, they never thought this could happen.”
Some critics however feel these statements risk inflaming an already highly-volatile situation.
“The amnesty today shows that Syria is trying to find a political solution rather than a security solution, and that the country is succeeding in implementing the plan agreed by the Arab League,” says political analyst Taleb Ibrahim.
The move though has been described by some opposition groups as being little more than a gesture.
“When all political prisoners and everyone arrested since the beginning of the crisis have been released then the amnesty will have been effective. But the [National Coordination Council] doesn’t consider this the start of dialogue,” says chairman of the opposing Syrian NCC, Hassan Abdul Azim.
But for reunited families, it is a welcome one.
Hundreds are expected to be freed over the coming days.
But outside the prison walls people in the country remain trapped in a situation of escalating violence – from which so far there seems to be little escape.