The Syrian government has approved allowing a group of those opposing President Assad to have a meeting in Damascus. Many dissident leaders will be present although there will not be any representatives from the government. Walid al-Bunni, who is in the opposition, is concerned that “the meeting will be exploited as a cover up for arrests, brutal killings, and torture.” Unfortunately, organizers of the meeting were not provided full freedom to invite who they desired. Syrian officials were informed about the meeting, but decided not to attend. For over forty years there has not been any “opposition” to the government so now that dozens of such groups are emerging, it is difficult determining which are reputable and which genuinely seek a democratic society. At least 1,400 Syrians have been murdered by the government and this raises issues as to what is the process of ending the Assad regime and instituting a democratic based government.
We believe even a meeting which does not include all opposition is at least an initial step. If this meeting can produce a document calling for elections, it is better than not having such a session and outcome.