Syrians celebrate in a car with a picture of re-elected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
Today is Day 1,180 of the Syria conflict.
What a mensch — stage an election it's impossible to lose, set free some political prisoners for the after-party. Pay no attention to those torture scars.
Early Saturday, the LA Times reported that the Syrian government had released 320 prisoners from Central Aleppo prison as directed by Assad "in celebration of his reelection this week" — sort of like how some people release doves after a wedding. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights "most" of those 320 had tuberculosis, and one died immediately after being taken to a nearby hospital.
The Observatory also said another 480 "held on terrorism charges were scheduled to be released from Adra Prison, ... nine miles northeast of the capital," of which "more than 20" had "reportedly been freed" as of Friday.
Today, state media apparently announced the "general amnesty," with the justice minister saying it came in the "context of social tolerance and national unity," as well as "against the backdrop of the victories by the Syrian army."
Complicating matters, the state media report suggested the amnesty did not apply to those accused of "terrorism," a term the government uses for all resistance. According to the AP, "tens of thousands" of people arrested during the conflict are currently thought to be in government custody.
Against those kinds of numbers, the release of some 340 people for tuberculosis treatment suddenly doesn't look that impressive, does it.
In other news:
- Clashes between two extremist rebel groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, killed at least 45 fighters today.
- New Zealand's prime minister has said more than one New Zealander may have been killed in Syria's conflict so far.
- Saturday, Der Spiegel published a corker of an interview with former UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned his post last week. In it, Brahimi warned that "unless there is a real, sustained, effort to work out a political solution, there is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up. The conflict is not going to stay inside Syria." The big worry is that jihadist rebel group ISIS, in particular, will grow, spreading its operations (as it already has) to neighboring countries. Brahimi mentioned the possibility that the Syrian government could be deliberately failing to attack ISIS as a way of presenting people with an even more frightening alternative to the current regime.
Brahimi suggests UN intervention. But ultimately, he thinks Syria "will become another Somalia ... It's going to be a failed state."
The conflict continues.