Protesters call on Czech government to sever diplomatic ties with Syria

Photo: CTK

On Tuesday, protesters from the initiative “For a Free Syria” gathered in front of the Czech government’s headquarters. Demonstrators are demanding that the Czech Republic sever diplomatic ties with Syria, as many other European nations have already done. However, it seems unlikely that the Foreign Ministry will take this step.

Photo: CTK
The massacre in the Syrian town of Houla, in which over 100 civilians, nearly half of them children, were brutally murdered, has triggered international condemnation. Just a few days after the attack happened, governments around the world reacted by expelling Syrian diplomats. Among the countries to join the unusually coordinated effort were Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Canada.

However, the Czech Foreign Ministry has so far refused to expel Syrian diplomats. While it has issued an official statement condemning the bloodshed, it appears unlikely that the Syrian charge d'affaires will be asked to leave the Czech Republic. Members of the initiative “For a Free Syria” have slammed the Czech position on the issue and gathered at the government’s headquarters on Tuesday to protest this stance. Among the protesters was the Syrian-born architect Hamam Yousef.

Ariha,  Syria,  photo: CTK
“We are trying to tell the Czech Foreign Ministry to take a stand against what is happening in Syria, as other countries, such as England and France, have already done. They have decided to expel their diplomatic missions there. They have decided to eventually take this stand to support the cause of the Syrian people, their longing for freedom. And we expect the Czech Republic to take the same stand.”

In a statement for the ČTK news agency, the Foreign Ministry said it does not want to expel the Syrian charge d'affaires for fear that Syria would reciprocate by closing down the Czech embassy in Damascus. The Czech embassy in the Syrian capital has been serving not just Czech citizens, but also those of EU-member states that have closed their diplomatic missions down. However, the organizer of Tuesday’s protest believes that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad will need to be completely isolated before things start to change. This is what interpreter Rashid Khalil had to say on the matter.

Bashar Assad,  photo: CTK
“Our initiative was born when this criminal regime started killing women, children and unarmed demonstrators. Back then, we wrote the Czech government an official letter asking it to sever its diplomatic relations with Syria. The reaction was not positive. The government merely condemned the violence but I think now, after the massacre in Houla, it is time for this regime to be completely isolated and for the international community to find a solution to this situation.”

Members of the “For a Free Syria” initiative say they are determined to continue protesting until the Czech stance on the issue changes.