HTS Responds to US Statement Amidst Ongoing Protests and Calls for Reform

Credit: (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

The ongoing protests in Idlib have reached a critical juncture, with new developments emerging from both local authorities and international stakeholders. The Ministry of Interior released a video mentioning significant reform measures to address the grievances of the protesters, while the US Embassy in Damascus and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) both released statements on the situation.

The Ministry of Interior’s release outlined a comprehensive reform plan aimed at enhancing security and safeguarding the rights of residents in the liberated areas. The leadership has decided to restructure the Public Security Service, renaming it the Public Security Administration, and integrating it into the Ministry of Interior. This move includes the establishment of new security directorates to work alongside police stations.

The reforms aim to emphasize the improvement of detainees’ conditions and trial mechanisms. Committees have been formed to redefine prisoners’ rights, ensuring due process from detention through trial. These stages, says the release, will now be overseen by specialized judges from the Ministry of Justice, with defense lawyers given a more active role in the proceedings. The Ministry has also created a Public Relations Office for Security Affairs to address complaints and ensure transparency and accountability.

“These reforms are part of a broader initiative to stabilize the liberated areas and transform them into a model of governance,” the Ministry stated. The administration initially engaged with over 700 individuals, including dignitaries, academics, and activists, to discuss the region’s issues. Despite implementing a series of reforms across various sectors, some “factions and individuals,” said sources close to the government, have continued to reject these solutions, leading to ongoing protests and clashes.

The US Embassy in Damascus weighed in on the situation, posting on X (formerly Twitter): “We support the rights of all Syrians to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including in Idlib. We deplore Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s regime-style intimidation and brutality against peaceful protesters as they call for justice, security, and respect for human rights.”

HTS swiftly responded, asserting that the liberated areas allow for free expression and legal dissent, provided it does not disrupt societal institutions. HTS emphasized their support for civil activities and the rule of law, while also calling on the US to support Syrian demands for freedom and dignity against the Assad regime and to respect the rights of university students in the US demonstrating in support of Palestine and Gaza, referring to months’ long protests in the US which have been met with violent crackdowns by federal and state institutions.

The protests in Idlib, which began as a movement for reform and better governance, have been marked by accusations of exploitation and provocation from various factions. Despite attempts at dialogue, the protests have frequently devolved into chaos, prompting calls for intervention by local residents.

As the situation unfolds, the challenge remains for the authorities to balance maintaining stability with addressing the protesters’ demands for justice and security. The international community continues to watch closely, with the US and HTS’s exchange highlighting the broader geopolitical stakes involved.


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