Journalists from Western newspapers and TV stations, in addition to politicians and academics, have been invited to attend a pro-Assad regime conference held in Damascus, organized by the British Syrian Society. During a two-day workshop reportedly organized by Syrian leader Bashar Assad's father-in law, figures from the Assad regime were also scheduled to deliver a speech.
Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad's political adviser; Dr Ali Haidar, minister for state reconciliation; and Fares Shehabi, an official from Aleppo, were included in the list. Apart from regime figures and British politicians such as Raymond Asquith, a Liberal Democrat peer, journalists from The New York Times, The Telegraph, New Yorker, the Sunday Times, Channel 4 and ABC news reportedly attended the pro-Assad conference as well.
The presence of international journalists and politicians at a conference held by a figure close to a regime that has massacred more than 500,000, including the usage of chemical weapons, people has raised questions. In March 2011 Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voice against Assad's dictatorship. The regime's response, however, was not as peaceful as the protests and the country was subsequently dragged into a civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government.
The Syrian civil war has now entered its fifth year and has caused the deaths of more than 500,000 people with at least 60,000 missing. The war has also displaced nearly 10 million people. While international and regional powers continue endless discussions, it has been reported that the Syrian regime continues to use chemical weapons. About 13.6 million people, equivalent to the population of London, have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, many without food or shelter, the U.N. refugee agency has said.
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