Last week it appeared concessions were on the horizon. When the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, assembled his cabinet and insisted that Syria's five-decade old emergency law was to be lifted, he seemed to be tipping his hat to the thousands of Syrians who had been protesting against what critics say is a corrupt, antiquated and violent regime.
But by Friday the emptiness of Mr al Assad's promises were laid bare. Not only did state security forces fire into crowds after Friday prayers, killing more than 80 throughout the country - the deadliest day of violence since demonstrations began - but few of those officers will ever see the inside of a jail cell.
As Mr al Assad lifted the emergency law, he signed another one into place. Decree No 54, which regulates protests, gives the government effective veto over freedom of assembly and the right to prosecute violators.
What's more, a 2008 decree extending protection to Syria's 15 security branches guarantees that officers will not be prosecuted by Syria's courts, but by their superior officers only.
No right to protest and a lack of accountability sounds eerily familiar to Syria's millions: it's the same state they've existed in since the 1960s.
Change, at least from the government's side, has been in rhetoric only. But in the streets the regime will struggle if it continues to resort to brutal force. The barrier of fear has been broken. More deaths will lead to more funerals; more funerals will lead to more protests; and protesters' demands for political and structural changes will only grow.
This cycle is an old one and it is foolhardy to think that bullets, rather than honest concessions, dialogue and tangible reforms, will appease the cries of change.
There is, of course, a fear of the unknown. More than most countries in the region, an unstable Syria that devolves into a prolonged period of unrest could open the door to regional interference; some worry that Syria risks becoming an Iraq or Libya, a divided nation that requires foreign intervention to resolve its ethnic and sectarian differences.
But Syria's complex network of tribal, geographic and ethnic relationships doesn't erase a basic commonality: people are tired of the repression; they're tired of the corruption. They want a good, clean government, where ballots replace bullets, and where Syria lives up to the modern face it has purported to carry for decades.