Saturday, March 19, 2011
Big demonstration in Deraa, smaller ones elsewhere in Syria
The two men were killed when security forces opened fire on Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption. A third man killed on Friday, Ayhem al-Hariri, was buried in a village near Deraa earlier on Saturday. A fourth protester, Adnan Akrad, died on Saturday from his wounds.
Deraa was less tense by late afternoon, after a meeting at the main Omari mosque between the authorities and prominent figures in the city. An activist who was at the meeting said officials were presented with a list of demands, most importantly for the release of political prisoners. Among them were 15 schoolchildren arrested in Deraa this month after writing slogans on walls, inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia that swept their autocratic leaders from power. Residents say the children's arrests deepened feelings of repression and helped fuel the protests in Deraa
Other demands included the dismantling of the secret police headquarters in Deraa, dismissal of the governor, a public trial for those responsible for the killings, and scrapping of regulations requiring permission from the secret police to sell and buy property.
Deraa is home to thousands of displaced people from eastern Syria, where up to a million people have left their homes because of a water crisis over the past six years. Experts say state mismanagement of resources has worsened the crisis.The Hauran region, once a bread basket, has also been affected by diminishing water levels, with yields falling by a quarter in Deraa last year.
Protests against Syria's ruling elite, inspired by revolts in the Arab world, have gathered momentum this week after a silent protest in Damascus by 150 people demanding the release of thousands of political prisoners.
At least one activist from Deraa, Diana al-Jawabra, who took part in the protest was arrested on charges of weakening national morale, along with 32 other protesters, a lawyer said.
Apart from protests in Deraa, there were also protests in other Syrian cities on Friday, AFP reports, following calls on Facebook for a 'Friday of Dignity'. In Damascus a protest at the Omayyad mosque was smothered by plainclothes policemen who dragged away at least two people who attempted to shout 'freedom'. Others, pro-Assad demonstrators, alledgedly people in the service of the regime, answederd with calls of 'There is no God but God'. Some 200 of these people after that held a pro-Assad demonstation.
Smaller anti-government protests took place in the central city of Homs and the coastal town of Banias, home to one of Syria’s two oil refineries, activists said. It was estmated that in both places about 150 people took to the streets.