Syrian forces again killed scores of people in attampts to stop the protests against the rule of president Bashar al-Assad. Lawyer Razan Zaitouna told Reuters by telephone from Damascus that 41 people were killed when troops shelled the centre of the town of Rastan. The dead included a four-year-old girl. Five people were buried in Rastan on Wednesday, she said.
Syrian forces also killed nine civilians on Tuesday in the town of Hirak, rights campaigner Ammar Qurabi said on Wednesday. The nine, among them three doctors, one dentist and an 11-year-old girl, were killed by snipers and during the storming of houses in Hirak, where tanks had deployed this week, Qurabi, who heads the Syrian Human Rights Organization, told Reuters. So far more than 1100 people have been killed during the uprising.
President Assad has issued decrees aimed at appeasing public grievances.State news agency SANA said on Wednesday Assad ordered the formation of a committee tasked with setting the framework for a national dialogue. On Tuesday he announced an amnesty for political prisoners. Rights campaigners said that the decree had numerous exceptions, specifying reduced sentences for many cases rather than release.
In the Turkish resort Antalya a meeting started of Syrina oppostion groups. The gathering is the first official meeting of activists and opposition figures in exile since protests erupted 10 weeks ago in Deraa.The meeting brought together a broad spectrum of opposition figures driven abroad over the last 30 years, from Islamists crushed in the 1980s, to fleeing Christians.
The Syrian resistance meanwhile got its symbol, like the Tunisians had Mohammed Bouazizi and the Egyptians Khaled Said. It is the 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib from the village of Jiza al-Deraa, near the city of Deraa. Pictures of him are carried al over Syria. Hamza disappeared a few weeks ago during a march and his family was not able to locate him until his body was returned a few days ago. On the internet a video circulates of his bruised and mutilated corpse (his penis was cut). It seems to be clear that he was tortured to death. Syrian authorities deny he was tortured and say he was killed when armed gangs shot at government forces. Under a video of Hamza's funeral.
New unrest in Bahrain
Bahraini troops have attacked anti-government protesters in several villages near the capital Manama, Al-Jazeera English reports. Despite the lifting of martial law on Wednesday, regime forces fired teargas, rubber- and live ammunition protesters who had poured into the streets to stage protest rallies in villages around Manama, including Diraz, Bani Jamrah and Karzakan, according to witnesses.
With the end of martial law, tanks and soldiers withdrew from the centre of Manama, the capital, but numerous police checkpoints remained around the city. A day earlier King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa offered a national dialogue with opposition figures on reforms.
However, opposition activists in Bahrain called for a "fresh wave" of anti-government protest rallies across the country on Wednesday, as a state of emergency imposed during a March crackdown on protesters has ended. "Protests are to be in main streets and squares ... the movement must return to important places ahead of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr's Square," said a post on "February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition" Facebook page.
Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera the government was not sincere in its lifting of the emergency law. "I think we are going to see more protests in the coming days. The lifting [of the] state [of] emergency it was more to attract the Formula One ... which was going to act as an indicator if Bahrain has come to normal or not," he said. "The Bahraini government is desperately trying to send out the message that everything is back to normal, but it is not. Today Bahrainis are gathered again, protesting on the streets of all the villages, more than 40 different protests all around Bahrain ... all of them were attacked from the moment they started and many people were injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets or tear gas."
Two examples of police action:
If Red Bull withdraws the GP might be held elswhere, which is the right signal to the Bahraini king, considering his repression of the opposition.