Friday, July 22, 2011

Hundreds of Thousands Continue Protests Across Syria

protestImage by .ash via Flickr
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hundreds of thousands of Syrians across the country took to the streets on Friday, defying a brutal crackdown by security forces and demanding the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Armed forces loyal to the government opened fire on protesters in several towns and cities, killing four of them, residents and antigovernment activists said. Another protester died Friday from wounds sustained this month in the central city of Hama.
Friday’s demonstrations, under the slogan of unity, came a week after a wave of sectarian bloodshed in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, claimed the lives of at least two dozen people. The violence signaled a dangerous turn in the four-month popular uprising against Mr. Assad, who has been in power since 2000.
“We are all one, not Arabs, not Kurds, not Muslims, not Christians, not Alawites, not Druze. We all want freedom,” shouted protesters in Dara’a, an impoverished town in southwestern Syria where the protests first began after teenagers there were detained for scrawling antigovernment graffiti on a wall.
The protesters have insisted that their movement is peaceful, and they are careful to portray it as free of any sectarian leanings. They have also said the government is trying to instigate strife among Syria’s religiously mixed society. Although most Syrians are Sunni Muslims, there are a number of sizable religious and ethnic minorities, and Mr. Assad and his ruling clan belong to the minority Alawite sect.
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