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People will defy the Syrian crackdown

by Zaher Laham

The Syrian government’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations will not keep the country’s people silent.

Its attacks on protesters on Friday of last week reportedly left over 114 dead and many more injured.

Despite police raids to imprison those demonstrating, and live ammunition being fired, voices for democracy will echo through the streets again.

Tanks were deployed in the city of Deraa on Monday and Tuesday, killing many people.

A friend told me that she has lost contact with her family and she hasn’t heard anything about them since the raid began.

All telephone lines and the internet had been cut.

The government declared only a few thousand protested on Friday of last week. Activists say two million rallied.

Leaked footage from mobile phone cameras shows hundreds of thousands in some places.

Friends in Syria are eager to let the world know what is happening.

One, in Duma near Damascus, described Friday’s events: “I couldn’t see the end and the start of the protest. There were huge numbers. I cried with joy at the scene.

“We marched for a few kilometres in the main street, then the security police opened fire on us without any warning.

“We all ran. People couldn’t stop to help those who were injured as the police kept firing.”

A protester in Homs said, “We couldn’t go out in one big protest because the security forces divided the city with checkpoints and big barriers.

“The people went to take part in many small demonstrations. This made it easier for the security forces to disperse the protesters”.

The government’s response was violent. In one town, Ezra, near Damascus, 29 people were killed—including a ten year old boy.

This all happened a day after President Bashar Al-Assad declared the end of the state of emergency in Syria.

The law was implemented in 1963, allowing arrest without trial.

Since the protests began in Syria on 15 March, the government has made a number of pledges to implement reforms.

Violence

However, the hypocrisy of the regime is evident, as its violence towards the opposition escalates.

Before the recent wave of protests, a revolution in Syria had seemed inconceivable. Reporters and analysts deemed the regime either too strong or oppressive to be challenged.

People have posted calls for revolution in Syria on social networking websites since the uprising in Egypt. But the real spark happened because of the brutality of the security forces.

In Deraa, officers arrested 15 elementary school children for writing slogans in their school against the regime.

At the beginning of the rising people were calling for reforms. But as the number of dead increases, their demands are becoming more militant.

Now we can hear the slogan, “People want to topple the regime” across Syria.

“We are going to pay a price whether the change happens or not. I prefer to pay the price now so the people can have freedom,” a friend in Syria explained.

Assad’s forces have demonstrated an ability to instil fear and act without humanity.

But the Syrian people’s hopes for a future free from repression, their bravery, their determination and their commitment to justice is just as strong. The calls for freedom will never die in Syria.


Filming the bloody truth

Syria’s official media is still denying what is happening on the ground. Despite this, scenes of state violence are being shared over social networking websites.

What happened in Albaida, a town near the city of Banyas, is a good example.

A short video, posted on YouTube a few days ago, shows armed police filming colleagues praising the president while beating protesters lying face down and tied up.

The government claimed the video was filmed in Iraq in the days of Saddam Hussein.

A number of activists then went back to the village, risking arrest, and filmed where the incident took place. They also interviewed people who were among the detainees.

Zaher Laham is a Syrian activist currently living in Britain


Article information

News
Tue 26 Apr 2011, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2249
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