Syrian protesters call more demos

DAMASCUS — A Facebook group called for mass protests across Syria on Friday, piling pressure on President Bashar Al Assad’s regime as it faces international censure for violently crushing dissent.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 28 Apr 2011, 3:55 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:17 AM

“Friday of Anger, April 29, in solidarity with Daraa,” says a notice on the Syrian Revolution 2011 page of Facebook, a motor of the protests in which demonstrators inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world are seeking greater freedoms.

“To the youths of the revolution, tomorrow we will be in all the places, in all the streets ... we will gather at the besieged towns, including with our brothers in Daraa,” said the statement posted online on Thursday.

“We will not leave Daraa isolated,” it said, adding demonstrations would also be staged in other flashpoint towns such as Homs in the centre of the country and Banias in the northwest.

Syria has been rocked since March 15 by increasingly strident pro-democracy demonstrations that have shaken Assad’s once uncontested rule.

The authorities have resorted to violence to crush the uprising, with human rights activists listing at least 453 civilians killed by security forces across Syria in the past few weeks.

On Monday, between 3,000 and 5,000 troops backed by tanks and snipers swept into Daraa, the epicentre of the protests 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Damascus, and took over the town.

According to human rights activists, more than 30 people have been killed in the military assault on the agricultural town near the Jordanian border.

Syria’s opposition has warned Assad that he would be toppled unless he ushered in democratic reforms, although the UN Security Council failed to agree on a condemnation of the violence.

In a fresh blow to the regime, 233 members of Syria’s ruling Baath party announced their resignation in protest at the deadly crackdown on protesters, according to lists seen by AFP.

“The security services have demolished the values with which we grew up. We denounce and condemn everything that has taken place and announce with regret our resignation from the party,” they said in a signed statement.

Baath party signatories from the Banias region condemned “the house raids and the indiscriminate use of live fire against people, homes, mosques and churches.”

On the international scene, influential US Senator John McCain said Assad has “lost his legitimacy” and called for UN sanctions to force him to halt attacks on his people.

“I obviously think he has lost his legitimacy. He has ordered his army to fire on his own people, and yes I think he should leave,” the senator said in Paris.

Russia on Thursday called on its Middle East ally to conduct a thorough probe into those responsible for killing civilians.

“We expect Damascus to conduct an effective and transparent probe into excesses that resulted in the loss of life,” ITAR-TASS quoted foreign ministry spokesman Alexei Sazonov as saying.

He added that Russia expected “the guilty to be brought to responsibility.”

The Security Council, however, failed to agree on a statement condemning the killing of Syrian protesters, diplomats in New York said. After talks ended in deadlock, Western nations called for an immediate open meeting.

France called for “strong measures” if Assad rejects appeals to end violence. The United States said Assad must “change course now” and end the use of tanks and guns.

Russia and China blocked the statement proposed by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal that would have condemned the violence and backed calls for an independent investigation.

The European Union, meanwhile, is mulling sanctions and the UN human rights body has called for a special session in the wake of the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

The newly formed National Initiative for Change (NIC), an umbrella group of more than 150 opposition activists in Syria and abroad, warned Assad to institute real democratic reforms or risk “violence, chaos and civil war.”

The embattled president on Thursday last week scrapped nearly five decades of draconian emergency rule and abolished the repressive state security court in a bid to placate the protesters.

Testing his promised reforms, they staged protests across Syria the following day, demanding an end to the Baath’s grip on political power, the release of political prisoners and the right to protest freely.

However, the security forces cleared demonstrations with tear gas and live rounds, with more than 100 people reported killed and hundreds arrested.

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