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    » 03/17/2011, 00.00

    SYRIA

    Democracy protests in Damascus and Aleppo, the first in decades



    Hundreds of people gathered through a Facebook appeal, marched against the regime. At least six arrests and clashes with pro-government demonstrators. A video of the event shows a rare example of dissent in the country.

    Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Ripples of the "jasmine revolution" have also reached Syria. On March 14 and 16 demonstrations against the regime of Bashar al-Assad were held in Damascus and Aleppo. A video shows about two hundred demonstrators gathered after noon prayers in the central district of the Hamidiya, near the Umayyad Mosque, the largest mosque in the city, the former Christian cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

    Demonstrators march in time clapping and chanting slogans such as, "God, Syria, freedom: that's enough," and "peaceful, peaceful". This slogan is a song that has rung out repeatedly in recent weeks during protests that have rocked the Islamic world from Morocco to Yemen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVueUaPrUbQ&feature=player_embedded ). A voice in the background says: " This is the first obvious uprising against the Syrian regime ... Alawite or Sunni, all kinds of Syrians, we want to bring down the regime".

    Syrian security in plain clothes, intervened almost immediately, dispersing the demonstration. At least 35 people were arrested among protesters outside the Ministry of Interior, demanding the release of anti-regime activists detained without trial. Among them a child of 10, university professor Tayeb Tizini and well-known human rights activist, Suhair Atassi, who was grabbed by the hair and dragged away.

    Soon after there was a counter-demonstration in favour of the regime. The pro-democracy seems demonstration to have been organized by a group created on Facebook, which is called " The Syrian revolution against [President] Bashar al-Assad 2011".

    Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as president in 2000. He had said a few weeks ago there was the possibility that the "jasmine revolt" would also involve the country, which has been ruled by the Baath Party since 1963.

    The regime is considered one of the most repressive in the Middle East. The political opposition has virtually no room to manoeuvre, the media are tightly controlled, and the "Mukhabarat”, security services are ever-present in society. Currently, 13 political prisoners have been on hunger strike against the oppressive regime in force in the country.
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    See also

    26/03/2011 SYRIA
    On Facebook a call to rebellion across Syria
    The appeal was issued today after the violent repression of demonstrations in Deraa, claiming the lives of 25 people. In Damascus, dozens of arrests during a demonstration in support of the martyrs. Protests also in Homs, in the west.

    07/03/2011 CHINA
    Police and helicopters to stop "jasmine revolution”. Beijing denies unrest
    Tens of thousands of police have patrol squares and malls for fear of riots. Dozens of journalists arrested. The foreign minister denies that there is an emergency and that journalists were beaten. Ye Xiaowen and media campaign against attempt to imitate the Arab countries. The appeal to Protestant Christians to join the protest.

    12/05/2011 YEMEN
    Sanaa, overnight clashes between police and demonstrators. Ten dead
    Security forces opened fire on demonstrations calling for reform and democracy, after a day of general strike. The talks to end the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh are at a stalemate. Grave economic situation of the country.

    09/03/2011 MYANMAR
    Yangon: regime pours funds into army and intelligence to block web protests
    The junta is concerned that the "Jasmine Revolution" will also spread to Myanmar. National Bureau of intelligence, closed in 2004, is reopened. 20% of the 2011/12 budget for military spending, only crumbs for education and health. AsiaNews sources: the people are too busy trying to survive to even imagine a mass uprising.

    16/03/2011 BAHRAIN
    Bahrain clamps down on revolt. At least two die in Pearl square
    The ruler of the small state declares three months of national emergency after the arrival of military forces from Saudi Arabia and UAE. Riot police attack the protesters camp in the capital, and evacuate the commercial centre, the scene of clashes on March 12. The government closes the stock exchange, schools and universities.



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    The first meeting in centuries between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow took place in a relaxed and fraternal atmosphere. Two hours of private talks were followed by the signing of a Joint Declaration. As he thanked Raul Castro, the pope said, "If things continue like this, Cuba will be the capital of unity." Both leaders are committed to defending Christians around the world and support "the foundations of morality, the family and the person".


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