» 03/17/2011, 00.00
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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