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» 03/17/2011
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
03/26/2011 SYRIA
On Facebook a call to rebellion across Syria
03/07/2011 CHINA
Police and helicopters to stop "jasmine revolution”. Beijing denies unrest
05/12/2011 YEMEN
Sanaa, overnight clashes between police and demonstrators. Ten dead
03/09/2011 MYANMAR
Yangon: regime pours funds into army and intelligence to block web protests
03/16/2011 BAHRAIN
Bahrain clamps down on revolt. At least two die in Pearl square

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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