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SYRIA: Anti-government protests sweep Syrian cities [Video]

May 6, 2011 |  1:02 pm

Thousands of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Syria's major cities Friday in what they called a "day of defiance," chanting demands to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The southern town of Jassem, near where the 6-week-old protest movement started in the city of Dara, saw some of the largest protests Friday. A video posted online was said to show thousands of Syrians shouting, "The people will no longer be afraid," and "We sacrifice ourselves for you, Dara."

Dara has been under siege by government forces for almost two weeks. The Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies released a statement Friday alleging human rights abuses by Syrian troops and security forces in the city.

"The Syrian government is repeating the same actions and responses it undertook in 1982 during the Hama massacre. The government is collectively punishing Dara and other cities that are protesting against the Assad regime," said Radwan Ziadeh, the center's director. 

 Other videos posted online Friday were said to show hundreds of women and children taking to the streets in the Syrian capital, olive branches in hand.

Wissam Tarif, executive director of the Syrian human rights group Insan, reported at least three demonstrations Friday in Homs, where at least five people died and 17 were injured. Witnesses in Homs said they saw nine tanks and hundreds of soldiers in the Bayada and Bab Tadmur areas.

People said to be residents of Baba Amro in Homs can be seen in an online video chanting, "God is great" and "The people want to overthrow the regime." A narrator explains that protesters marched even as tanks encircled the city.

"Nothing will break our spirit," he says.

In the video, a person can be seen carrying a Tunisian flag, a reference to anti-government protests in that country that sparked the "Arab Spring" demonstrations. Another person carries a banner that says, "Homs says go" -- a message intended for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"The people of Homs are growing even more persistent and less fearful. There is no fear," said a Homs resident who asked not to be identified.

Between 700 and 1,000 demonstrators marched in the Midan area of central Damascus, Tarif said. About a dozen people were detained, including Riad Seif, a prominent opposition figure and activist, human rights officials said.

Both Ibn al Nafis and Sham Hospitals in Damascus treated people injured by gunfire during Friday's protests, Tarif said.

Despite mass arrests in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, hundreds reportedly marched Friday with signs that said "We sacrifice ourselves for you Dara, for you Duma, for you Muadamiya," while they chanted "Nothing can scare us."

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Video credit: YouTube