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SYRIA: Big cities remain ambivalent as regime brutality takes its toll

June 5, 2011 | 11:05 am

Syria-violenceWhile the regime of President Bashar Assad has cracked down on smaller cities in Syria, residents of the nation's large cities, including Aleppo and the capital Damascus, seem ambivalent about staging mass protests.

Syrians in some parts of the country have taken part in the uprising, with videos showing apparent brutality in the face of ongoing protests. In this graphic video, soldiers allegedly plant weapons on corpses in Hama near Karak mosque to support the story told by the regime and state news agencies that Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are behind the bloodshed.

But others feel that Assad’s government remains legitimate. Activists say that may be the result of religious pressure: "The regime uses clerics to justify their actions, and religious figures have an immense power to manipulate people in Aleppo and Damascus specifically," said one activist.

Activists say 89 people have been killed over the last three days.

"Military helicopters are shooting randomly on Jisr Alshghour city for half an hour now. There are news of 10 martyrs so far. The army was deployed next to the national hospital, and several tanks are heading to the city from the direction of Al Zawyeh mountain," a report produced by an activist network said.

According to Wissam Tarif, director of prominent human-rights organization INSAN, snipers deployed on rooftops in Idlib, Syria, have wounded 26 people.

"Residents there created a human shield to stop tanks from rolling on into Idlib," he said.

In the coastal city of Banias, army personnel were being pulled out and members of the security apparatus were taking over the checkpoints, Tarif said. 

Sunday was also the scene of the larget demonstration yet to be witnessed in Deir Ezzor as more than 60,000 protesters allegedly flocked to the street, activists reported.  

But as military offensives encompass various cities, entrenched support for the regime has not yet been uprooted. 

As turmoil continues in rural and suburban areas, the biggest cities of Damascus and Aleppo, which have benefited from the economic policies of the last decade, have remained relatively quiet.  

But for many in Damascus and Aleppo, fear rather than support keeps them from taking to the streets. 

"The level of oppression is inconceivable. Many protests are stopped even before they begin. Phones are tapped, and organizers are arrested before they can do anything," said an activist in Damascus who requested anonymity out of fear of punishment. 

Gradual and continuous indoctrination to support the 40-year-long rule of the Assad famly has made many docile, she said.

The Syria Conference for Change, which took place last week in Turkey, played its part in rendering a more formal opposition with clearly stated demands. 

Participants voiced their clear support of Syrian protestors in their effort so to overthrow the regime. They called on the president to step down and vowed that they would peacefully achieve democracy. 

According to Tarif, exiled Syrians together with other protestors are scheduled to gather in front of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Tuesday, to demand that the tribunal deliberate Assad's offenses. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Photo: Syrian security forces mock and allegedly plant arms on dead bodies in Hama. Credit: YouTube

 

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