SYRIA: Nation braces as anti-regime protests erupt and bloodshed continues
Syria plunged deeper into chaos and bloodshed Friday as adamant pro-democracy protesters took to the streets across the country in cities and towns including Homs, Lattakia, Amouda, Izram, Dara, Der Ezzor and Qamishli in mass protests that mark what protestors have called “Friday of Tribes.”
The theme of Friday’s protests means, “The clan is with every rebel,” activists explained. According to reports of eyewitnesses and activists, as well as video footage, harsh security measures have been taken to put a lid on the voice of dissent emanating from the streets Friday.
According to an activist in Homs, throngs of peaceful protesters were met with live ammunition by a security force that has remained by and large loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Tanks began to take position Wednesday night, preparing to stage mass arrests and assaults on thousands of demonstrators Friday, he said.
“It is unacceptable. I ask the Arab army of Syria to take a good look at what’s going on. They want to kill off their own people? Our army is supposed to protect us. Even animals have never been treated this brutally,” he said.
Security forces appear to be growing more brazen. In the video above, Syrian soldiers kick and stomp a blindfolded victim who is crying for help and wailing in pain in Bab Amr in the province of Homs a day earlier. Afterward the soldiers take a group picture standing on the backs of their victims.
“This is for asking for freedom,” said the soldier as he beat the victim. “You want to topple the regime? Here the regime is down. What else do you want? Tell me what freedom means to you?” asked the soldier.
Pan-Arab Qatari news station Al-Jazeera reported the death of two protesters in the southern town of Bousra al Harir, citing Reuters. As many as eight others were injured by live ammunition in the opposition stronghold of Dara, the scene of some of the most widely attended demonstrations on Friday.
The death toll is expected to rise as protests continue throughout the day.
In the video above, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters march through the streets of the northern town of Amouda, carrying banners and large Syrian flags.
“When the day comes and the people demand freedom, then their fate is to be free,” reads one banner, quoting a well-known Arab proverb that has become the motto of an uprising which has sent shockwaves through the region.
In another video, residents of the Damascus suburb of Kiswa huddle under fluttering Syrian flags demanding the end of the four-decade rule of the Assad family.
“We are not afraid anymore. This is our right. We have the right to demand democracy. If we can’t live a life where we can ask for basic human rights then what good is this life?” said an activist in Der Ezzor, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
Despite the lack of restraint Syrian security forces have demonstrated while dealing with protestors -- captured in a series of recent incriminating videos -- these rounds of Friday protests have swept across Syria.
-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut
Videos: Syrian soldiers assault civilian in Bab Amr; protesters take to the street in Amouda to participate in mass demonstrations Friday; anti-regime demonstrators march through the town of Kiswa. Credit: YouTube.