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Activists: Merchants in Syrian souk call strike to protest killings

May 28, 2012 | 11:51 am

AMMAN, Jordan -- Merchants held a general strike Monday in the Hamidiyeh Souk, the oldest and main market of the Syrian capital, to protest the killings of more than 100 people in the town of Houla last week, activists and witnesses said.

The strike at the souk, which activists said was the first since the uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad began 14 months ago, spread to other areas of Damascus.

"The stores are closed and security forces are going insane," said an activist in the Syrian capital who requested anonymity for safety's sake. News of the strike reportedly spread quickly over social media.

A video, whose contents could not be independently verified, appears to show many of the shops in the souk closed to business.

"I got to the souk around 9:30 a.m.," one witness wrote on Facebook. "No store was opened. I asked what is happening, someone said, 'General strike.' First, I was shocked, I couldn't believe it. Is it possible that they finally woke up?"

Merchants in the capital have largely remained loyal to the government, though some provided money to aid Syrians displaced from their homes by the uprising.

"I came back around 11, I found army of officers removing the locks of closed stores in Bzouriyeh, store after store," wrote the witness, who identified himself only by the nickname Ibn al-Balad. "During approximately half an hour, they managed to vandalize more than 50 stores. Suddenly a fight started between shop owners and security forces in the beginning of Medhat Pasha street, beating and cursing."

"I had a gun pointed at me and a guy saying, go open your store. I told him that I don't have a store that I came to buy things," he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which supports the uprising against Assad, confirmed the protest and added: "Syrian security forces are forcing merchants to open their shops."

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--Rima Marrouch

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