Syria Facebook group drums for rallies

A Facebook page called for a rally in the city of Homs, north of Damascus.

Updated: Mar 19, 2011, 18:07 PM IST

Damascus: A Facebook page, one of the motors
behind an unprecedented string of protests in Syria, called
for a Saturday rally in the city of Homs, north of Damascus.

The Facebook group, which has called several days of
protest with different degrees of success disclosed the
location of the demonstration in advance, a bold gesture in a
country infamous for its tight grip on security.

"The rallies begin at noon in Homs at the Dalati mosque
and gathering points are the streets and souks there," read a
statement by The Syrian Revolution 2011 posted on the social
networking site.

The group, which also carries an Arabic version of its
title translating as "The Syrian Revolt against (President)
Bashar al-Assad," has almost 55,000 fans.

The fresh call for protests came one day after rights
groups reported that security forces killed four people and
wounded hundreds in a rally in the southern city of Daraa.

Demonstrations marking a "Day of Dignity" yesterday were
also reported in the coastal town of Banias and in Homs.

In Damascus, AFP reporters saw plain-clothes police
dragging away at least two activists who had apparently began
to chant "freedom" after prayer at the main mosque.

Syria`s state news agency SANA confirmed violence and
"acts of sabotage" had broken out in Daraa, where the killings
were reported, and said security forces had intervened to
control the situation.

An unofficial group that has dubbed itself "the March 15
revolution," after the first of four days of impromptu
rallies, posted today a statement on Facebook holding the
state responsible for the deaths.

"We also announce that we will continue our peaceful
protests to demand freedom ... and the release of prisoners of
conscience," it said.

The group also issued a call for protests in all Syrian
cities on Saturday at noon "in the souks, which will be

Small protests have erupted since March 15 in the Old
City of Damascus, demanding the release of political prisoners
and reforms in the country, amid a wave of popular uprisings
across the Middle East.

Syrian authorities on Thursday charged 32 activists with
attacking the reputation of the state, the Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights said.

The rights group said the 32 had been detained during a
rally the day before outside the interior ministry.

Human Rights Watch has confirmed the detention of 18
activists in Wednesday`s rally.

The UN has denounced the crackdown as "unacceptable"
while the US said it "strongly condemns" the violence.