Syria set for today`s protests

Syrians were being urged to demonstrate on Friday to demand the release of hundreds of people imprisoned in a bloody crackdown on democracy protests, four months after they erupted.

Last Updated: Jul 15, 2011, 16:08 PM IST

Damascus: Syrians were being urged to
demonstrate on Friday to demand the release of hundreds of people
imprisoned in a bloody crackdown on democracy protests, four
months after they erupted.

Activists issued an appeal for protests to mark a day of
"freedom for the hostages" on The `Syrian Revolution 2011`
page of Facebook, which has been a driving force behind the
demonstrations.

The Facebook appeal called for nationwide demonstrations
"for the freedom of prisoners, for the dignity of free men"
today.

Like their cousins across the Arab world, Syrians have
adopted Fridays, when they are allowed to gather for the main
weekly Muslim prayers, as their main outlet for dissent.

The call came as the US ambassador to Damascus predicted
that if the Syrian regime does not quickly address protesters`
demands for reform, "the street will wash them away."

Since the protests began on March 15, violence has
killed 1,419 civilians and 352 members of the security forces,
while more than 1,300 people have been arrested, according to
the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Yesterday, security forces killed four people and
wounded 16 others when they fired on protesters in the central
city of Homs and the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, rights groups
said.

The mood was "tense, with residents observing a general
strike" in Deir Ezzor, said Abdel Karim Rihawi of the Arab
League of Human Rights.

State television, meanwhile, said gunmen in the western
flashpoint city of Hama, where about half a million people
have protested on the past two Fridays, had kidnapped two
members of the security forces and a student.

On Wednesday, security forces killed four civilians in
the Jebel al-Zawiya region of the northwestern province of
Idlib, where the army deployed two weeks ago to crush the
revolt, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian
Observatory.

His group reported a wave of arrests in the village of
Ramieh in the region yesterday.

Rihawi said security forces wielding batons dispersed
250 intellectuals and writers in Damascus`s Midan district on
Wednesday as they gathered, sang the national anthem and
chanted "God, Syria, Freedom."

Four people were arrested, he said.

PTI