Syria’s Protests Intensify
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 8th April, 2011
Syria saw its biggest pro-democracy demonstrations yet today, with the most bloody clashes with security forces happening in the southern town of Deraa, where unrest first broke out. According to Al Jazeera, up to 27 people were shot dead there today and many of the injured are too afraid to go to hospitals for treatment in case they are searched out by security forces. The government insists that unidentified masked gunmen were responsible for the killings, a claim rejected by protestors. The demonstrators want not only a lifting of the decades-long state of emergency — which was vaguely promised by the government last month — but also much greater political freedom. Though President Bashar Al-Assad is widely seen as less hardline than his late father, there has been widespread disappointment both in Syria and abroad that he has not ushered in more profound reforms, despite recent disturbances. There have been some counter-demonstrations in his favour; I witnessed young people gathering for one in the city of Tartus last week. But ever larger numbers are coming out on the streets to express anger at the government, perhaps inspired by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. However, yet again there seems to be a leader in a state of denial, like some of his counterparts in other Arab states blaming foreigners for the unrest. But the Arab awakening has definitely spread to Syria and the question now is who will blink first: the security forces or the protestors.