Anti-government protests slowly erupting in Syria

  @Gooch700 on March 18 2011 3:54 PM
File photo of Leading Syrian political activist Suhair al-Attasi
File photo of Leading Syrian political activist Suhair al-Attasi Reuters

At least two demonstrators have been killed by security forces at an anti-government protest rally in the town of Deraa in southern Syria.

However, a witness told Agence France Presse (AFP) that four people have died.

The witness said that several thousand demonstrators assembled in Deraa, chanting God, Syria, Freedom and anti-corruption slogans, accusing the president's family of corruption.

The security forces fired live bullets at the protesters, an activist told AFP, adding that hundreds of protesters had been wounded.

He also told AFP that many of the wounded were snatched by security forces from hospital and moved to unknown locales.

However, the state-controlled news agency Sana described the violence in Deraa as acts of sabotage which compelled prompting security forces to intervene.

The state news service further accused infiltrators of trying to provoke chaos through acts of violence which resulted in damage to private and public property.

Protesters have been demanding democratic political reform and an end to corruption in a country where public dissent is extremely rare.

President Bashar al-Assad, who ascended to power in 2000, succeeding his father, had earlier stated that Syria was not like Egypt or Tunisia and there was no chance of a political upheaval occurring in his country.

Assad’s Baath party has ruled Syria with an iron fist for fifty years. But it seems as though their grip on power may finally be loosening.

Earlier this week, about three dozen people were arrested in the capital city of Damascus for attending an illegal public protest.

About 150 Syrian marched towards the interior ministry, demanding the release of political prisoners.

There were also demonstrations reported in Aleppo.

Among those arrested included Tayeb Tizini, a 69-year-old Damascus university philosophy professor and author Tayeb Tizini, and Suhair Atassi, a prominent human rights activist.

They pulled Suhair by her hair and took her away, one demonstrator told Reuters.

Another activist Mazen Darwish was also detained then released. He told BBC he was held for five hours in the military security branch's detention centre with 20 other protesters, including women.

When I showed them my international press card they shouted and said 'Why were you standing among protesters and not among the journalists?', said Darwish, head of the Syrian Centre for Freedom of Speech.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights lamented after a long wait and rumors of an impending release of prisoners of conscience in Syria, our hopes have vanished.”

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