Friday’s demonstrations in Syria have taken a deadly turn as security forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have reportedly shot and killed at least 25 protesters across the country, just one day after the regime lifted the emergency laws.
According to media reports, the bulk of the killings occurred in the city of Deraa in the south and in Douma, a suburb of the capital Damascus. Unconfirmed reports indicate other deaths occurred in Homs, the Barzeh district of Damascus and in Hirak, near Deraa.
BBC reported that some marchers demanded the overthrow of the Baathist regime which has ruled Syria since 1963.
SANA, the state-controlled news agency claimed government troops used tear gas to prevent clashes between protesters and citizens and protect public property and that some people had been injured.
Bullets started flying over our heads like heavy rain, a witness in Deraa told Associated Press.
Another witness in Douma told Reuters he helped to carry three wounded people who had bullet wounds on their legs.
A resident of Homs told the BBC she had heard shooting in the city.
The security forces are just dispersing the protesters using live bullets, she said.
There are more than 10,000 people. I've been speaking to some of them because I can't go out. It's very dangerous for me.
Security forces have also reportedly fired on crowds of protesters in the city of Hama in central Syria.
An Al Jazeera correspondent who is in Damascus, said of the demonstration there: It wasn't a big protest, and it was dispersed very quickly, but the security presence was very heavy. The level of violence has really escalated.”
Since most foreign media are banned from entering Syria, it is impossible to verify all the reports.
Anti-regime activists are obviously unimpressed with the small reforms that Assad has offered and some are now seeking the establishment of a truly democratic form of government, in addition to other demands, including the end of detention of protesters, an investigation into the deaths of demonstrators, and the release of all political prisoners.
All prisoners of conscience must be freed. The existing security apparatus has to be dismantled and replaced by one with specific jurisdiction and which operates according to law, said a joint statement of an umbrella of Syrian rights groups.
Haitham Maleh, president of the Syrian Human Rights Association, told Al Jazeera The government will not do anything, I think, and the [protests] will get bigger and bigger.”