Assad’s decision to use extreme violence on protesters is set to inflame the situation in Syria even further. Now funeral will lead to more protests and protests to more funerals.
Below: Stories of Massacres Foretold in Deraa, Homs and Latakia according to the latest eyewitness reports and videos.
Most major Syrian cities and town, and many smaller ones, witnesses major protests today, with an estimated 500,000 people taking to the streets today to demand freedom and an end to the Assad dynasty long and corrupt rule. At first things seemed to be going calmly, until security began trying to break up the protests using tear gas then life ammunition, leading to major casualties in Deraa, Homs, Latakia, and Harasta.
Meanwhile, and rather than taking a conciliatory tone, Ministry of Interior issued statement that, after touting the traditional line of infiltrators, agitators and foreign conspirators, stated that “there is no longer any room for complacency or tolerance in regard to the application of law, safeguarding the security of the homeland and its citizens, and protecting the general order.” This is in a way a reiteration of Bashar Al-Assad own statement in his speech last week, as the war of the Assads against their people continues.
Deraa: the protests began peacefully after noon prayers, as protesters held up in Al-Omari Mosque marched out, and protesters who gathered overnight in the nearby Saraya Square marched to meet them. Security forces tried to disperse the crowds first by using tear gas then by shooting directly into them killing 8 wounding dozens. After which, the protesters began throwing rocks at the officers and attacking their cars. Security forces then withdrew to the entrances of the City in an attempt to prevent arrival of the crowds from neighboring cities, but before they did 2000 motorcycles, each carrying 3 protesters, arrived into the city. The protesters immediately set about burning the headquarters of the Baath in the City and burned posters of Bashar Al-Assad as well as a statue of Bassil Al-Assad, Bashar’s late brother. At this stage, security forces arrived and began firing at the protesters, causing many fatalities. Meanwhile, a group of protesters tried to storm the headquarters of the political security apparatus but met with heavy gunfire that reportedly left dozens of dead. The figures are still murky, with conservative estimated putting the death toll at 40, while other reports spoke of a 100 or more, with over 500 wounded. We hope to get more accurate information tomorrow.
Earlier reports of army officers defecting seem now to refer to a small number of officers. Still, the phenomenon seems to have been noticeable enough for Syrian authorities to feel the need to call for backup from the all too quit Suweida Governorate, where the 5th Division is stationed. The troops arrived in time to take part in the second wave of crackdown that took place after the Afternoon prayers.
There is at least one confirmed report of an army officer getting shot by security for refusing to open fire on protesters. A number of eyewitnesses told this story with consistency in details.
Other towns and cities in the Deraa Governorate (AKA the Horan Province), including Jassem, Hara, Nawa and Sanamein witnessed major demonstrations of their own, but things seem to have gone more peacefully there, at least until people decided to send backup to help the inhabitants of Deraa City, the provincial capital.
The Jassem protests witnessed the participation of the noted Muslim scholar and long-time advocate of Islamic nonviolence, Jaudat Saeed, who addressed the crow and tried to inculcate a nonviolent tone into the protests. Mr. Saeed had appeared in the Douma protests as well, and seems to be travelling the country in an attempt to preserve the peaceful character of the protests, as we enter into a new and critical phase of confrontation.
Homs: over 100,000 protesters marched through different parts of Homs today, and had it not been for security barricades preventing people from coming from out of town, and shutting down certain neighborhoods, the number could have exceeded 150,000. Protesters emerged after the Noon prayers from Mosques and alleys in Al-Bayyadah, Insha’at, Rashidi Mosque and other areas. The nearby town of Hawleh also witnessed major protests as it continues to be under effective military blockade. Security officers tried to disperse the crowd by using teargas, water cannons, then, by live rounds into the crowd. May fatalities have been reported, 2 have been confirmed. But figures will likely be revised upward tomorrow.
Latakia: demonstrations in Latakia turned violent only in the afternoon, when a group of protesters surrounded the dwelling of Kamal Al-Assad, a cousin of Bashar, whose gangs eventually opened fire on the protesters and threw hand grenades. Forty are reported dead. There are reports that the protesters were caught in the crossfire between two Alawite gangs, those of Kamal, and some of his rivals, in a continuation of the problems that began days ago in the villages in the Alawite Mounts.
After the protests, armed gangs roamed the streets of conservative Sheikh Dhaher neighborhood, shouting “Sunnis, we want your daughter, and we will send your sons to heaven” attempts at stoking sectarian fires and use of violence have been one-sided so far, not only in Latakia but throughout the country. This remains Assad’s trump card, and he sees bent on using it.
Qamishly: the participation by Kurds in Friday’s protests , the largest so far, comes less than 24 hours after Assad announced decree granting Syrian citizenship to denaturalized Kurds. There are 300,000 denaturalized Kurds, it’s not clear if citizenship will be granted to all of them, since official estimates put the number at 75,000-100,000.
Be that as it may, Kurds have other demands that have not been address including cultural rights, land rights, greater share of the national budget, constitutional recognition of Kurds as constitutional component of Syria on par with Arabs, and a measure of political autonomy. By making their largest participation in the demonstration since the beginning of the revolution on March 15, Syria’s Kurds were sending a strong message to Assad that their loyalty is not for sale.
Kurds in other cities, especially Amoudeh, also made their sentiments felt: they’re interested in freedom, not just nationality, as many of the banner they carried said.
Below are Videos from other cities, towns and suburbs selected from virtually hundreds of clips that were sent. They should help give an idea as to the extent of the protests, and why we can assert that over 500,000 people were marching in the streets of Syria today, demanding their freedom and an end to Assad rule.