Syria next? I'm so saddened by the gov't just killing people all over. I remember how beautiful and peaceful Lattakia was, and other amazing historical places like the Ummayad Mosque, which are now such scenes of violence.
Syria's regime does not play around. There really is no pressure on them from the Western world like with threats of taking away foreign aid. So what incentive do they have not to treat their civilians like non-humans and expendable in order to oppress and supress?? Why do people have to die for change to be brought about?? So sad...
In Syria, Tension and Grief After Protests and Official Retaliation
New York times
CAIRO — Attacks against offices of the ruling party in southern and western Syria erupted on Saturday, as mourners buried the dead and President Bashar al-Assad tried to promote calm by ordering the release of as many as 200 political prisoners.
After more than a week of protests and 61 confirmed killed by government forces, there appeared no certain path forward for protesters, who had also erupted in angry demonstrations around the country on Friday, or for the government, which has offered words of compromise while simultaneously unleashing lethal force.
“People are afraid,” said a prominent religious leader from a community at the center of the conflicts, who is not being identified to protect him from reprisal. “People are afraid that the events might get bigger. They are afraid there might be more protests.”
On Saturday, two demonstrators in the coastal city of Latakia were killed after protesters set fire to the local headquarters of the ruling Baath Party. Ammar Qurabi, the chairman of the National Association for Human Rights, cited two witnesses who said they saw special forces open fire into a crowd.
In the southern village of Tafas, near the protest movement’s epicenter in Dara’a, mourners also set fire to the local Baath headquarters.
One Latakia resident reached by telephone said 10,000 to 15,000 antigovernment protesters from the city and surrounding villages, some armed with knives, machetes and clubs, had taken to the streets. “The demonstrations have been peaceful, but after the violence yesterday protesters brought weapons,” the resident said.
The sun rose over a landscape of grief as mourners set out for funerals in the southern towns of Sanamayn and Dara’a; in Latakia; in the central city of Homs; and in the suburbs of Damascus. In each place, demonstrators had been killed hours earlier, shot by government forces in the most violent government oppression since 1982, when the leadership killed at least 10,000 people in Hama, a city in the north.
Exact numbers of the dead are hard to determine, as the official government news service denied the authorities’ culpability in new reports blaming criminal gangs.
“In some villages there were 10 or 15; in some villages there were around 20 or more than 20,” the religious leader said.
The protesters, he said, want “freedom and their rights; they were making demands from the government for things to get better here and for an end to the state of emergency.”
Pro-government demonstrators were out, as well, in Damascus, where about 200 people drove around the city on Saturday evening in a convoy of cars, trucks and minibuses. They carried portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and his father, former President Hafez al-Assad, and chanted “We are national unity” and “With our soul and with our blood, we will redeem you, Bashar.”
Speaking to BBC Arabic, a government spokeswoman, Buthaina Shaaban, denied that government forces had opened fire on protesters, blaming instead foreigners and an armed group of villagers. “We arrested outsiders in Syria charged of opening fire on the crowd,” she said. “They stole weapons. The authorities did not shoot protesters but an armed group from Sanamayn.”
There have been protests around Syria since the start of the tumultuous movement for change that has shaken the Arab world with peaceful protest and conflicts approaching civil war. But the political crisis blew wide open about a week ago when demonstrators took to the streets in Dara’a after the police arrested a group of young people for scrawling antigovernment graffiti, hauling them away without notifying their parents.
Syria is a resource-poor nation with great strategic regional influence because of its alliances with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and its location bordering Israel, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. But it also struggles with a fragile sense of national unity amid sectarian tensions between its rulers, all members of the minority Alawite religious sect, and a Sunni majority. It also still clings to a pan-Arab Baathist ideology.
“The events are developing and succeeding each other rapidly all over Syria,” Abdel Majid Manjouni, assistant chairman of the Socialist Democratic Arab Union Party in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, said in a telephone interview. “They are going from city to city, and the ruling party is not being successful in its attempt to block the protests or the demands for democratic change in the country.”
The Syrian crisis has in many ways followed a similar course as those in Tunisia and Egypt, which ended with the resignation of the presidents.
In Syria, there have not yet been widespread calls for the president’s departure, though as the anger mounts in the wake of the deaths, that view has started to emerge.
“I am calling him to go to the television,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, a childhood friend of the president’s now living in the United Arab Emirates. “The people still respect him; first, he must deliver his condolences face to face to the people. No. 2, he must say there will be a multiple party system, a free parliamentary election in two months from now.”
Mr. Qurabi, the chairman of the human-rights group, said that in all, more than two dozen were killed on Friday, including 20 in the tiny southern village of Sanamayn, 4 in Latakia, 3 in Homs and 3 in the greater Damascus area. Mr. Qurabi blamed live ammunition for all of the deaths on Friday, although details for much of the violence in Syria remain unclear.
“The protest in Sanamayn was very, very, very big,” said Mr. Qurabi in a phone call in Cairo, where he is now attending a conference. “They killed them in the streets because there is not even really a square for the people to protest in.”
Those in Syria were far more reluctant to speak, including one young man who said he had been detained by the police for three days after talking to the news media. “I was talking about the news of the protest with some reporters,” he said in a phone call to Damascus. “The police came for me at about 11:15 on Tuesday morning and took me off the street in front of my house. My phone calls are monitored, and I don’t want to say anything over the phone.”
An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.