Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Syria protests continue despite crackdown

I''ve shared this info on Syria before, but here it is again:
Syria officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.

The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.

The population of Syria is 74% Sunni Muslim, with a 12% Shia and Alawite Muslim population, 10% Christian and 3% Druze. Combined, some 86% of the Syrian population is Muslim, which largely includes Arabs and significant minoroties of Kurds and Circassians, while some 10% are Christians, which mainly includes ethnic Assyrians, but also Arab Christians and Armenians. The ethnic minorities include Kurdish (9%), Assyrian/Syriac, Armenian, Turkmen and Circassian populations, while the majority is Arab (90%).

The modern Syrian state was established as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–1970. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1962–2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic. Bashar al-Assad is the current president, and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office since 1971. Syria is currently facing massive protests as part of the Arab Spring.

From Aljazeera: Syria protests continue despite crackdown
Anti-government protesters continue to take to the streets across Syria, despite reports of deaths and arrests as the military cracks down on demonstrators.

Rallies were staged in several locations after night prayers on Tuesday, including in Homs, Albu Kamal near the Iraqi border, Binnish in the north and in some Damascus suburbs.

Meanwhile, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activist network, reported that at least two people had been killed in the coastal city of Latakia, where the military kept up an assault for the fourth straight day. One of the victims was a 13-year-old boy shot dead by a sniper, they said.

Rights group Avaaz said it had the names of nine people killed in the city, but the death toll was not confirmed by other activists, who said 36 people have been killed there since Saturday.

A resident of the al-Ramel al-Janoubi neighbourhood, who called himself Ismail, told Al Jazeera earlier in the day that gunboats and tanks had used in the assault. He said snipers were stationed around the city, shooting at anyone who ventured into the streets.

"What's happening is really severe ... The moment they see anything moving they will shoot it," he said.

Troops raided and destroyed houses in several neighbourhoods while gunfire could be heard, residents said.

"The heavy machine gun fire and bullets were intense in areas of Latakia, Ramel, Masbah al-Shaab and Ain Tamra for more than three hours," said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The group said soldiers raided the Sqanturi area and made dozens of arrests.

'Waking up to gunfire'
"We have become used to sleeping and waking up to the sound of gunfire every day. The shooting usually comes from security forces based on rooftops of the surrounding schools," Yamam Alsham, from Al-Slaibeh suburb, told the AFP news agency.

The UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees in Latakia said that thousands of refugees have fled their camp which reportedly came under fire after President Bashar al-Assad's forces began shelling the city.

A forgotten population has become a disappeared population because we have no idea of the whereabouts of as many as 10,000 refugees who fled Latakia over the last few days,'' said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

A senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation condemned the violence used against Palestinian refugees.

"The shelling is taking place using gunships and tanks on houses built from tin, on people who have no place to run to or even a shelter to hide in," Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO secretary general, told the Reuters news agency.

"This is a crime against humanity."

The assault on Latakia has drawn sharp Arab and international condemnation.

"The regime's violence continues despite widespread condemnation by the international community. The calls for the violence to stop, including from Syria's neighbours, have not been heeded," British Foreign Minister William Hague said in a statement.

Assad "is fast losing the last shreds of his legitimacy. He must stop the violence immediately," Hague said.

'Internal affair'
Western diplomats said the United Nations' top human rights body is likely to hold an urgent meeting next week to discuss the escalating crackdown in Syria, according to the AP news agency.

Diplomats from two of the Human Rights Council's 47 member countries said they have collected enough signatures to call for the special meeting as early as Monday. Signatures so far include at least one Arab nation, AP said.

Syria's key regional ally Iran warned on Tuesday that any Western intervention in the "internal affairs" of Damascus would stoke "public hatred" in the region.

Meanwhile, dozens of army vehicles were seen leaving the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor on Tuesday after a military operation that activists said has left 32 people dead since troops seized control of the city last Wednesday.

Syrian state television said the army had crushed "armed gangs" in the city, and aired footage of residents cheering the departing troops.

But only hours later, the SOHR reported that one person was killed when security forces opened fired to disperse an anti-government protest in the city where "hundreds of people" marched in Takaya street.

Residents said tanks were still present at the outskirts of Deir ez-Zor and that troops were raiding houses looking for wanted dissidents.

LCC also reported some arrests in the Damascus suburb Arbeen, and in the capital's Palestinian Yarmouk neighbourhood, where residents had been marching in solidarity with the Palestinian camp in Latakia on Tuesday.

The crackdown has escalated since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan, when nightly prayers became the occasion for more protests against Assad and 41 years of Baathist rule.

Al Jazeera cannot independently verify reports from Syria because of restrictions on reporting in the country.

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