Friday, March 25, 2011

Syria protests: How secure is President Assad?

(BBC) - The unrest in Syria does not yet appear to have reached the crucial tipping-point which led to the downfall of the Tunisian and Egyptian rulers in January and February.

But neither the conciliatory measures announced on Thursday nor the security crackdown against protesters have succeeded in stifling dissent and defusing the crisis.

Funeral procession in Deraa - 24 March 2011
Trouble continued on Friday in the south of the country, with reports of 10 or more people killed in the town of Sanamein, near Deraa, the city that has become the epicentre of the current unrest.

An official Syrian report said those who died in Sanamein were part of an "armed gang" that had attacked the local popular army base. Other accounts said they were protesters shot by security forces as they tried to head for Deraa.

Defiance continued in Deraa itself, where a demonstration by thousands of angry people was dispersed by gunfire after they attacked a statue of the late President Hafez al-Assad, whose son Bashar assumed power on his death in 2000.

The al-Omari mosque, which was stormed by security forces on Tuesday night, was reported to be back in the hands of protesters after troops withdrew. The mosque has been the focal point of dissent in Deraa.

The incidents indicated that the measures announced on Thursday, some of them aimed specifically at reducing tensions in Deraa, have yet to produce results.

In the early stages of their doomed struggle for survival, the Tunisian and Egyptian leaders also blamed their troubles on outsiders rather than recognising that they had a home-grown problem”

There has been no information indicating a rapid follow-up on the announcements, including the formation of a high-level commission to investigate and take action on the city's grievances.

Protests in Damascus and other cities, on what activists had billed as a "Friday of dignity", appeared to involve hundreds rather than many thousands of people.  

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