At least 120 civilians were killed by the Syrian regime this weekend as the anti-government protests become stronger each passing Friday. The gross human rights violations have been decried by international human rights groups and spectators in the West, leaving many to openly wonder why the Obama administration will not undertake even non-military measures to denounce the violence — especially against a nation that is one of Iran’s closest allies and, likewise, a regional sponsor of terror.
The uprising that began in Daraa has now spread throughout Syria as protesters are now explicitly demanding an end to President Bashar Assad’s rule and even using the words, “regime change” in their chants. Over 120 protesters were killed by the security forces on Friday and Saturday who used live ammunition. The funerals for the dead have become primary targets. On Sunday, at least 9 people were killed in Jabla alone and dozens of democratic activists were arrested in raids on private residences by the secret police. This weekend’s events should put to rest any naïve notion that Assad is a “reformer” as Secretary Clinton said or that the lifting of the state of emergency is anything but an insincere political trick.
Demonstrators bravely turned out en masse despite the casualties over the previous week. In Deir al-Zour, a statue of Bashar Assad’s late brother was set on fire and destroyed. Protests took place throughout the country, including Homs, Izzra, Latakia, Banias, Qamishli and the capital of Damascus. On Saturday, four were killed as demonstrators seized a headquarters for state and military security. The protesters have vowed to continue their fight and some areas of Damascus are organizing a three-day period of civil disobedience when stores will close their doors. After citizens were shot by snipers in Jableh on Sunday, residents blocked a major highway going from Tartous to Latakia in retaliation.
“They [the protesters] say they cannot stop midway. Many of the activists we speak to who take to the streets, they tell us if they stop now, they know they’ll end up in jail…and they will not stop until there is a democratic Syria,” Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Damascus said.
As reported in FrontPage Magazine last week, the regime is looking at Homs, the country’s third largest city, as a severe threat. It has reportedly warned the Sufi sheikhs that the city faces destruction if the protests do not end. A massacre on the level of Hama in 1982 has not taken place but the city is under siege. Eyewitnesses say that the gunfire has resulted in empty streets as anyone seen outside is subject to arrest or attack. Security personnel still surround the city and the food supply is said to have been cut off.
Videos posted on the Internet show savage attacks by the security services on unarmed protesters but it is very difficult to get detailed information out of Syria since the regime has kicked out most foreign media. One reporter from Al-Jazeera was forced to exit the country on Saturday when the government would not renew his visa and threatened him with the “full force of the law” if he stayed. There are frequent reports that the families of those killed are being required to sign statements confirming their loved ones were murdered by “terrorists” or “armed gangs” before being given the bodies for burial. There are also accounts of burials being forced to happen at night to prevent funerals during the day that could become a rallying point for the opposition.