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Largest Ever Protests in Syria as Opposition Meets in Turkey (VIDEO)

Largest Ever Protests in Syria as Opposition Meets in Turkey (VIDEO)

Friday protests in Syria have become routine since residents of the southern city of Deraa first demonstrated following the arrest of a group of teenagers for writing anti-government graffiti. This past Friday was no different, with what some said were the largest protests yet since March. Significantly, protests also occurred in the capital of Damascus and its suburbs. Al Jazeera reports that at least 32 were killed on Friday and five more on Saturday, when tens of thousands attended funerals for those who died in clashes with security forces.

Also on Saturday, at least 400 members of the opposition, including both conservative Islamists and secular liberals, met in the National Salvation Congress in Istanbul and called for a campaign of civil disobedience to force President Bashar al-Assad from power. Activists in Damascus had planned to hold a conference at the same time, but had cancelled it after the violence the day before; they were able to participate in Saturday’s conference via telephone. Said Wael al Hafez, one of the conference participants:

“We want to raise the intensity of the peaceful confrontation by civil disobedience and to choke the regime economically and paralyse the state with the least damage.”

There was talk of forming a shadow government at the conference, but the idea was abandoned over concerns that it would “monopolise” the opposition. As the BBC reports, the Saturday meeting also “exposed divisions” among the opposition, with Kurdish activists “who have long complained about discrimination – pulling out” after saying they were marginalized by others and their issues ignored.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who is currently visiting in Turkey — which was once a close ally of Assad but has recently joined those calling for reforms — said:

“What’s happening in Syria is very uncertain and troubling because many of us had hoped that President Assad would make the reforms that were necessary.

“The brutality has to stop, there must be a legitimate sincere effort with the opposition to try to make changes.”

Earlier this week, Clinton had said that Assad has “lost legitimacy” and is “not indispensible.” On Monday, the US and French embassies in Damascus were attacked by pro-Assad supporters, a few days after both the US and French ambassadors had visited Hama where wide-scale anti-government protests have occurred amid calls for Assad to step down.

Also early last week, the Syrian government held a two-day “national dialogue” which many opposition figures refused to attend. The government continues to blame “armed gangs” for the violence — according to recent interviews with Syrian soldiers, BBC journalist Ian Pannell interviews Syrian soldiers, who say they have been ordered to fire on civilians.

The video below shows a protest in Deir Ezzor, site of some of Friday’s largest protests.

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Photo of mourners in Damascus taken earlier this year by syriana2011

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15 comments

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9:47PM PDT on Aug 5, 2011

Listen to what the people want and the people will listen to you.

2:23PM PDT on Jul 19, 2011

Syria's level of dictatorship is far more ruthless than either Mubarek was, or even Moammar Gaddhafi's is! Assad kills because this is what dictators do! Mubarek's soldiers refrained from killing as Assad's soldiers were shot for not following orders to kill. Gaddhafi is doing his "Mad Dog" routine. I believe if they left this dictator was alone, he would have been fine as a dictator. Instead NATO forces kill his son and grandchildren and he isn't supposed to go into a rampage and start killing?" We tend to villainize dictators and we should remember we do business with them all the time. I remember the American government illegally reditioned suspected Arabs to Syria as well as Egypt to have them beaten. This is an illegal act America has been a part of and a real violation of the Geneva convention. Torture is something still sanctioned by the United States, yet we are the first to demonize these dictators for what they do. Of course these are bad players. Gaddhafi's mistake was he didn't want to deal with the US and hated the IMF, and found ways of making his own wealth without comprimising to the IMF. Syria, unfortunately, like all those involved with the Arab Spring, has the worst, most ruthless of killers running the show!

3:40AM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

When the power goes to head these leaders stop thinking straight and that's the problem with Middle East leaders but quit hope full they will be able to solve the problem provided their is no out side interference as in the case of Libya Americans have made a mess of it destroyed the country and top of it arming rebel just because they do not like Gaddafi face and he do not take loan from IMF and world Bank people were happy their was no unemployment education was free food was cheap so they decided to destroy the country and kill its people WHAT A GREAT JOB just imagine if same thing happen to your country how your GOVT will react

4:33PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

You know, you woud think the Republicans in the USA would learn some lessons from the Middle East. You can surpress people's freedom unless you ultimately want a fight. What they have done since being the elected majority in the House is nothing more than surpressing women's rights.

The Syrians are showing great courage amid the brutality of the Assad regime.

12:40PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

A message to Syria: PLEASE, assemble yourselves, and form a political coalition. If Assad does fall, don't make the same mistakes the Egyptians did.

11:03AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Freedom is a powerful force.

10:19AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

The people are speaking. Will the world and their governments hear them?

9:07AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

The compulsion for Democracy is inherent.....

7:35AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Who's backing President Bashar al-Assad?

To all Syrians: I send you good thoughts and best wishes, and hope your struggles and sacrifices end in success!

5:17AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Thanks for the article. I hope that they don't need to protest for too much longer and that the regime will finally listen :(

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