Monday, June 06, 2011

Funerals held for killed Syrian protesters

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press – June 4, 2011

BEIRUT – Thousands-strong funeral processions filed out of mosques and
past closed shops in the central Syrian city of Hama on Saturday, as
mourners buried dozens of protesters shot dead by security forces a day

A Syrian human rights activist increased Friday's death toll among
protesters to 63, up from an initial count of 48. Most of the dead were
killed in Hama after troops opened fire on crowds.

Mustafa Osso also said Saturday that the Internet had been mostly
restored, a day after authorities shut it down.

At least 1,270 people have been killed since an uprising against President
Bashar Assad's regime began in mid-March, according to the Local
Coordination Committees, which helps organize and document Syria's

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that at least 48
people were killed in Hama, which has become a new center for protest and
violence. In 1982, the Syrian regime heavily bombed the city to crush an
uprising, killing thousands.

After noon prayers, tens of thousands of people streamed out of mosques
carrying coffins of the dead and headed toward the two city's main
cemeteries, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the rights group's director.

Friday's protests appeared to be the biggest since the uprising began,
with people gathering in ever larger numbers in cities and towns across
the country, Abdul-Rahman said.

Hama residents said most shops were closed to protest the shootings.

"People are in a state of shock," a resident, who spoke by telephone, said
on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals. "God knows
whether they will kill more people during the funerals."

Witnesses' reports could not be independently verified. The Syrian
government has severely restricted the media and expelled foreign
reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify what is
happening there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said authorities released a
leading opposition figure Saturday. Ali Abdullah of the Damascus
Declaration Group had been jailed since 2007.

Authorities have released hundreds of political prisoners this week after
Assad issued a general amnesty Tuesday.

Assad also created a committee that he said would pave the way for a
national dialogue in an attempt to end the uprising, which is posing the
most serious challenge to the Assad family's 40-year rule. What began as a
disparate movement demanding reforms has grown into a resilient uprising
seeking Assad's ouster.

Assad has invited officials from 12 outlawed Kurdish parties to meet him,
said Mohammed Moussa of the Kurdish Leftist Party, whose group was
invited. He said the meeting is expected in the coming days.

Such a move would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. Assad
granted citizenship two months ago to stateless Kurds in eastern Syria —
aimed at addressing protesters' grievances.

About 1.5 million of Syria's 22 million people are Kurds. Syria's Kurdish
minority has long complained of discrimination.

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