Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deaths as fresh protests rock Syria

3 articles

Deaths as fresh protests rock Syria
Syrian forces open fire on protesters; 16 killed
Morocco's uprisings and all the king's men

Deaths as fresh protests rock Syria

June 17, 2011 Al Jazeera

At least 16 killed as security forces open fire on anti-government
protesters across the country.

Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 16 people, including a
16-year-old boy, during fresh anti-government protests, activists said.

The Local Co-ordination Committee, a group that documents the
demonstrations, said nine people were killed in the central city of Homs,
two in Harasta, a suburb of the capital Damascus, and one in the northern
city of Aleppo, while a teen died in the southern village of Dael.

Fresh protests were also reported from Hama, Deraa, Der al-Zour, Jableh
and other cities after morning prayers on Friday.

An activist said security forces had opened fire on protesters in the
coastal city of Baniyas.

"There was intense firing to disperse the demonstrations in Baniyas and
there were casualties" among the protesters, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of
the London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, told the AFP news

Other activists reported that heavy machine gunfire had been heard in the
Bab Tudmor area in Homs, and witnesses said security forces had dispersed
a protest in Latakia.

Syrian state television reported that a policeman was killed and more than
20 were wounded when "armed groups" opened fire at them.

Six police officers were also wounded in the eastern town of Deir el-Zour
when gunmen attacked a police station there, the report said.

Tensions were also reported in neighbouring Lebanon, where about 200
people protested against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in the
northern city of Tripoli.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, the Lebanese capital, said
four people were killed in clashes that broke out amid the Tripoli

Army raid

Earlier, Mustafa Osso, a Syria-based rights activist, said a large numbers
of soldiers had entered the northern town of Maarrat an-Numan early on
Friday morning.

Omar Idilbi, another activist, said troops were in full control of the
town, which the army surrounded a day earlier along with nearby Khan
Shaykhun on the main north-south road linking Damascus and Aleppo.

The military action came as European Union officials confirmed they were
planning to add more firms and a dozen people to a list of targeted asset
freezes and travel bans that already includes President Assad and key

"France supports an expansion of the European sanctions against Syria to
economic entities," Bernard Valero, a French foreign ministry spokesman,
said, adding that Syrian banks and private firms linked to regime figures
could be hit.

Earlier, Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, appealed to the Syrian president to
halt the crackdown on demonstrations.

"I again strongly urge President Assad to stop killing people and engage
in inclusive dialogue and take bold measures before it's too late," he
said in Brazil on Thursday.

Makhlouf quits business

Friday's protests came a day after Rami Makhlouf, a businessman cousin of
President Assad and focus of popular anger, announced he was quitting
business and moving to charity works.

In a statement, Makhlouf said he took the decision to quit because he no
longer wants "to be a burden on Syria, its people and its president".

Makhlouf will channel his wealth into charity and development projects,
according to Syrian television.

"As for his businesses, they will be directed so that they ... create jobs
and support the national economy. He will not enter into any new project
that [brings] him personal gain," the report said on Thursday.

Makhlouf controls several businesses including Syriatel, the country's
largest mobile phone operator, duty free shops, an oil concession, airline
company and hotel and construction concerns, and shares in at least one

Under sanctions

State news agency SANA quoted Makhlouf as saying he will put his 40 per
cent holding in Syriatel up for sale in an initial public offering, with
profits allocated to humanitarian work and families of those killed in the

Offices of Syriatel were some of the first buildings to be torched by
demonstrators as protests first erupted in Deraa in mid-March, as the
company and Makhlouf are seen as symbols of Syria's widespread corruption.

Makhlouf has been subject to US sanctions since 2007 for what the US calls
public corruption, as well as EU sanctions imposed in May, but repeatedly
maintained he is a legitimate businessman whose firms employ thousands of

The announcement of Makhlouf's new plans was seen as a concession to the
opposition, as protests show no signs of losing strength despite the
brutal response from authorities.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and
police have been killed since the uprising began.

The latest focus of the crackdown has been in Idlib province in the
northwest, around the town of Jisr al-Shughur where authorities say 120
security personnel were killed earlier this month.

Military operations in Idlib province have prompted more than 9,000
Syrians to stream north across the border into Turkey. An official told
AFP that about 1,200 Syrians crossed into Turkey overnight Thursday to

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from the Altinozu camp, said
refugees sheltering there had staged a peaceful demonstration.

"They came out to make sure that the world does not forget them. They have
been chanting 'Down with the Assad regime', 'Stop killing our children',
'Allah, Syria, freedom, that's all we need'.

"But the point they are making even more than just the demonstration today
is they want the international community to act."

She said 200 refugees in Altinozu and the same amount in Yayladagi camp
had started a hunger strike to get the world's attention.

"They want the United Nations to act on behalf of the people of Syria.
They want Amnesty International and other human rights organisations to
investigate the disappearances, the killings, the destruction of

Thousands of people are also sheltering inside Syria close to the border.

Turkish officials are preparing to send food, clean water, medicine and
other aid to thousands more stranded on the Syrian side.

"We have taken precautions and humanitarian aid will be supplied for
around 10,000 people who are waiting on the Syrian side of the border,"
Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said after he met with an
envoy from Assad on Thursday.

He also reiterated Turkey's support for major democratic reform in Syria.

Syrian forces open fire on protesters; 16 killed

By ZEINA KARAM and ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY June 17, 2011 Associated Press

BEIRUT – Syrian security forces fired on thousands of protesters Friday,
killing a teenage boy and at least 15 other civilians as accounts emerged
of more indiscriminate killing and summary executions by the autocratic
regime of President Bashar Assad, activists said.

The three-month uprising has proved stunningly resilient despite a
relentless crackdown by the military, the pervasive security forces and
pro-regime gunmen. Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have
been killed and 10,000 detained as Assad desperately tries to maintain his
grip on power.

"What is our guilt? We just demanded freedom and democracy nothing else,"
said Mohamed, 27, who spoke to The Associated Press from a refugee camp in
neighboring Turkey where nearly 10,000 Syrians have fled.

Mohamed, who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of
reprisals, and other refugees offered harrowing accounts of the regime's

"I saw people who were beheaded with machine-gun fire from helicopters"
and a man tortured to death when security forces poured acid on his body,
he said.

He said a sugar factory in Jisr al-Shughour was turned into a jail where
they "hold quick trials and execute anyone who they believe participated
in protests." Jisr al-Shughour was a town that was spinning out of
government control before the military recaptured it last Sunday.

U.N. envoy Angelina Jolie traveled to Turkey's border with Syria on Friday
to meet some of the refugees, and she was greeted by a 45-foot-long
(15-meter) banner that read: "Goodness Angel of the World, Welcome" in
English and Turkish. Police prevented media coverage of the visit.

Assad is expected to give a speech as early as Sunday in what would be
only his third public appearance since the uprising began in mid-March,
inspired by the revolutions sweeping the Arab world.

The uprising has proven to be the boldest challenge to the Assad family's
40-year dynasty in Syria. Assad, now 45, inherited power in 2000, raising
hopes that the lanky, soft-spoken young leader might transform his late
father's stagnant and brutal dictatorship into a modern state.

But over the past 11 years, hopes dimmed that Assad was a reformist at
heart. Now, as his regime escalates a brutal crackdown, it seems
increasingly unlikely that he will regain any political legitimacy.

On Friday, a French official said the European Union was preparing new,
expanded sanctions that would target "economic entities" in Syria.

France, Britain, Germany and Portugal are also sponsoring a draft
resolution at the U.N. Security Council to condemn Syria. They say they
have the votes needed to pass it but want more support.

Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, told the Security Council in a
letter circulated Friday that the proposed resolution is based on
erroneous information and would intrude in Syria's internal affairs.

The resolution, he added, would help the "extremists and terrorists" he
blamed for the country's violence.

Despite widespread calls for an end to the crackdown, the country's future
is far from certain — particularly as there is no clear alternative to

Syria has a pivotal role in nearly every thorny Mideast issue. A staunch
Iranian ally, Syria backs the militant groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and
Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It has also provided a home for some radical
Palestinian groups and has exerted influence in neighboring Iraq.

Chaos in Syria, as a result, has wide implications on the region.

Syria has tried to exploit those fears, alleging that armed gangs and
foreign conspirators are behind the unrest, not true reform-seekers. In
what has become a weekly back-and-forth between activists and the
government, both sides offered divergent death tolls.

Syria's state-run TV said Friday that a policeman was killed and more than
20 were wounded when "armed groups" opened fire at them. It added that six
police officers were wounded in Deir el-Zour when gunmen attacked a police
station in the area.

But the Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents the
protests, and Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso told The Associated
Press that 16 people were killed, all of them civilians, citing witnesses
on the ground.

Nine people were killed in the central city of Homs, two in the eastern
town of Deir el-Zour and two in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, one in the
major northern city of Aleppo. A boy believed to be 16 years old, who was
in the streets protesting, and another person died in the southern village
of Dael, the Local Coordination Committees said.

It's impossible to independently confirm many accounts coming out of
Syria. Foreign journalists have been expelled from the country and local
reporters face tight controls.

Protests were reported across the country Friday, with tens of thousands
pouring into the streets of the central cities of Homs and Hama, the
southern villages of Dael and Otman, coastal cities of Latakia and Banias,
the Damascus suburbs of Qudsaya and Douma as well as the capital,

In the northeast, thousands marched in Amouda and Qamishli, chanting for
the regime's downfall, the Local Coordination Committees said. In the
southern village of Dael, activists said cracks of gunfire could be heard
at the center where a protest was held.

Also Friday, the Syrian unrest appeared to be spilling into neighboring

A senior member of a Lebanese political party allied with Syria, along
with two other civilians and an off-duty soldier were killed after gunmen
opened fire and lobbed a grenade near hundreds of people holding an
anti-Assad protest, a security official said in Beirut. At least 10 people
were wounded.

The conflict also has exposed sectarian tensions that have long bedeviled
this volatile region.

The Assad regime is dominated by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of
Shiite Islam, but the country is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.

Alawite dominance has bred resentment, which Assad has worked to tamp down
by pushing a strictly secular identity in Syria. But the president now
appears to be relying heavily on his Alawite power base to crush the
resistance, beginning with highly placed Assad relatives.


AP writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Selcan Hacaoglu in Guvecci, Turkey
contributed to this report.

Morocco's uprisings and all the king's men

Defiant demonstrators seeking democracy send a clear message against state
repression and police violence.

Emma Rosen Al Jazeera 05 Jun 2011

Thousands poured into the streets of Rabat on Sunday June 5 to condemn the
death of a protester and to demand an end to the country-wide government
crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

"We are here today to protest the murder of Khaled al-Amari," said a
40-year-old Rabat resident who did not give her name out of fear of the
authorities. "But we are also here because we demand dignity, democracy
and freedom. This repression must end."

Last Thursday, 30-year-old Khaled al-Amari, a member of Morocco's main
opposition group, died after reportedly suffering a severe beating at the
hands of police during a protest in the city of Safi. Officers deny that
his death was a direct result of police violence, despite eyewitness
accounts that he was severely beaten.

Protesters held pictures of Khaled al-Amari, an alleged victim of police
brutality, at a pro-democracy demonstration in Rabat [Emma Rosen]

Police violence against peaceful demonstrators in Morocco has exploded in
recent weeks, in what protesters say is a significant escalation of
government repression.

The swelling crowd proceeded from the Old City down Muhammed VI Avenue,
many holding pictures of Khaled al-Amari's beaten face. Protesters
chanted: "Down with despotism. We want freedom and dignity," and "peace,
peace, freedom is coming," as they made their way to parliament. At many
points in the march, protesters clasped each other's hands, sat down in
the street, or waved peace signs in the air.

"We are demanding democracy and dignity," declared Mohammed Aghmaj. "The
police are not being violent today because there was a martyr. But we know
they have been violent in the past," he said, referring to the relative
calm at the demonstration.

Coercing protesters and journalists

The protesters are part of what has been termed the February 20 Movement,
led largely by young people demanding pro-democracy reforms and an end to
government corruption and repression - as well as an end to poverty and
inequality. Launched on February 20 this year, the protests have swelled
in conjunction with the so-called "Arab Spring" protests and revolutions
sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. Gatherings continue regularly,
culminating weekly in coordinated demonstrations throughout the country.

Many believe that the recent escalation in violence is meant to quash mass
mobilisations before the July 1 referendum on reforming the constitution.
The referendum itself was a concession offered by King Muhammed VI to the
February 20 Movement protesters.

"Police have been given orders to break protesters' legs and heads," said
Mohamed Elboukili, from the Moroccan human rights organisation Association
Marocaine des Droits Humains ["Morrocan Association of Human Rights"].
"This is a very dangerous situation."

Police violence against protests in several cities throughout Morocco on
the past two Sundays have garnered international attention, with several
images of police beatings captured on video. "According to the law, police
must ask people to leave three times and give time for this," explains
Elboukili. "But the police don't do this. They charge and beat people. In
our opinion, this does not respect the right to peacefully demonstrate."

Police violence has been accompanied by a crackdown on journalists. Last
month, Al Jazeera was forced by the Moroccan government to cease broadcast
operations in Rabat, with a ban on all land and satellite transmitters.
Furthermore, Rachid Nini, editor of Morocco's el-Massa newspaper, who has
been outspoken against government corruption, was jailed for writing
articles critical of Morocco's security services and counter-terrorism
law. Amnesty International has condemned the jailing as "a severe attack
on freedom of expression". Last Wednesday, dozens of his supporters
gathered in downtown Rabat to demand that the government release him.

Protesters march in Rabat against the violent crackdown on demonstrations
[Emma Rosen]

The king's repressive tactics

The Association Marocaine des Droits Humains has received reports that
police have started paying house visits to protest organisers' homes,
telling them they should not attend protests. "Now they are intimidating
and watching people," says Elboukili. "The police are making their
presence known."

This approach contrasts sharply with police treatment of pro-monarchy
demonstrators on Sunday May 29. At midday, a pro-monarchy rally on
Muhammad V Avenue in front of the parliament chanted slogans supporting
the king, with many attendees holding his portrait. The crowd went
undisturbed by police, who hung back leisurely at the outskirts.
Journalists were allowed to roam freely, marking a drastic distinction
from February 20 Movement protests, where journalists covered
demonstrations at considerable personal risk from the police.

One attendee, a Rabat native in his mid-fifties who did not give his name,
explained: "This demonstration has a permit, unlike the other
demonstrations," in reference to mobilisations of the February 20

This comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia's invitation to Morocco to join
what has been termed the "club of kings", the Gulf Cooperation Council,
intended to protect the interests of monarchs against the "Arab Spring"
uprisings throughout the region. While Morocco is a constitutional
monarchy on paper, in practice, power is consolidated in the hands of the
king, who can nominate and dismiss the prime minister and cabinet,
dissolve parliament, and levy emergency powers.

Muhammad VI is a close ally of the United States, which exports arms to
the Moroccan government, reportedly to maintain its military occupation in
Western Sahara. Muhammad VI has attracted praise from the Obama
administration for his alleged moderation and embrace of democratic

"Things need to change in my country," said a 35-year-old Casablanca
resident who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This repression makes me
fear for my children. We need so many things, we need education and
freedom and an end to poverty. The people of Morocco are demanding change.
We will not tolerate this repression."

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