Syria protests escalate, but could revolt really take root?
Syria protests continued for a third day in Deraa with security forces reportedly using tear gas and firing live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. Eyes are now turning to the restive Kurdish population.
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Other protests broke out around Syria last week including in Banias on the Mediterranean coast, Homs, and Deir ez-Zour in the east.Skip to next paragraph
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What protesters want
The demands of the protesters include repealing the Emergency Law adopted in 1963 when the ruling Baath Party took power, the release of political prisoners, free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, and urgent economic reforms to revive the flagging economy and soaring unemployment and poverty rates.
Syrian activists have used Facebook to spread news and organize fresh protests, including tips on what clothing to wear to protect against tear gas and batons. Posted on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, a five-step plan for holding a protest recommended the chanting of “positive” slogans and to gather in narrow alleys and crowded markets.
And a video widely shared on Facebook and Youtube – newly open in Syria – shows a montage of police beatings in Syria and Turkey during previous Kurdish National Days. At the end of the video, the word “enough” flashes across the screen.
Analysts say it is too soon to say whether the protests will escalate into a real threat to the regime or simply fizzle out. Much depends on the will of the population to proceed with the protests and also on the response of the regime.
“The Syrian regime is very clever in tactics and in playing games on society,” says Ayman Abdel-Nour, a prominent Syrian activist who lives in Dubai and authors the all4syria website. “These two elements will determine the size of the revolution and to where it can go and to what it can reach.”
Syrian forces deployed to Kurdish northeast
So far, the Syrian authorities have responded with a blend of appeasement and brute force. An investigation has been promised into the shootings of demonstrators in Deraa, the arrested teenagers are to be released, and a top-ranking government delegation was due to visit Deraa on Sunday to pay condolences to the families of the dead.
But the security forces continued to crack down heavily on Sunday with reports of at least one demonstrator killed.
On Monday, eyes will turn to the northeast corner of Syria, home to the majority of Syria’s traditionally marginalized Kurdish population. Syria’s Kurds have a history of rebelling against the regime. The last serious uprising was in March 2004 when dozens of Kurds were killed by Syrian security forces and hundreds subsequently detained.
Human rights sources said that the Syrian military has deployed in force in Qamishly, a town nudging Syria’s northern border with Turkey and the scene of past unrest. The Syrian government is reported to have distributed millions of Syrian flags to be displayed during tomorrow’s events.