Eid ul-Fitr marks end of violent Ramadan in Syria
Eid ul-Fitr is normally a festive time, but Syrian citizens say seven were killed today by security forces. The regime faces EU oil sanctions by week's end and weakening support at home.
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Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, may be a festive time for most Muslims. But Syria's regime has little to celebrate, with President Bashar al-Assad losing support from two key constituencies as Europe moves to finalize oil sanctions by the end of this week.
Today hundreds came out to protest in Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city and a bastion of support for Mr. Assad that has been largely silent in the five-month uprising – until now.
The tacit support of Aleppo, Damascus, and Syria's business community have often been cited in recent months as preventing the collapse of Assad's regime.
Now, with the uprising's death toll ticking past 2,200 and the European Union expected to impose oil sanctions in a matter of days – the latest in a string of Western embargoes – businessmen are feeling increasingly uneasy in Assad's Syria, according to Reuters. Regional trade has fallen by 30 to 40 percent, and investment and tourism revenue has dropped precipitously.
A Damascene industrialist who exports dairy products to Middle East markets said businessmen felt the security crackdown, in which 2,200 people have been killed, was hurting their interests.
"They are seeing the boat sinking and are starting to prepare to jump ship," he said.
The EU oil sanctions are expected to be the biggest economic hit yet to the regime, which is a key exporter of oil to Europe. The sanctions will force Syria to ship its oil further away for less money, but since the country had significant financial reserves at the outset of the uprising the sanctions alone are unlikely to bring down the regime, reports Reuters.
Assad's security forces have continued to crack down on civilians, even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that ends today with the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr.
Today six were killed in the southern province of Deraa and one was killed in the central city of Homs after security forces fired on worshipers leaving mosques, The New York Times reports. According to the Local Coordination Committees, a clearinghouse for Syrian opposition protests and activities, soldiers and plainclothes police were staked out near mosques to prevent people from praying. Mosques have been used as a rallying point in the uprising, making the Assad regime wary of allowing large numbers of Syrians to gather for prayer.
But increasingly, particularly since the fall of Tripoli, soldiers have opted to desert the Army rather than fire on protesters. Local Coordination Committees warned protesters in Syria against taking up arms against the Assad regime, as the protesters did in Libya, the Associated Press reports.