(salon.com) Violence escalates as tens of thousands call for end to Assad regime
The death toll from two days of violence in Syria reached 120 Saturday as security forces fired on tens of thousands of mourners who shouted for the regime’s downfall during funeral processions, a human rights group said.
The mounting death toll prompted two Syrian lawmakers to resign in disgust over the killings. More than 300 people have been killed since the uprising against autocratic President Bashar Assad began more than five weeks ago.
The lawmakers, Nasser Hariri and Khalil Rifai, are from the southern region of Daraa that unleashed the protest movement in mid-March after teenagers were arrested there for scrawling anti-regime graffiti on a wall.
“If I cannot protect the chests of my people from these treacherous strikes, then there is no meaning for me to stay in the People’s Assembly. I declare my resignation,” Hariri told Al-Jazeera in an interview.
The resignations were exceedingly rare in Syria, where nearly all opposition figures are either jailed or exiled.
Ammar Qurabi, the head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, said 112 people were killed Friday and at least eight on Saturday. Friday was by far the deadliest day of the uprising.
But the bloodshed so far has only served to invigorate protesters whose demands have snowballed from modest reforms to the downfall of Assad. Each Friday, growing numbers of people in multiple cities have taken to the streets despite the near certainty that they would come under swift attack from security forces and shadowy pro-government gunmen known as “shabiha.”
The heavy security crackdown on Friday and Saturday came after Assad warned a week ago that any further unrest would be considered “sabotage” after he made the gesture of lifting long-hated emergency laws, a step he ratified on Thursday.
It was a clear sign that regime was prepared to escalate an already bloody response, with nearly 300 already dead in more than five weeks.
The increasing bloodshed has drawn international condemnation.
In Washington on Friday, President Barack Obama condemned the latest use of force by Syria against anti-government demonstrators and said the regime’s “outrageous” use of violence against the protesters must “end now.”
Unrest was reported Saturday in Douma, a suburb of the capital, the southern village of Izraa and the nearby village of Sheikh Miskeen. The witness account could not be independently confirmed because Syria has expelled journalists and restricted access to trouble spots. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“They prevented us from continuing our way to the cemetery,” said the witness in Douma, who said he was among at least 50,000 people taking part in the funerals there.
BY BASSEM MROUE, ASSOCIATED PRESS