Syrian Kurdish leaders are accusing government security forces of firing on mourners during the funeral of a prominent Kurdish party leader Saturday in the northern town of Qamishli. At least five mourners were killed and three others wounded after shooting broke out during the funeral procession. This comes a day after opposition activists say 20 people were killed during demonstrations across Syria.
Crowds of about 50,000 mourners packed a central boulevard of Qamishli Saturday to protest the killing of popular political leader Mashaal Tammo. Witnesses claim Syrian security forces opened fire on the crowd at several points, causing casualties.
A son of the slain Kurdish leader spoke to Al Jazeera TV and accused “pro-government thugs” of the assassination. The official Syrian news agency SANA blamed what it called “armed terrorists” for the crime.
Anti-government protesters also toppled a giant statue of the late Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad, father of President Bashar al- Assad. A commentator on Syrian TV called the event an “affront to everything sacred,” saying the late president was “like a father or grandfather to all Syrians.”
Protests engulfed a number of towns in Syria Saturday following numerous demonstrations on Friday.
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, notes that the Syrian government has until now deliberately avoided using violence against the Kurds during the national uprising which began last March. The killing of Tammo, he argues, could signal a harsher stance:
He says that the Syrian government has crossed certain red lines if it did in fact kill Tammo or fire on funeral-goers, and this is also causing a strong Kurdish backlash. Until now, he adds, Kurdish participation in the Syrian uprising has been timid, and Kurdish leaders have avoided provoking the regime. But, he insists, Mashaal Tammo represented the aspirations of many Syrian Kurds, so his death is prompting an overt rebellion.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leader Souheir Atassi, in a video on an opposition website, insisted that the formation of the new opposition National Council in Istanbul has brought the fall of the government closer:
Arab satellite channels also reported that Syrian opposition leaders were meeting over the weekend in Cairo to elect more representatives to the new opposition council.