News / Middle East

Thousands Protest in Support of Syrian Army Defectors

Thousands Protest in Support of Syrian Army Defectors
Thousands Protest in Support of Syrian Army Defectors

Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets across Syria following Friday prayers, in what organizers are calling the "Friday of the Free Army."  The government crackdown goes on with the United Nations estimating that 3,000 people have been killed since protests began in mid March.   

Anti-government protesters carried banners calling for help from the international community and chanted slogans against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad across Syria Friday.  Videos on opposition websites showed demonstrations in more than a dozen towns and cities.

Activists say at least 11 anti-government demonstrators were killed after Syrian forces fired live ammunition at opposition rallies in areas that include Damascus suburbs.  However, Syrian government television showed video from several areas where it said there were no significant demonstrations after Friday prayer services.

The protests were called in support of the "Free Syrian Army" - hundreds of Syrian soldiers and officers who reportedly have deserted from the national army of 400,000 in recent months.

Friday's crackdown on dissent occurred the same day that U.N. human rights officials said the death toll from seven months of anti-government protests in Syria had topped 3,000.

About 100 people have died in the last 10 days alone.  U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Syria's violent repression of dissent could drive the country into full-blown civil war.

Peter Harling, who works for the Crisis Group in Damascus, says it's unclear whether Kurdish protesters will take to the streets in large numbers following the assassination of one of their top leaders last weekend:

"The big question today is to what extent the Kurdish population in Syria will join the protest movement.  Will it throw its lot in with the protest movement and go for broke, or show the considerable restraint it's shown over the past few months?" he asked.

Syria expert Joshua Landis, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma, says Syrians may soon face additional hardship from growing international sanctions.

"The economy is going to face, obviously, deep hardship as [economic] sanctions begin to bite in November on energy.  But sanctions are not the salvation for the Syrian opposition.  Economic sanctions are a form of collective punishment.  They will definitely help de-legitimize the government, but they're going to weaken the people as well, because it's the most vulnerable who get hit hardest by sanctions," he said.

Landis says he expects the Syrian army is not likely to break up, as the opposition hopes, because Syria's ruling elite belong to the minority Alawite sect, whose members form the backbone of the officer corps.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs