Anti-Gaddafi vigil is latest demo to hit the Syrian capital
Over the years Damascus has seen its fair share of pro-regime demonstrations and rallies of the kind that Kim Jong-il will find familiar. But not since 1980 has it witnessed unsanctioned demonstrations, let alone three in a space of one month! This is exactly what has happened.
It began on 30 January when a group of 100, led by youth leader and known oppositionist Suheir Al-Attasi, held a candlelight vigil in Bab Tuma in Damascus in support of the Tahrir Square protesters. The vigil was broken up by force by plain-clothed security men. When attempting to file a complaint at a nearby police station, Ms. Al-Attasi was physically and verbally abused by a senior security official.
Then on 17 February came the 4,000-strong spontaneous demonstration in the Harika district of Damascus. That was sparked by a policemen assaulting a local man. Read more about what happened here.
Then today on 22 February another vigil was held – this time outside the Libyan embassy in support of the popular uprising in that country. The protesters shouted anti-Gaddafi slogans and sang the Syrian national anthem, emphasising the peaceful nature of their protest. See video above.
What was encouraging was the turnout, which exceeded 200. An improvement on last time. Less encouraging was the response of the security men who broke up the vigil. Young women as well as men were verbally and physically attacked by leather-jacketed thugs. Protesters responded by shouting “those who attack their own people are traitors!” Several of the protesters were arrested.
Not an unsurprising response by the authorities who felt it safe to use force against the 200 or so attending the vigil. They were less keen to use force against the Harika demonstration which numbered 4,000 participants. Size then does matter.
Whether large or small, and despite being banned under the Emergency Law, protests in Damascus are becoming more common. A positive development in the “republic of fear.”