In new protest, Syrian women block main highway

Beirut — Thousands of Syrian women and children holding white flags and olive branches blocked a main coastal highway Wednesday to protest a crackdown by Syrian authorities on a protest movement against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime, eyewitnesses said.

The crowd was demanding the release of hundreds of men who have been rounded up by authorities in the northeastern villages of Bayda and Beit Jnad during a security crackdown in the area in recent days. Some 200 people have been killed during more than three weeks of unrest, said Syria's leading pro-democracy group, the Damascus Declaration.
"We will not be humiliated!" the crowd shouted Wednesday, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. They were gathering along the main road between the coastal cities of Tartous and Banias.
Protests erupted in Syria almost one month ago and have been growing steadily, with tens of thousands of people calling for sweeping reforms. The Assad family has kept an iron grip on power for 40 years, in part by crushing dissent.
Assad blames the violence on armed gangs rather than reform-seekers and has vowed to crush further unrest.
He has made a series of overtures to try and appease the growing outrage, including sacking local officials and granting Syrian nationality to thousands of Kurds, a long-ostracized minority.
But the gestures have failed to satisfy protesters who are demanding political freedoms and an end to the decades-old emergency laws that give the regime a free hand to arrest people without charge.
Details about what happened in recent days around Bayda and Beit Jnad were sketchy because the Syrian government has placed severe restrictions on the media and has expelled reporters, including journalists from The Associated Press.
But residents and activists say hundreds of men, young and old, were arrested Tuesday as security forces and pro-government gunmen attacked the villages in northeastern Syria in a move to crush the growing dissent there.
Witnesses and members of the Syrian opposition said security forces used automatic rifles in the two villages. An eyewitness told The Associated Press Wednesday that at least one person was killed, and hundreds of others detained. Several activists confirmed the death.
He said the detentions, which included teenagers, have enraged residents. He said security forces gathered the detainees, forced the men on the ground in the center of Bayda Tuesday and forced them to chant pro-Assad slogans.
The eyewitness accounts could not be independently confirmed.
The two villages are several miles (kilometers) from the port city of Banias, which the army has sealed off during days of unrest. Security forces killed four protesters in Banias on Sunday.
The Syrian government denied reports that its security forces prevented medical staff from reaching the wounded in towns where troops clashed with protesters last week, calling the reports "baseless."
An Interior Ministry statement instead said unidentified gunmen shot at people, and prevented ambulances from transporting the wounded to hospitals.
Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that Syrian forces prevented the ambulances from helping the injured last Friday in the southern town of Deraa and in Harasta, near Damascus.
Friday marked the single bloodiest day of the uprising, with 37 killed around the country.
On Wednesday, state-run television aired purported confessions by three members of a "terrorist cell," saying they received money and weapons from a Lebanese lawmaker with the aim of instigating protests in Syria and creating chaos across the country.
The lawmaker Jamal Jarrah laughed off the Syrian-aired confessions and denied any involvement. His Future Movement bloc also denied the claims, saying it had no direct or indirect involvement in events in Syria.

Related Articles

Back to top button