Unrest in Syria as thousands march

Thousands of Syrians demanded an end to 48 years of emergency law on Sunday, a third consecutive day of protests emerging as the biggest challenge to Syria's rulers since unrest swept the Arab world this year.

"No. No to emergency law. We are a people infatuated with freedom," marchers chanted as a government delegation arrived in the southern town of Deraa to pay condolences for victims killed by security forces in demonstrations there this week.



Security forces fired tear gas at the protesters. Around 40 people were taken to be treated for gas inhalation at the main Omari mosque in the old city, residents said.



"The mosque is now a field hospital. The security forces know they cannot enter the old city without spilling more blood," one resident said.



Syria has been ruled under emergency law since the Baath Party, which is headed by president Bashar al-Assad, took power in a 1963 coup and banned all opposition.



Security forces opened fire on Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest in Deraa demanding the release of the children, political freedoms and an end to corruption. Four people were killed.



An official statement said "infiltrators" claiming to be high ranking officers had been visiting security stations and asking security forces to fire at any suspicious gathering.



Citizens should report anyone suspected of trying to fool the security apparatus "into using violence and live ammunition against any suspicions gathering", the statement said.



The government sought to calm popular discontent in Deraa by promising to release 15 schoolchildren whose arrests for scrawling protest graffiti had helped fuel the demonstrations.



The children who had written slogans on walls inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, would be released immediately.



Sunday's statement was a rare instance of Syria's ruling hierarchy responding to popular pressure.



Tens of people who were arrested on Friday have been released, but scores more were still in jail, activists said.



On Saturday, thousands of mourners called for "revolution" at the funeral of two of the protesters. Officials later met Deraa notables who presented then with a list of demands, most importantly the release of political prisoners.



The list demands the dismantling of the secret police headquarters in Deraa, dismissal of the governor, a public trial for those responsible for the killings and scrapping of regulations requiring permission from the secret police to sell and buy property.



Non-violent protests have challenged the Baath Party's authority this month, following the uprisings that toppled the autocratic leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, with the largest protests in Deraa drawing thousands of people.



A silent protest in Damascus by 150 people this week demanded the release of thousands of political prisoners. At least one activist from Deraa, Diana al-Jawabra, took part in the protest. She was arrested on charges of weakening national morale, along with 32 other protesters, a lawyer said.



Jawabra, who is from a prominent family, was campaigning for the release of the 15 schoolchildren from her home city. Another prominent woman from Deraa, physician Aisha Aba Zeid, was arrested three weeks ago for airing a political opinion on the internet.



Residents say the arrest of the two women deepened feelings of repression and helped fuel the protests in Deraa, a conservative tribal region on the border with Jordan.



Secret police made a slew of arrests in Deraa this month after graffiti appeared on school walls and on grain silos with phrases such as "the people want the overthrow of the regime" - the same slogan that became the rallying cry of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.



The authorities responded by increasing secret police patrols and asking staff at schools and public departments to man their premises around the clock and by requiring IDs and registration for buyers of paint and spray cans.



"These measures only increased popular resentment," one Darea resident said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Amazon's drones were unveiled last year.
business
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Life and Style
Worth shelling out for: Atlantic lobsters are especially meaty
food + drink
News
i100
Sport
Gareth Bale
footballPaul Scholes on how Real Madrid's Welsh winger would be a perfect fit at Old Trafford if he leaves Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Lily James in ‘Cinderella’
film
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss