Syria

Syria: What they are saying about the protests

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DUBAI, 27 April 2011 (IRIN) - Hundreds of people have reportedly died in unrest in Syria since mid-March, many at the hands of the security forces, leading to growing international condemnation of the use of excessive force by President Bashar al-Assad's government to suppress protests.

Syrian residents, the government, human rights organizations and international personalities have all spoken out on the situation. Below are excerpts:

Person one talking to IRIN from Syria:

"Until now, the situation has not calmed down despite all the changes made by the government and the abolition of the emergency law. People are still demonstrating but not in huge numbers. But in general, Syrians are fearful because they cannot predict what will happen."

Person two talking to IRIN from Syria:

"What we see on TV channels is extremely exaggerated. It is only hundreds of people demonstrating here and there. People say some of the footage goes back to incidents that took place in Lebanon in 2008. Syrians are leading a normal life and they are sending their kids to school. Also the country has not witnessed any hike in food prices."

President Bashar al-Assad: [ http://www.sana.sy/eng/21/2011/04/18/pr-341923.htm ]

18 April - "Syria is going through a critical stage... there are different components of this stage. There is the conspiracy. There are the reforms and the needs... the blood which has been spilled in Syria has pained us all. It pained the heart of every Syrian. We are sad for the loss of every Syrian and for all those who have been injured... We consider them all martyrs, whether they were civilians, members of the police or the armed forces... The investigation committee is proceeding with its work in order to know the causes of what happened and to identify those responsible and then bring them to account.

"The Syrian constitution allows for demonstrations, but we do not have a law which regulates the process of demonstrating. This process is a challenge to the police because they are not prepared for such things... There might be a need for restructuring the police in order to cope with the new reforms. One of the tasks of the police is to protect demonstrators and at the same time protect other individuals and public and private property from any attempt at sabotage or undermining people's security."

Government through the Syrian News Agency [ http://www.sana.sy/eng/29/2011/04/27/343515.htm ]:

24 April - "A number of foreign media sources continue to spread lies and misdirection about the events in Syria, impersonating people under the guise of so-called eyewitnesses. Ammar Agha, a Syrian surgeon from the town of Jableh, told the Syrian Satellite Channel that one of the callers... impersonated him to tell lies and events that he knows nothing about in Jableh."

27 April - "Nine policemen of the Internal Security Forces were wounded over the past two days by extremist terrorist groups, raising the number of injuries among the forces' officers since the start of events in Syria to 295."

Syrian Human Rights Commission: [ http://www.shrc.org/data/aspx/d11/4421.aspx ]

17 April - "Protests in Homs and the city of Talbisa north of Homs witnessed today the death of several people by the security forces, popular committees and thugs supporting them. The victims were taking part in a peaceful protest calling for freedom during the funeral of some of the victims in Talbisa.

"Several injuries have also been reported and several hospitals in the city including the Bab Al-Sibaa' Hospital and the Al-Razi Hospital have pleaded for blood donations, while security forces arrested several citizens who rushed to donate much-needed blood to aid the tens of injured who mostly suffer from direct and serious injuries in the head and chest... both Ridwan Al-Smoody and Tareq Zanbo from Latakia have been killed today as the security forces fired at the peaceful demonstrators."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [ http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38181&Cr=syria&Cr1= ]:

25 April - "The international community has repeatedly urged the Syrian government to stop killing its own people, but our calls have gone unheeded. Instead, the government's response has been erratic, with paper reforms followed by violent crackdowns on protesters. Just a few days after the announcement of sweeping and important reforms, we are seeing such disregard for human life by Syrian security forces. The killings must stop immediately.

The [OHCHR] has received a list naming 76 people who were killed on Friday [22 April] during evidently peaceful marches, but noted that the number may be much higher. It is also looking into the reported killing of at least 13 others in funeral processions on Saturday [23 April]."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [ http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38198&Cr=syria&Cr1= ]:

26 April - "I condemn, utterly, the continuing violence against peaceful demonstrators, most particularly the use of tanks and live fire that have killed and injured hundreds of people. It goes without saying that Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect civilians and respect international human rights. That includes the right to free expression and peaceful assembly."

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy: [ http://europa.eu/press_room/index_en.htm ]

23 April - "I condemn the use of brutal force against demonstrators across Syria, which is resulting in high numbers of victims. The Syrian authorities must immediately stop their violent response and fully respect citizens' right to peaceful demonstrations. I deeply regret the death of many protesters on 21 April, and offer my condolences to their families. The killings are appalling and intolerable. All those responsible for these crimes must be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.

"I noted President Assad's announcement of three decrees on 20 April, related to the lifting of the state of emergency, abolition of the Higher State Security Court and a right to peaceful protests. However, credible reform can only be measured by real improvements on the ground."

Human Rights Watch: [ https://reliefweb.int/taxonomy/term/1966 ]

24 April - "The UN should set up an international inquiry into the fatal shootings by Syria's security forces of peaceful protesters... the inquiry should also examine other human rights violations committed since anti-government protests began in mid-March. The US and European Union should also impose sanctions on Syrian officials who bear responsibility for the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters and the arbitrary detention and torture of hundreds of protesters, as well as request an urgent briefing of the UN Security Council on the spiralling situation in the country.

"On April 22, Syria's security forces killed at least 76 protesters, and possibly as many as 112, according to lists compiled by local human rights activists. Human Rights Watch interviewed protesters in the towns of Homs, Ezraa, Douma, and Maadamiya, who reported that security forces opened fire on them without warning. On April 23, security forces shot at funeral processions in Barza, Douma, and Ezraa, killing at least 12 additional mourners."

Amnesty International: [ www.amnesty.org ]

26 April - "The UN Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up.

"[Amnesty is calling] for the imposition of a comprehensive arms embargo on Syria and an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and others involved in ordering or perpetrating serious human rights abuses... unarmed Syrians gathering to call for greater freedom have routinely been attacked by security forces firing live ammunition directly into crowds of peaceful demonstrators... violence has since spiralled, with at least 120 people killed on [22 April], until then the bloodiest day so far. Amnesty International has received the names of 393 people killed since protests began."

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: [ http://www.globalr2p.org/ ]

26 April - "The situation is deteriorating and the risk of further atrocities is significant. Over 350 individuals have allegedly been killed since the protests began, at least 120 since Friday [22 April] alone. The security forces have shown no restraint, using live fire ammunition against unarmed protesters. In the southern city of Deraa they are relying on tanks and other heavy weaponry to respond to demonstrations.

"Reports have emerged from [Deraa] of shelling of residential neighbourhoods and the use of snipers targeting those trying to assist the wounded. Foreign reporters have been banned from entering the country and there are reports that the telephone service has been cut in certain cities, making it difficult to get information out and leading to fears about what the government plans to do hidden from the attention of the world."

dh/eo/mw

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This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=92596