Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Syria Protests Spread, Authorities Pull Back

Unrest spread in southern Syria on Monday with hundreds of people demonstrating against the government in three towns near the main city of Deraa, but authorities did not use force to quell the latest protests.

Security forces killed four civilians in demonstrations that erupted last week in Deraa, in the most serious challenge to President Bashar al-Assad's rule since the 45-year-old succeeded his father 11 years ago.

An 11-year-old child died overnight from inhaling tear gas fired by security forces, activists said.

"This is peaceful, peaceful. God, Syria, freedom," chanted the protesters in Jassem, an agricultural town 30 km (20 miles) west of Deraa.

Demonstrations also erupted in the towns of Nawa and Inkhel during which marchers held placards with the word "freedom".

Leading opposition figure Haitham al-Maleh said on Monday a desire for democratic reform was near-universal in Syria.

"The revolution is at the door and the regime is still flirting with change," said Maleh, an 80-year-old lawyer and former judge who has spent his life peacefully resisting the ruling Baath Party's monopoly on power, much of it from prison. (read more)