Security Forces Open Fire on Syrian Protesters
The four-month-old uprising remains locked in a stalemate with a government that still enjoys support. But even government officials believe that there is a transition under way from four decades of authoritarian rule by the Assad family, though to what is unclear.
“We’re more or less at a stalemate, but the status quo is not sustainable,” said Peter Harling, a Damascus-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.
While the protests appear to have gained momentum, with unprecedented numbers in
Security forces on Friday killed 27 people and wounded scores more in clashes at several locations.
The government has rallied its base — religious minorities and, less successfully, the middle class and business elite — through what amounts to a negative claim of legitimacy
But its reform has proven tentative. Officials seem to offer little more than the model of
Even that model seems uncertain, as a government with pretenses of modernizing
Activists contend that their protests remain peaceful and that 1,400 people have died needlessly.
“I am pessimistic,” said Muntaha al-Atrash, a member of Sawasiah, a human rights group in
She added, “This regime won’t easily submit to people’s demands.”
But in past weeks, the most potent forces in the uprising have shifted ground again
“Every week, it becomes more and more apparent that not only can it not return to where it was before, but it’s already in the middle of transitioning anyway, and it’s going to be a really bumpy road,” an administration official in
Activists said the turnout Friday was perhaps the biggest yet, though still concentrated in regions that have proven most restive
There, dozens of protesters protected local government buildings and the Baath Party headquarters from vandalism, to deny security forces a pretext to crack down. A crowd that one witness estimated at 20,000 carried balloons, flags inscribed with mottos and banners. Activists relentlessly documented the scenes.
“We are more organized now,” said a 40-year-old shopkeeper in Qaboun who gave his name as Abu Khalid. “We’ve reached the point of no return.”
When security forces opened fire — after they were provoked, according to the government — protesters built barricades to block their way. In marked contrast to the fear that long reigned in
“The people will not stop after all these sacrifices,” said a 30-year-old farmer who gave his name as Abu Mohammed and lives in another
“A big and clear message,” one activist called the rally.
Syrian officials have acknowledged that some protesters have legitimate grievances, but still cast the uprising in terms used for another rebellion in the late 1970s and 1980s
While the protests seem overwhelmingly peaceful, signs have emerged of more violence lately, underscoring a familiar theme of conflicts in
A banner hung two weeks ago in a
Diplomats say they believe a gas pipeline that exploded in the east this week was probably an act of sabotage and not, as Syrian officials have portrayed it, an accident.
Opposition figures plan to meet Saturday in
Though the government allowed a rare opposition meeting last month, some fear it may seek to prevent the gathering in
The economy is still reeling, with the Syrian pound losing value, growth slowing and the economy possibly contracting, tourism devastated and capital flowing out. One economist said the government had until the end of the year before facing the collapse that Mr. Assad mentioned in a speech last month. Others say he has far less time.
While Mr. Assad suggested the Constitution would be rewritten — a groundbreaking step, had it occurred four months ago — activists, and even those sympathetic to the government, see the much-touted national dialogue as an empty exercise.
“The situation is too far now from dialogue,” said Nabil Samman, director of the
Hwaida Saad and Nada Bakri contributed reporting from Beirut, and an employee of The New York Times from
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs