Politics & Policy

Syrian Protests Brutalized, Peter Out

Calls for protests in Syria didn’t go anywhere, beneath the brutal regime: 

For a moment, you might almost have thought you were in Cairo, or Tunis. Five brave young men stood in this city’s ancient Hamidiya market and began chanting, “We sacrifice our blood and souls for you, Syria!” Soon, a crowd of about 150 had gathered, and the call was heard: “The revolution has started!”

But it had not.

Within minutes, Syrian security men beat and dispersed the protesters, arresting several. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, some 200 people gathered in front of the Interior Ministry building here. They included relatives of longtime political prisoners as well as activists and students, and they began calling for the release of those in custody.

Once again, a large force of armed officers — more numerous than the protesters — charged the group, and arrested 36 people, witnesses and human rights activists said. Among those arrested was Hannibal al-Hasan, the 10-year-old son of Ragda al-Hasan, a political prisoner.

After three months of uprisings across the Arab world, Syria has seen scarcely any protests. In a police state where emergency laws have banned public gatherings since 1963, few dare to challenge the state, which proved its willingness to massacre its own citizens in the early 1980s. The battles of that time, with armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have cast a long shadow.

This hasn’t stopped Harvard University from delighting in the Syrian first lady, the “Rose in the Desert.”


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