Unrest in Syria as thousands march

Sunday, March 20, 2011
By Paul Martin

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
IndependentUK
Sunday, 20 March 2011

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.

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