Deadly days: In this mobile phone picture, Syrian anti-government protesters hold a bloodied national flag during a funeral procession for activists killed when security forces opened fired. Source: AP
AT least 11 mourners were shot dead as Syrians swarmed the streets to bury dozens of demonstrators.
Activists said that the death toll from nationwide protests could top 100, pending confirmation of a list of names, and that they expected fresh protests to form after the funerals.
Two independent lawmakers from the protest hub city of Daraa, Nasser al Hariri and Khalil al Rifai, told Al Jazeera television that they were quitting parliament in frustration at not being able to protect their constituents.
The deaths signalled no let-up from President Bashar al Assad, whose forces used live ammunition and tear gas against demonstrators across the country, witnesses and activists said.
The bloodshed erupted as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for Good Friday protests to test long-sought freedoms a day after Assad scrapped decades of emergency rule.
The Syrian Revolution
2011, a driving force behind the protests, marked the tone by posting on its main Facebook page a black banner with the word “Mourning” in English and Arabic.
That came as tens of thousands of mourners packed buses and headed for the southern town of Ezreh for the funerals of 18 people killed the previous day, a rights activist said by telephone.
Another activist later said “12 martyrs were buried in Ezreh” and that two men – Yasser Nseirat and Jamal Qanbar – who were part of the funeral cortege heading for the town, were shot dead by the security forces.
Other activists spoke of five mourners killed in Ezreh and outside a hospital in Daraa, with the toll expected to rise.
“More than 150 buses left from Daraa and neighbouring villages to attend the funerals of 18 martyrs killed Friday in Ezreh,” in Daraa province, an activist requesting anonymity said.
Daraa became an epicentre of the protests against the regime of Assad, who also scrapped the feared state security court and signed a decree to “regulate” peaceful protests in the autocratic country.
Snipers also pinned down mourners in the northern Damascus suburb of Douma, killing at least five people, a witness and a human rights activist there said.
They opened fire from rooftops as mourners marched from a local mosque to a cemetery, the sources said, adding that tens of thousands of people took part in the procession.
Activists also reported at least one person shot dead by security forces in the Barzeh district of Damascus.
A group called the Committee of Martyrs of 15 March Revolution issued a list of 82 names of people killed but said that the toll from the “massacre” could reach 100, as it tried to confirm more deaths.
Amnesty International, citing Syrian activists, said at least 75 people were killed when the “government launched its deadliest crackdown yet on demonstrators” seeking reform.
The toll compared with the March 23 killings in Daraa, when activists said 100 people died, according to Amnesty.
The largest number of people were killed in Ezreh and activists expected the funerals to be followed by a “huge rally against the regime.”
Officially, Syria blamed “armed gangs” for the latest bloodshed, and the state-run SANA news agency said the security forces intervened using only tear gas and water cannons to prevent clashes between protesters and passers-by.
Eight people were killed in Ezreh, and 20 others were wounded, “including security forces in an attack by criminal gangs,” SANA reported, adding that two policemen died in Damascus and the central city of Homs.
The violent crackdown drew an international outcry.
Russia, Italy and Greece joined the chorus of condemnation from Washington, Paris, London, Brussels and the UN headquarters in New York.
US President Barack Obama blasted Syria’s “outrageous” use of violence, accusing Assad’s regime of seeking Iran’s aid in the brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement that erupted in Damascus on March 15.
“Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies.”
But a senior official in Damascus, quoted by SANA, rejected the charges, saying that Obama’s condemnation was “not based on an objective vision of the reality on the ground.”
Iran also denied any involvement in putting down the protests.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Assad’s government must “respect international human rights” and called for an independent probe into the killings, as France urged Syria to launch a “political dialogue without delay.”
Just like in Libya ,we see again the people of another country in the Mideast go out into the streets and stand and demand the rights we in the west take for granted. Ordinary people in the world will no longer allow the elite to just ignore them any longer! People demand their human rights and we in the west must and are oblige to help them any way we can .After years of oppression and no doubt with the help of obscure agencies in the US and other western countries The people of Syria are now wakening up and their thirst for basic freedoms must now be heard in every capital in Europe and the rest of the world .We cannot allow the brute force of the current political class beat them down any longer and if we are really in favour of democracy then we must support the people of Syria as we are supporting the people of Egypt ,Libya, Tunisia this proud nation deserves better
Shooting at people burying their dead is just monstrous and the murders must be brought to justice
The UN should be called in the Assad and his cronies should be brought to Den Hague for trial on crimes against humanity