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Syrian activists call 'Children's Friday' protests

Syrian activists called for mass protest on Friday to honor the children who were killed since the uprising started

AFP , Thursday 2 Jun 2011
In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and provided by Shaam News Network, taken on Friday (Photo: AP)
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Anti-regime activists in Syria have called for fresh demonstrations under the banner of "Children's Friday," snubbing government concessions which the opposition says have come too late.

The protests are to honour the children killed in the uprising, such as 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib whom activists say was tortured to death, a charge denied by the authorities.

The UN children's agency UNICEF says at least 30 children have been shot dead in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's autocratic rule which erupted mid-March.

"The people want the fall of the regime. Tomorrow, it's 'Children's Friday' of rising up against injustice, like the adults," the activists announced on their Facebook page Syrian Revolution 2011, an engine of the revolt.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in a brutal crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria, rights organisations say.

Activists said that at least 43 people have been killed by security forces since Sunday in the Homs region, north of Damascus.

Clashes also occurred in the flashpoint Daraa areas of southern Syria, where according to Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights four people were killed during raids on Wednesday night in the town of Hirak.

The protests and clashes come despite concessions by embattled Assad, who on Wednesday launched a "national dialogue" while freeing hundreds of political prisoners in a general amnesty.

The opposition has previously dismissed calls for dialogue, saying that this can take place only once the violence ends, political prisoners are freed and reforms adopted.

At a meeting in Turkey, about 300 Syrian activists, mostly exiles, on Thursday were working to draft a "roadmap" for a peaceful and democratic transition, organisers said.

The participants, among them members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, have dismissed the general amnesty as too little too late.

Washington, which has been upping the pressure by slapping sanctions on key regime members, said the release of "100 or so political prisoners does not go far enough."

"The release of some political prisoners is not the release of all political prisoners. We need to see all political prisoners released," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Activists said Khatib had disappeared while taking part in a demonstration in Daraa on April 29, which he decided to join after police killed his cousin.

The activists say the boy died under torture and had been abused by security forces.

A medical report published by Syrian official media said however three bullets killed the teenager and that other apparent wounds on his body were due to decomposition, not security force brutality.

The government insists the unrest is the work of "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.

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