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Syria media blackout has people talking

During Syria's unexplained, claustrophobic media blackout the government remains mute, but a Syrian activist speculates to Ahram Online that more protest will arise

Ahram Online , Wednesday 23 Mar 2011
People walk past the main courthouse, which had been set on fire by demonstrators during protests demanding freedom and an end to corruption, in Deraa, (Reuters).
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The number of people killed in the popular uprising in Syria’s Deraa surpassed five and the number of wounded is in the dozens, sources told Ahram Online.

A source, which refused to disclose their name for fear of persecution from the Syrian security apparatus, said that there were contradictory accounts of the numbers of dead and wounded due to a media blackout forced by the government.

The blackout is, according to the source, stricter than in Egypt and Libya during the public revolts. In addition, there are divisions within Syrian society over fears of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, should the regime collapse.

“The protests in Deraa have been ongoing since the 15 March, non-stop, whereby the Omary Mosque in the Old City’s centre was transformed into a hub for the demonstrators and a field hospital, which explains the collapse of a doctor afflicted by his wounds,” the source said. Dr Qassab Al Mahameed is a member of a big clan in the area, according to Reuters.

Syrian troops were seen entering the Omary Mosque on state TV.

A curfew was also declared and advertised through mosques.

Reuters published accounts of the death toll reaching ten due to the revolts in Syria.

A Syrian activists living in Cairo explains that Deraa’s former governor, Faysal Kalthoum, who was ousted by the government, and the local director of the secret police, who is related to the president, attempted to create a rift between the major clans, but failed.

The activist expects the number of protests in Syria to increase against Bashar Al Assad, who took office following the death of his father, Hafez Al Assad in 2000.

“Deraa will not subside because there is blood between the people and the government,” the activist noted, pointing out that there were discreet calls for protests in Al Sowaydaa (the Drouz capital) in the south and some northern Sunni cities.

Syria’s Al Assad regime warns, echoing the rhetoric of the outgoing autocratic regimes of Egypt and Libya, that its fall will result in Islamist movements coming to power.

The Syrian regime violently cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood-led protests in the 80s in Humah north of the country. An air strike was launched on the city by the Syrian air force and a part of it was leveled to the ground.

“This propaganda against the revolt is aimed at uniting non-Sunni sects in the Syrian society against it - but I expect it will fail,” said the activist.

Any unrest in Syria would spread beyond the state’s borders. Syria, under the rule of the Assads, became Iran’s biggest Arab ally and exerted considerable influence in Lebanon and Palestine.

The Ba’ath party has ruled the country for around 50 years under so-called Emergency Laws and prohibits all forms of opposition. It also is the embodiment of the rule of a minority of Allawis over the Sunni majority.

“Bashar will not be less bloody than Muammar, and the media blackout is extremely strong that it cannot be compared to the Egyptian example,” the activist said.

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