Syria clampdown on protests mirrors Egypt's as thugs join attcks
Ahram Online, Tuesday 19 Apr 2011
Syrian political and human rights sources tell Ahram Online that, mirroring events in Egypt, thugs numbering in the thousands are acting as an extension of the violent security forces, quashing demonstrations

Central Syrian city of Homs witnessed mass protests during and after the funerals of eight killed amidst violence late Sunday, a result of the latest wave of repression to quell a large protest movement currently taking place in Syria.

Human rights organisations put the death toll at 200 as a result of clashes between protesters on one side and security forces allied with thugs on the other.

Syrian political and legal sources speaking to Ahram Online said that victims from clashes between protesters and security forces reached between 12 – 15, aside from the tens who were wounded as a result of the clashes in many cities.

The Chairman of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria Ammar Qurabi, referred to the killing of a Brigadier-General Abdullah Al-Talawi north of Homs, along with his escorts and the theft of his car by the shabiha (Syrian for thugs) under the auspices of Syrian security forces.

Maan Hasbani, a Syrian activist living in Cairo, informed Ahram Online that contrary to Syrian state television’s report of Abdullah al-Talawi’s murdered by “armed gangs,” witnesses in Homs assert that he was actually murdered by members of the shabiha associated with Syrian security.

In a statement to Ahram Online, Syrian political analyst Bashar al-Issa said that “’Shabiha’ is a Syrian word that means ‘thug,’ only they are now a pseudo-military organisation that now number in the tens of thousands, headquartered in al-Sahel region in Syria.”

Al-Issa added that the Syrian regime is displaying its muscles by filming and distributing video clips of violence against protesters to scare ordinary people.

By doing this, al-Issa believes the authorities are cutting the road short by increasingly aggravating people to the extent the anger of the masses will mount to their detriment.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad pledged Saturday to remove the emergency laws that have been in place for almost four decades. The emergency law bans gatherings and demonstrations, legalises close surveillance of communications and censorship of Syrian media.