Syria lifts state of emergency as a ‘switch and bait’

Khaled Nour, Wednesday 20 Apr 2011

Syria lifts state of emergency, cancels state security court in exchange for tight controls over demonstrations, but opposition decries death of 250 protesters since the start of the uprising

In this citizen journalism image, Syrians pray in Clock Square in the center of the city of Homs, Monday (AP).

Bashar Al-Assad lifted state of emergency and cancelled the state security court yesterday in efforts to control a spiralling uprising that, initially, only asked for reforms but is increasingly asking for his political capitulation.

Syrian activists and rights advocates say that 250 people were martyred in the current uprising, where civil disobedience paralysed the third Syrian city, Homs, this week.

Damascus announced the passing of a bill that ends the state of emergency and cancels the supreme state security court, in addition to regulating protest activity. Syrian official news agency, SANA, confirmed that the Syrian council of ministers had, indeed, passed the legislative decrees.

After the eruption of sweeping protests, President Bashar Al-Assad ordered his newly formed government to find an alternative to the emergency laws that have governed since 1963.

Syrian activist, Tamma Al-Borazi, said that “the goal behind killing all those numbers is to scare Syrians - and this is essentially what happened, where the number of protesters declined from 100 thousand to 20 thousand.”

Al-Borazi added that many Syrian cities are subjected to army blockades, such as Homs in the centre, Banias and Lazikiyah in the north and Daraa in the south. All land-based and mobile phone services are completely suspended in these cities, he adds.

Homs had witnessed a “massacre” as described in statements by the various opposition groups where nine victims were martyred and over 200 were wounded by the shabiha (thugs of the Syrian regime) when they violently cleared Sa’aa (clock) Square – the name of which the revolutionaries changed to Tahrir (liberation) square in tribute to the Egyptian Revolution, whose epicentre was Tahrir Square, Cairo.

Chairman of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria Ammar Qurabi, speaking to Ahram Online, said that a number of activists and journalists in the coastal city Lazikiyah received death threats if they talk to or appear on any satellite channel regarding the situation in Syria.

It is known that there is a significant Alawite (Muslim Shi’ite sect whom President Assad belongs to) presence in Banias and Lazikiyah and, yet, they were among the first cities to protests against the regime.

For his part, Maan Hasbani, a Syrian activist living in Cairo, said that the regime is playing the “sectarian game,” using bearded elements clothed in Afghani apparel who open fire on protestors to justify the repression of demonstrations and to instil fear in the non-Sunni population that religious fundamentalism will take over if the Assad regime falls.

Hasbani stated that security forces have returned to Daraa – where the first anti-regime protests erupted – yesterday when three helicopters landed in the main stadium of the tribal city.  

He added that it was impossible to ascertain the number of victims from the protests on Wednesday in Deir al-Zor, Daraa and Homs, yet he was aware that residents outside of Homs in Talbisa have left the town fearing the possibility of it being raided by security in order to “neutralise numbers of its youth who had led protests in Homs.”

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