Activists call for 'silent' Syria protest

AFP , Friday 26 Aug 2011

Syrian activists calls for a silent rally in the city of Aleppo on the last Friday of Ramadan, coinciding with Turkish announcement of support of protesters and UN Security Council's division over sanctions

Syrian activists calls for silent pro-democracy demonstrations in the country (Photo:AP)

Pro-democracy activists in Syria called for a silent rally in the city of Aleppo on the last Friday of Ramadan, as Turkey said it stood with the Syrian people and the UN Security Council remained divided over sanctions.

The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook group, one of the drivers of the anti-regime protests that have continued since March, despite deadly crackdowns by President Bashar Al-Assad's forces, urged rallies under the banner of "Friday of patience and determination."

On their wildly popular Facebook page, the activists called on protesters in Aleppo to converge on the northern city's Al-Jabiree Square after the evening taraweeh prayers for a rally "without chants, until dawn," to celebrate Lailat Al-Qader, a Muslim holy day in which many believers pray through the night.

Meanwhile, the official SANA news agency said Friday that Syrian police are hunting for the attackers who broke the hand of the country's leading political cartoonist, after Washington condemned the attack.

Cartoonist Ali Ferzat, 60, said that four men abducted him while he returned home before dawn Thursday and broke two fingers of his left hand, his right arm and damaged his left eye.

Opposition activists have accused members of the security services and masked pro-regime militias of being behind the attack.

The US on Thursday condemned the attack, calling it "disgusting and deplorable."

The UN has been grappling for a response to Assad's bloody crackdowns on protesters, but on Thursday Russia and China boycotted UN Security Council talks on a Western proposal to impose sanctions on Assad, diplomats said.

Their absence at the talks signalled the tough negotiations ahead on the move to act against Assad's deadly crackdown on opposition protests, diplomats said.

Russia has strongly spoken out against Syria sanctions, insisting that more time be given to Assad to carry out promised reforms.

The Security Council has so far only condemned the violence in Syria in a statement agreed on 3 August, following months of opposition from China, Russia and their council allies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said late Thursday Turkey would side with the Syrian people if it has to make a choice between the government and its citizens.

He said in an interview with the news channel NTV that if Turkey must choose, "we would choose people, because what is permanent for us is the brotherhood of the Syrian and Turkish people."

In the latest reported toll by activists, security forces shot a woman on Thursday, a day after 11 people were killed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that several people were injured when security forces stopped them from trying to approach members of a visiting UN humanitarian mission in the central town of Talbisa.

The people wanted to give accounts to the delegation, which arrived over the weekend and completed its mission on Thursday, of "the violence of the regime," the group said.

UN under secretary general B. Lynn Pascoe said the team, which Assad let into Syria last weekend after months of UN pressure, went to Damascus, Homs, Banias, Latakia, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib.

Activists said security forces opened fire on local protesters after the UN team arrived.

"Syrian security forces have continued to use excessive and lethal force against the popular protests," Pascoe, told the UN Security Council.

Central bank governor Adin Mayaleh told AFP in an interview Thursday that the latest US sanctions had obliged Syria to stop using dollars for any transactions since Tuesday.

The UN has said more than 2,200 have died in the crackdown on the protests.

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