Assad Mobilizes Support After Syrian Protest Crackdown

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad staged rallies across the country to shore up a leader facing the strongest challenge since he came to power 11 years ago.

State-run television showed live footage of hundreds of thousands pouring onto the main streets of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and al-Hassakah today.

The pro-regime marches are a response to protests in several Syrian cities and towns since mid-March to demand political reforms, including an end to a 48-year-old emergency law. More than 90 people were killed as the government cracked down on dissent, according to unconfirmed reports cited by Amnesty International.

Syria is the latest country in the region to be hit by the wave of uprisings that ousted longtime rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, and sparked armed conflict in Libya. Assad’s regime is an ally of Iran and a power broker in neighboring Lebanon, where it supports the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement.

“The rallies today were organized by non-governmental organizations that support President Assad and the government,” George Jabbour a member of parliament said in a telephone interview from Damascus today.

The government of Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Otri may resign today, to be replaced by a new cabinet that Assad will appoint within 24 hours, Agence France-Presse said, citing an unidentified Syrian official. Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Assad, was not available when contacted at her office today.

Assad Speech

Assad is expected to give a speech within two days, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported, citing Vice President Farouk al-Shara who spoke yesterday. Jabbour said the president is likely to announce a number of measures, including the lifting of emergency law, that would “assure the Syrian people.”

Unconfirmed reports say 37 people were killed in Damascus, the capital, and other towns including Latakia, Daraa and Homs since March 25, Amnesty International said on its website yesterday. In the Daraa governorate, which is in the south-west of the country near the border with Jordan, at least 55 people died last week, according to credible sources, Amnesty said.

Violence in Daraa and Latakia has “come to a halt completely,” Jabbour said. “Calm has set in in the areas and measures are being taken to address the demands of protesters in Daraa. However, events in Latakia were a result of gangsters which targeted the security of Syria.”

Government Crackdown

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the crackdown. Unrest began in the southern province of Daraa earlier this month. Video footage on the Internet broadcast by the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya news networks showed hundreds of protesters in cities such as Homs and Daraa, some tearing down poster of Assad.

After the protests began in mid-March, Assad ordered the release of more than 200 prisoners, measures to combat corruption and a new media law to guarantee more freedom.

The Syrian president also ordered pay increases of as much as 30 percent for state employees and an income-tax cut and a 25 percent increase in the pensions of former government employees.

Assad’s father, the late President Hafez Assad, ruled the Arab country for 29 years. In 1982, he crushed a rebellion led by Islamist militants in the city of Hama, killing as many as 10,000 people, according to estimates cited by Human Rights Watch. BW

  • guss043

    sure all the thugs, the thieves , adding the Iranian who landed last week and Hizbollah so here you go lot of supporters

  • guss043

    sure all the thugs, the thieves , adding the Iranian who landed last week and Hizbollah so here you go lot of supporters

  • josephphdman

    all these people protesting to support bashar ,are the security forces and the secret police; and their families , they are dressed up in a civilian clothes
    they have to march or they get fired; or they go to prison if they do,nt listen to him
    if assad really want to be honest with the syrian people;he needs to allow free election ,and other political parties to open offices and run for elections , presidency
    and he needs to give back the 100 billions dollars that him and his family stole from the syrian people over the last 40 years.
    when i say he needs because he is a dictator and he is the only person make a decision for syria on evrything
    everyone else; parlement governement or others they do,nt have , any power, or they do,nt have the right to vote
    syria 23 millions people it is only one man the dictator bashar el asad decide for the country and no one else.

  • josephphdman

    all these people protesting to support bashar ,are the security forces and the secret police; and their families , they are dressed up in a civilian clothes
    they have to march or they get fired; or they go to prison if they do,nt listen to him
    if assad really want to be honest with the syrian people;he needs to allow free election ,and other political parties to open offices and run for elections , presidency
    and he needs to give back the 100 billions dollars that him and his family stole from the syrian people over the last 40 years.
    when i say he needs because he is a dictator and he is the only person make a decision for syria on evrything
    everyone else; parlement governement or others they do,nt have , any power, or they do,nt have the right to vote
    syria 23 millions people it is only one man the dictator bashar el asad decide for the country and no one else.

  • Anonymous

    all these people are the security forces and the secret police dreesed in civilian clothes and their families
    they have to march or rthey get fired
    if assad really want to be honest with the syrian people he need to allow free election ,and other political parties to open offices and run for presidency
    and he needs to give back the 100 billions dollars that him and his family stole from the syrian people over the last 40 years

  • Fauzia45

    People should be given the freedom to protest not only to support!

  • Anonymous

    People should be given the freedom to protest not only to support!

  • leb_expatriate

    Give opposition protestors the same level of security to protest and see how many will come out.

  • leb_expatriate

    Give opposition protestors the same level of security to protest and see how many will come out.

  • Anonymous

    Give opposition protestors the same level of security to protest and see how many will come out.

  • How rude it is !

    Is this orchestrated demonstrations fair for the ones who paid the ultimate price to pave the roads for freedom of all Syrians?
    Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if those demonstrators held placades remembering the couragous martyrdom of those who died in such dignified way; refusing accepting life under the darkness of repression and humiliation!

  • How rude it is !

    Is this orchestrated demonstrations fair for the ones who paid the ultimate price to pave the roads for freedom of all Syrians?
    Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if those demonstrators held placades remembering the couragous martyrdom of those who died in such dignified way; refusing accepting life under the darkness of repression and humiliation!

  • How rude it is !

    Is this orchestrated demonstrations fair for the ones who paid the ultimate price to pave the roads for freedom of all Syrians?
    Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if those demonstrators held placades remembering the couragous martyrdom of those who died in such dignified way; refusing accepting life under the darkness of repression and humiliation!