Syria to join in anti-government protests


Syria looks set to join the growing list of Middle East regimes facing mass, anti-government demonstrations.

In neighbouring Jordan a group calling itself the Damascus Alliance for National Change is planning nationwide rallies next weekend.

Organisers have begun circulating leaflets and messages on the internet demanding freedom of speech, human rights and economic reforms and they are asking demonstrators to rally outside parliament house in Damascus, the Syrian capital.

The strict authoritarian government of Syrian president Bashar Assad has already broken up attempts to rally outside the Egyptian embassy and has begun deploying troops in the northern city of Aleppo ahead of planned protest rallies there.

At least seven people have died in suicide car bombings in Aleppo in recent weeks.

The Hama massacre (Arabic: مجزرة حماة‎) occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The protests next weekend will coincide with the anniversary of the Hama massacre in 1982, in which Bashar Assad’s father killed several thousand civilians in that city in a 27-day offensive against the Muslim brotherhood.

But Mr Assad says there is no chance the political upheaval shaking Tunisia and Egypt will spread to Syria.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Mr Assad said that Syria’s ruling hierarchy was “very closely linked to the beliefs of the people” and that there was no mass discontent against the state and no need to change policies.