Thousands in Syria call for 'overthrow of Assad regime'

By REUTERS
April 22, 2011 14:20

Security forces fire tear gas at pro-democracy protesters in Damascus while thousands demonstrate against Assad in southern city of Deraa.

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Protesters in Syrian city of Homs

Protesters in Syrian city of Homs 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

AMMAN - Syrian security forces fired tear gas on Friday to disperse a pro-democracy protest in the historic Midan district of Damascus while thousands demonstrated in the southern city of Deraa and called for the overthrow of President Bashar Assad's regime.

"The 'amn' (security) fired the tear gas from a flyover overlooking Midan. They were over 2,000 protesters and now hundreds have re-grouped," the witness told Reuters by phone as the chant "the people want the overthrow of the regime" was audible in the background.

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In addition, several thousand people demonstrated in Deraa, also calling for the "overthrow of the regime" of Assad, witnesses said.

The protests, in the city which saw the outbreak of Syria's five-week-old popular demonstrations, came a day after Assad lifted a draconian state of emergency which had been in place for nearly 50 years -- one of the key demands of the protesters.


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Activists coordinating mass protests against Assad's authoritarian rule demanded the abolition of Baath Party monopoly on power and the establishment of a democratic political system.

In the first joint statement since protests erupted five weeks ago, the Local Coordination Committees, representing provinces across Syria, said "freedom and dignity slogans cannot be achieved except through peaceful democratic change".

"All prisoners of conscience must be freed. The existing security apparatus has to be dismantled and replaced by one with with specific jurisdiction and which operates according to law," said the joint statement, which was sent to Reuters.


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