Damascus suburb is new center of defiance to Assad

April 6, 2011 23:52

AMMAN - Syrian protests which broke out in the southern city of Deraa nearly three weeks ago have taken root in an urban center near Damascus, where thousands gather every night to mourn demonstrators shot dead by security forces.

The Sunni Muslim suburb of Douma has emerged as a new focus of defiance against the 11-year rule of President Bashar Assad, shaken by the protests which spread across Syria after first erupting in Deraa.

A key demand of protesters has been an end to a decades-old emergency law, which lawyers and activists say has been used by authorities to stifle opposition, justify arbitrary arrests and give free rein to secret police in the country of 20 million.

Witnesses say thousands of people have been gathering at night in front of the Big Mosque in Douma, a few miles (km) north of Damascus, to pay tribute to 10 protesters shot dead by security forces during a demonstration on Friday.

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