Thousands of Syrian mourners cried out for “revolution” Saturday at the funeral
of protesters killed by security forces, in the boldest challenge to Syria’s
rulers since uprisings began sweeping the Arab world.
responded by firing tear gas to disperse crowds in Deraa, a region south of the
capital where at least 10,000 people demonstrated on Saturday at the funeral of
two protesters, among at least four who were killed on
White House condemns Syrian crackdown on protesters
Syrian forces kill three protesters in southern city
“Revolution, revolution. Rise up Hauran,” chanted the mourners in
Deraa, administrative capital of the Hauran plateau, as they marched behind the
simple wooden coffins of Wissam Ayyash and Mahmoud al-Jawabra.
Syria, Freedom. Whoever kills his own people is a traitor,” they
Some of the mourners left a mosque and headed for the center to
The two were killed when security forces opened fire on Friday
on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest demanding political freedoms and
an end to corruption in Syria, which has been ruled under emergency laws by
President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party for nearly half a century.
third man killed on Friday, Ayhem al-Hariri, was buried in a village near Deraa
earlier on Saturday. A fourth protester, Adnan Akrad, died on Saturday from his
On Friday, the White House criticized the attacks and urged the
Syrian government to allow people to demonstrate freely. UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon also called on Damascus to refrain from violence.
States strongly condemns the violence that has taken place in Syria today and
calls on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place
peacefully,” White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
“Those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable.
United States stands for a set of universal rights, including the freedom of
expression and assembly, and believes that governments, including the Syrian government,
must address the legitimate aspirations of their people,” Vietor
Ban, in a statement through a spokeswoman, said using lethal force
and making arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators was
“The secretary-general urges the Syrian authorities to
refrain from violence and to abide by their international commitments regarding
human rights,” the statement said.
In Deraa, the atmosphere was less
tense by late afternoon, with security forces reducing force after a meeting at
the main Omari mosque between the authorities and prominent figures in the
An activist who was at the meeting said officials were presented
with a list of demands, most importantly for the release of political prisoners.
Among them were 15 schoolchildren arrested in Deraa this month after writing
slogans on walls, inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia that swept their
autocratic leaders from power.
The list demands the dismantling of secret
police headquarters in Deraa, dismissal of the governor, a public trial for
those responsible for the killings and scrapping of regulations requiring
permission from the secret police to sell and buy property.
“If they do
not respond, the protests will only escalate,” the activist told
An official statement said the interior ministry had formed a
committee to investigate the “regrettable events” in Deraa.
The city is
home to thousands of displaced people from eastern Syria, where up to a million
people have left their homes because of a water crisis over the past six years.
Experts say state mismanagement of resources has worsened the crisis.
Hauran region, once a breadbasket, has also been affected by diminishing water
levels, with yields falling by a quarter in Deraa last year.
against Syria’s ruling elite, inspired by revolts in the Arab world, gathered
momentum this week after a silent protest in Damascus by 150 people demanding
the release of thousands of political prisoners.
At least one activist
from Deraa, Diana al-Jawabra, took part in the protest. She was arrested on
charges of weakening national morale, along with 32 other protesters, a lawyer
Jawabra, who is from a prominent tribe, was campaigning for the
release of the 15 schoolchildren from her home city. Residents say the
children’s arrests deepened feelings of repression and helped fuel the protests
Assad said in a January interview that Syria’s leadership was
“very closely linked to the beliefs of the people,” and there was no mass
“The leadership have given a clear signal that they are not
in any hurry to embark on fundamental political reform,” said a diplomat in the