Damascus suburb is new center of defiance to Assad

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

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

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

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

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